Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Inspiration from Joel Salatin: Part 1 - Support the Farmer

Today it takes up to 10 calories of oil to produce one calorie of food. Joel Salatin from the US, heralded as the worlds most successful farmer, was in Sydney recently where he gave an illuminating talk. By uncovering the inefficiencies of our chemical food system he offers us a better way to treat the land and ourselves. Inspired, I consider how these ideas can be applied on the household level in part 1.

Food is one of our most critical resources. Each one of us depends upon it. However our food system is increasingly moving into fewer and fewer hands, of whose main interests are self-serving. Michael Croft is an organic pig, chicken and cattle farmer from the outskirts of Canberra. He offered an Australian perspective as an introduction to Salatin. 

illustration of orange treeHis daughter suggested that he buy a farm (so that she could keep a horse). He bought 200 acres only to be met by his new neighbour who claimed that it wasn't possible to make a living on it. Not deterred, Croft picked up Salatin's book 'Pastured Poultry Profits' and began a paddock to plate farm. Over the fence he watched as hundreds of fully laden orange trees were ploughed into the ground. The price of $100 per tonne of oranges that his neighbour could receive on the open market was below his cost of production. A failed suicide attempt followed. Croft suggested that he try the farmers market. His neighbour now receives $1000 per tonne for his oranges. 

What you can do: Support farmers and buy direct via:
  • Farmers Markets - A reputable market will require stall holders to display signs identifying their organic status and whether they are either a farmer or producer. And naturally, the produce should be local. Find your local market here
  • Visit the farm - Take a Sunday drive to the country. Ask your local tourism information for a producers map that marks road side stalls and pick your own farms. It's often worth calling first to check that their produce is in season. You can buy in bulk and stock up your freezer for the year.
  • Join a Food Co-op - This is a grocery store with a difference. Owned and run by members for members, they often offer organic food at more affordable prices, and you can have a say as to where the food is purchased from. Find your nearest coop here:
  • Direct sales - Meat producers often offer bulk purchases such as a quarter of a cow. These will need to be booked in advance with the farm and you may be required to pick up your purchase direct from their butcher. Check local producer lists such as The Australian Regional Food Guide to find your nearest.  
  • Online Sales - Today some farms are leveraging an online presence, selling direct from their website, where you can receive your purchase by mail. Try searching for your favourite olive oil or dry goods brand.

Read more articles in this series...

Part 2 - Why Are We So Slow?
Part 3 - Ethical Food Production

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