Local food for global thought

I recently visited the town of Bendigo for the first time, a beautiful heritage town in central Victoria, Australia. It was one of the first places gold was discovered in the state, sometime in the 1850s, and much of the town’s original business and residential districts still stand, in all their gold rush glory.

Bendigo CBD from Rosalind Park
Bendigo CBD from the poppet tower lookout in Rosalind Park

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Slow Food in the Fast Lane

Urban agriculture itself is not news, but the reviving interest in edible urban ecosystems is exciting, as it has the potential to change the way we relate to food, Nature and society. Community gardens, urban permaculture, edible landscapes, forest gardens, market gardens – label it however you like, it all boils down to people growing and harvesting their own food, instead of buying it from a ‘middle man’…which should come naturally to all of us!

Although many urban agriculture systems were developed to profit from the produce (e.g. through farmer’s markets or barter systems), there is increasing interest in more ‘passive’ urban food production – incorporating permanent food plants into urban planning schemes, and allowing the local community to reap the benefits at their leisure. Continue reading

Home Grown

The other day I heard writer/journalist Steven Poole being interviewed on ABC radio about his new book You Aren’t What You Eat: Fed Up With Gastroculture. I haven’t read the book, but going by this synopsis, I have a feeling I might thoroughly enjoy it!

However, there was one thing I heard Steven talk about that didn’t quite convince me. In a discussion on the rise of slow/local food scenes, he raised the issue that while some people choose this foodie path because of the perceived ethical benefits of eating local, others may argue that in doing so, they are doing an African farmer out of his sale of beans or tomatoes or something…which raises a completely different set of ethical complexities. Continue reading

Land of Plenty

In my last post I wrote about Australia exporting our own fresh produce and importing poorer quality substitutes. A few days later Dick Smith was in the news on the same platform. Of course, Dick has always been an advocate of Australian food, with his own brand of Australian food products.

The latest addition to his product range is canned beetroot – the announcement came as he was on his way to Cowra, in NSW, to save a beetroot crop that was about to ploughed into the ground, yet another victim of cheaper international competition. Dick Smith paid the farmer out, booked the crop in to the only Australian-owned cannery (Windsor Farm Foods, also in Cowra), and we will (hopefully) see the product on supermarket shelves soon.

I suspect there was a little bit of a publicity stunt involved in this story, but he does make a very good point. Continue reading