Yesterday’s dawn saw me waiting by the road with a large suitcase of heirloom rainbow carrots. I don’t normally take the train to Sydney with this kind of load under my arm, but I’m happy to report that it is (just) possible to transport 25kg of vegetables in this manner.
Actually the suitcase was stacked with nicola and ruby lou potatoes as well as the rainbow carrots. We’re pitching in for TEDxSydney’s crowd farming project, which is aiming to crowd-source all the food for TEDxSydney on May 4th. And I had to get our veggies down to the Big Smoke without our truck. So train it was…
Thanks to the glories of op-shop luggage, I had sourced a somewhat elderly suitcase specimen with very squeaky wheels. But when you’re carrying 25kg, those wheels can squeak all they like. The important thing is, it rolls.
All in all, it was a good journey. Eve and Sarah of the lovely TEDx filming crew picked me up at Central station and ferried me and the carrots to the Opera House to deliver them to Aria catering down there, who have the ginormous task of turning a distributed network of large and small home-grown veggie and meat donations into a curated menu for the TEDxSydney event.
Along the way I talked with Eve and Sarah about growing local, and what that implies in this day and age.
If you read this blog you probably have a good sense of how important we feel that local food systems are to support, cultivate and re-create across the globe, but one interesting point popped up during our chat: local vs organic.
So I’d just like to state this for the record:
In our minds, growing and buying local is more important than buying and growing organic at the expense of supporting a localised food system.
Yikes. Did a permaculture advocate really just say that? Yes. And here’s why:
A local food system is more likely to create more effective feedback loops between producers and consumers, because the supply chain is necessarily shortened. Which means the accountability loop is also shortened. Which means the consumers in a local food system have far greater opportunity to have an active and meaningful dialogue with their growers.
This in turn means that the growers in a local food system are more accountable to their consumers. Which means the the consumers have more capacity to influence the farming practices of those growers.
Therefore, in a localised food system, consumers have far more power to help support their local growers transition from conventional to regenerative, organic agriculture.
Because in a localised food system, each consumer represents a far larger percentile in the grower’s market. And as a grower, if a large percentage of your market asks for low-spray apples, and is happy to set aside the aesthetics of the ‘perfect’ apple to achieve this, you’re more likely to move towards a low spray routine next season.
And then maybe transition to a non-certified organic growing system in the next couple of years, because you’re supported and encouraged by your local market to do so.
In our minds, it’s the farmer-consumer relationships that are the key to creating better, healthier, regenerative farming systems. And in turn, healthier local food systems.
Which benefit everyone involved, from farmer to consumer to landscape to watershed. And strengthens each community’s food security to boot.
Of course, the idea of ‘local’ is scaleable, depending on your context and many other factors influencing agriculture in Australia (and everywhere else, actually).
Compared to where the majority of Sydney’s carrots come from, we are super local suppliers. Even though we’re 4 hours by car from the Sydney CBD. Which throws up all sorts of questions about the Sydney basin’s current foodshed, and in turn, its food security.
But in the spirit of start where you are, use what you have, do what you can, today it’s just been about a suitcase of veggies, for me. A teeny tiny gesture in terms of food supply and demand for our nearest city.
Today, I’m marinating in the fabulous complexity of Sydney (and scattering postcards for our upcoming Seed Circus far and wide), then this afternoon it’s back to the farm on the train; to family, fresh eggs and good hard work.
And probably carrot and potato soup, because we eat what the season provides. Happy growing!
A big THANKYOU to Michael Hewins, the milkwood market gardener, who is the primary force in our farm’s vegetable production and keeps us and our wider network so well nourished. Also thanks to Eve and Sarah from TEDxSydney for the lift to the harbour, my squeaky wheels had taken me about as far as they could go i think.
Lastly, if you’re interested in skilling up to become one of the small-scale, kick-ass growers that our country so utterly needs, we offer a range of Market Gardening courses and Serious Backyard Veggies courses to get you growing.