The Real Dirt on CERES

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Original Released March 16th 2012

What’s the worst thing that can happen to an environment park that educates kids and grows food? A contamination scare that breaks in the city’s most trusted paper.

Appearing on page three of The Sunday Age, March 4th edition, just the week before CERES Organic Farm was given the all clear by Moreland City Council and the Department of Health, a feature article reported, “produce grown at CERES banned from sale” because of lead contamination. The timing of Steve Holland’s article could not have been worse or more mischievous.

If The Sunday Age had bothered to check their story, the real but far less newsworthy story would have revealed that Moreland City Council testing had found five privately leased community garden plots with lead levels slightly over ANZFSC limits and that produce from CERES Organic Farm had never been contaminated or banned from sale. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story they say.

When I read the article, including a quote from CERES chairperson, Robert Larocca, which seemed to back up the story, my first thoughts were, “That’s not right and why would Robert confirm it?”

And then I found out how some journalists work and it all became clear. At the time of the interview in January the final Moreland City Council test results hadn’t come out but Steve Holland obtained a leaked version of the preliminary results. The document had the test results but not the locations of the tests. Wrongly assuming the results referred to the CERES Organic Farm instead of the community garden plots, Holland used the report to ask Robert Larocca what he would say to people who could have eaten contaminated CERES produce? Larocca’s reply was, “It is unfortunate it has happened and we are sorry for that. A very small number of people will have purchased that [contaminated food], including myself.” It was an honest answer to a hypothetical question but Holland used the quote make it seem like CERES had actually been selling contaminated produce without ever checking his story was correct.

Two months passed before the article was finally published. It would have only taken a simple phone call to discover that Council test results had cleared produce sold at CERES and isolated the problem to a small number of 4x4m community garden plots not accessible to the general public. But no phone call was made, the story went to print and all hell broke loose.

I’ve been feeling sick about this for the last fortnight. I used to trust The Age. I read it every day, but now I feel like CERES’ good name has been destroyed by sloppy journalism and a paper eager for a controversial story. Two weeks later and it’s all old news; Moreland City Council came out with their test results clearing CERES Organic Farm, new articles have been written with the facts but fear is a powerful motivator and people are turning away from CERES. The damage has been done.

The outcome has been immediate for CERES; Fair Food orders are down, the Market is quiet. We are reducing what we buy from the 50 plus Victorian farmers and processors who depend on us for their income. Our packers and drivers are losing shifts and CERES will need to take money away from environmental education programs to cover the financial losses of Fair Food and Market. So much damage caused by a few careless words.

We can’t beat this alone. CERES has always lived and died on the support of our community, so we’re asking you to tell your friends the real story, to share it through your networks. We’re asking you to stand by our farmers and our packers & drivers by placing your Fair Food orders and by shopping at CERES Market. We’re asking you to stand up for CERES.

Chris Ennis
CERES Fair Food and Organic Farm

If you would like to read more information, please visit CERES Safe Food.

Keeping your organic fruit & veg fresher for longer

Monday, January 16th, 2012 at 11:25 am

Organic Fruit and Vegetable Storage

As a new arrival to Melbourne, I am also a recent convert to seasonal eating, ethical food and hence the Fair Food organic food box delivery scheme. And yes, I have noticed that organic produce does go off more rapidly than the chemical-rich, irradiated varieties I use to pick up from the large retail monopolies. In discussing this issue with my colleagues, I realised that educating myself, and hopefully providing some useful tips on keeping your F&V fresh was going to be far less resource intensive than individually bagging carrots into plastic for you. I exaggerate about the individual part, but the point still stands!

We want to provide you with the best quality organic produce in Melbourne, but with the least amount of impact on the environment. We don’t think you’d appreciate it if we went around cryovacing everything. So the following might help bridge the divide, make us happy eaters, without upsetting the best of all our eco inclinations.

What Fair Food does to keep your C’s crisp and P’s plump?

CERES Fair Food has a low food mileage policy, meaning we source organic produce exclusively from local suppliers. This makes our organic fruit & veg boxes fresher because local seasonal food travels the least, from seed to plate.

We pack your organic fruit and vegetables the morning we deliver to your Hosts, ensuring your food box has spent as little time as possible waiting for you.

We pack  produce at different stages of maturity, with as much variety as possible, so the contents of your organic food box are ready to eat at different times, minimising loss and wasteage.

What you can do to ensure your ethically sourced grub remains good until the next delivery day?

Get them into the cold (but not too cold): make sure you pick them up on time and get them into the fridge as soon as possible. Ensure your fridge is not turned up too high because this can “cold burn” them. Place your organic F&V into the crisper drawer, which is designed to keep moisture in and air out. This wards off “droop,” keeping your celeries, capsicums, lettuces nice and perky!

Prioritize: eat the fruit and veg most likely to go off first. Items that are ripe and ready, lettuce & leafy greens.

Keep moisture in & oxygen out: place vulnerable items into recyclable airtight containers. This is particularly important for items such as carrots, which may turn black or go “rubbery” if you don’t protect the more fragile of the otherwise robust root veg family.

Preserve: Got some stone fruit about to turn en masse into liquified goo? It’s amazing what cutting them up, sprinkling them with a little sugar and squeezing some citrus on them will do. A scoop of the mix with yoghurt makes for a very easy & healthy afternoon snack. Plus it will give your tastebuds an extra buzz as the fruit mascerates and naturally sweetens.

If you got herbs this week, put them in some water. Or if you know you’re not going to get to them in time, consider freeze drying your chives, oven drying your basil, tarragon, lemon balm & mints, or simply air drying the sturdier varieties such as sage, thyme, dill, bay leaves, oregano, rosemary and marjoram. You can even steep them in oil for a great way to infuse your cooking long-term. Instructions are everywhere on the web. Here’s one post on Wiki How.

Pre-serve… slowly: A slow cooker is an amazing invention. You dump a bunch of vegetables with stock, salt and pepper and some herbs, set the timer and come home to the best cooked stew of your life. I make large scale curries like this, particularly in winter, when there is a natural glut of root veggies and onions. Not only do I not have to cook after a long day at work, but these seasonal vegetables are great for freezing, as they maintain their structural integrity and flavour. So not only can I get away with not cooking during the working week, this one is a great trick for preserving the contents of my organic fruit & veggie box for when I need it.

Any nifty tricks up your sleeve? We’d love to hear them.

CERES Fair Food on Facebook

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 at 3:23 am

You can now follow CERES Fair Food on Facebook!
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