Once we were farmers
Over the past 12,000 years, the age of agriculture, most of us were farmers. We were wedded to the land that fed us. The foods we grew defined who we were; people of wheat or corn or rice. The seasons dictated our diets, the harvests our festivals. Then less than a hundred years ago in a burst of incredible oil-fuelled ingenuity humanity managed to do what 600 starvation weary generations of farmers had always dreamt of – created a cheap, abundant food supply, grown by a handful of producers freeing the rest of us to pursue our dreams in the cities and towns. In Australia in 1900 1 in 7 of us were farmers, today only 1 in 33 grow the food we eat.
Cheap is not always cheap
Sadly we’re paying for our cheap, abundant food and we’re paying through a growing disconnection from the natural world, to the point where we have little idea when we buy a chicken breast or a bag of salad mix where it comes from, who raised it and how, what chemicals and how much energy were used to grow it, process, it, pack it, store it, ship it. And the further we are isolated from the source of our food the less we understand what food actually is – suddenly what we have come to know as food is killing us – the sugar laden, over-refined, chemically altered, super sterilised, plastic wrapped food we eat is making us obese, gluten intolerant, giving us diabetes, heart disease, cancer, allergies, making us aggressive and inattentive.
As we push our trolleys down the aisles of Coles and Safeway we are comforted by idealised rural farmyard pictures on our food labels, but the reality is that our demand for cheap food all year round clears away forests and bush, erodes soils on millions of acres of once productive land, cages millions of miserable farm animals, poisons our rivers and oceans and overloads our atmosphere with carbon dioxide. When compared to everything else we’re doing to our planet, industrial agriculture is by far and away the most expensive human pastime.
Deep down all of us want to be farmers…..
…..or perhaps more accurately we yearn to reconnect to the oneness, to the natural world we’ve stepped away from. Once we intimately knew the cycles of the seasons, the moon, the tides, the names of stars, how to care for animals, how to build soils, how to save seeds, when to plant, what plants healed or harmed. We knew the names of wild animals, birds, fish, reptiles and insects, the times they would come and go, when to hunt them and when to leave them. We worked the land with our bodies and when we died the land took us back. We told stories and sang songs to pass this knowledge on, stories and songs we have forgotten but would love to tell and sing again.
The Fair Food Movement
How do we begin to reconnect with our food; there is no single more important thing you can do than simply grow food in your garden even if it’s only a pot or a poly box of herbs or greens. Second buy local and organic. Food grown close to where we live supports local economies reduces food miles, cool storage and is naturally in-season. We can get to know the people who grow our food either at farmers markets or via the stories and emails we share through Fair Food’s emails, the recipies in your order, our Facebook page and newsletters or we can get dirty volunteering with the farm crew on the CERES Organic Farm. Buying organic means supporting diverse farms that treat animals humanely, use natural inputs, build soils and protect wild habitat. We can also buy together – when we group together around food we not only save money we begin to build resilient communities, we meet people, we share values, we swap stories, recipes, preserve together or just say hi when we come to pick up our weekly veggie box – small but important things.