Back in 2012, a friend entered our home, looked across into the kitchen and exclaimed, “Please tell me you’re not going to eat that? You don’t know where its been!”
She was referring to a pair of rabbits sitting on our kitchen bench, skinned, gutted and ready for the pot. I had shot them earlier that afternoon at a friend’s property in Kangaroo Ground, just 14km from our North Blackburn residence.
‘You don’t know where its been’. Mmmm, really?
It is this kind of thinking that led me on the journey that my small family now finds itself on. A journey that started very slowly back in 2008 and has grown in pace and scope with the passing of time. Where does our food really come from? For my friend, like the majority of society, she had been conditioned to believe that real food comes, not from the natural world, but from the sanitized supermarket shelf, from companies, corporations and so called experts in food safety.
The rabbit we ate that night, was, earlier that day free ranging in a natural environment and eating a healthy variety of grasses it sourced for itself. The food miles (or kilometers for those who have moved on from the imperial system) was a grand total of 14km, 28 if you count it as a return trip. It didn’t require any inputs for growing, or a processing and packaging plant to get it to our plates, just a humble hunting knife.
Prior to 2008, my wife and I were 100% consumers. We produced nothing. Around this time, it struck me that in terms of human history, this was not a secure position to be in: to not posses the knowledge or skills to actually take care of myself and my family outside of the modern supermarket system. I also felt a desire to know more about where our food was coming from. But not just from where, but what was in it? Did it contain the residue of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, was it GMO, did these elements effect human health or the environment, etc, etc. The more I studied these matters, the more concerned I became.
By 2010 we were growing a few tomatoes each summer and some salad greens. By 2011, we had moved to a standard suburban block in North Blackburn and within one year we were growing most of our own fresh veg, some fruit, berries and had 4 chickens to take care of table scraps and deliver us fresh eggs. Now in 2018, we are operating on a much larger scale, but lets not allow the story to get too far ahead of itself.
The 10 acre scale at which we are now operating is not feasible for everyone. However our starting point was a unit on a meager 240sqm block, almost all of it covered by bricks and mortar. We then transitioned to a well proportioned suburban block, about 850sqm total. Both of these two points were a vast improvement on where we had started, 100% consumer, and either one of these two points in the consumer to producer transition can be achieved by anyone.
Now it’s great to know where your food has come from and exactly what has been done to it. However, this is only one of many benefits to growing your own produce. First and foremost, is the flavour. It may sound cliché, but when comparing the taste of seasonally home grown produce with mono cropped, stored and transported Supermarket produce, it really is chalk and cheese.
Personally, one of the most important considerations when growing our own food is the sustainability of self reliance compared to the market system which is fuelled by non-renewable resources using ever riskier extraction methods. This is now a system on which the vast majority of society relies upon, for exactly 100% of its food supply. This Mr and Mrs Citizen is a problem.
To be fair, the fossil fuel industry has allowed us to solve the issue of food and water availability and made our lives awfully more convenient in an incredibly short space of time in terms of human history. However it has come at a cost, both environmentally and socially. We’ve gone too far, we’re really not solving problems anymore, small portions of people are getting disgustingly wealthy while whole nations suffer the consequences of more powerful nation states squabbling over the remaining fossil fuel resources.
There is no one right answer. However, moving from consumer to producer not only reduces demand for these resources but also gets us more connected with the land, our natural environment, the seasons and inevitably our community. As a bonus, we gain new skills and our daily meals taste a whole lot better. Meanwhile, the added benefits of superior nutrient value improves health and vitality. On top of all this, it’s very enjoyable and deeply satisfying in a way that I find hard to describe. Perhaps telling our story will assist in finding those words.
Until next time.