Primary Producers get a very rough trot with food prices driven by harsh deals and bullying from Supermarket chains so the Supermarket chains can still make profit while selling a products at unreasonably cheap prices. SM chain ability and willingness to import food from far afield helps devalue locally produced foodstuffs.
This pressure on farmers contributes to damage of our food security in several ways….
Smaller producers don’t get deals to provide SM chains produce as these poor prices mean only very large producers can meet the set requirements. This has created a food marketplace that doesn’t favour diversity of food types or diversity of location where any food item is grown. It is beneficial to have larger number of smaller producers rather than fewer massive ones for the sake of product diversity, redundancy and food security resilience in the face of climate change and its associated unpredictable climate swings and natural disasters. A great example of this, is the banana shortage in 2011 caused by a cyclone Yasi wiping out the majority of all Australian banana plantations in one event.
It is a bad idea to have all of our eggs in one basket so to speak…
The less distance food travels, the less need for packaging waste and unhealthy preservatives, also the greater chance of us being able to access fresh products that store and travel less well (because they don’t need to!).
Of coarse, don’t forget the concept of “Food Kilometres” which talks about how much extra carbon we are expending into the atmosphere for every additional km food has been transported. This is only a part of the carbon footprint of a product but it is one that we can somewhat improve for those foods that you can actually grow in your region. I’m not saying we should never engage in imported or long-travelled products that might not be able to grow in your area, just that we can do way better with all of the things we can produce near where one lives.
There are produce vendors that buy from a larger vendor and resell the product for a higher price rather than value-adding, and are thus adding to the cost of a product without actually contributing anything to its value. By value-adding I refer to; drying, pickling, candying, cooking with it, etc.
The more of these buyer/sellers or ‘middle men’ a product goes through, the more inflation occurs when really that money would be better off in the hands of struggling producers for the sake of the continued availability of that food. If you are lucky enough to live near or drive past a farm, buying from a Farm Gate stall is a fantastic way to reward a producer for their fresh produce as the money goes straight to them!
What about the Newcastle Farmers Markets you say? Well… personally i’ve been finding it harder than it should be to locate locally grown produce that hasn’t come from further than 50km away.
Some producers are within the local area but in total very few, while many are still just vending the same product that is sold at supermarkets. This can make it difficult to find product that is genuinely embodying the qualities of local, affordable, if not organic, when relying on the word of a vendor only. Perhaps this needs to be left to some sort of screening process for who participates in a given market event?
However, at the Newcastle Farmers Market there are at least a couple of vendors you can be 100% certain are selling very locally produced goods;
- Dave from Feedback Organics runs an urban farm as close as Cardiff and holds a stall at the Broadmeadow Markets. http://www.feedbackorganic.com.au/
- Nourishing Newcastle Urban Tucker Stall (NNUTS) vend produce grown from local peoples backyard gardens on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month. http://transitionnewcastle.org.au/nourishing-newcastle-urban-tucker-stall-nnuts/
There are some nearby avenues through which you can more easily access locally produced foodstuffs that are definitely worth mentioning.
- A store called Local Crop on Hunter street which specialises in produce as locally sourced as possible and are open throughout week AND weekend days. https://www.localcrop.com.au/
- Bean Stalk Co-op is a cooperative you can sign up for, through which you can organise weekly boxes of mixed vegetables, and other bits and pieces on the side. Pickup Church St Mayfield on Tuesday evenings. https://www.beanstalk.org.au/
- Newcastle also has a Food Collective which allows you to order online which options to collect from 50 Clyde St Hamilton North, drive-through or have delivered.
Aaaaaand finally, I know it isn’t for everyone and i’m definitely biased, but growing what you can where you live is the very best way to obtain at least some of your food for yourself and family. You also access the plethora of other benefits that having a garden can afford you and your community.