Sunday, May 16, 2010


I have been listening to a lot of podcasts from the BBC relating to agriculture and food security and the like and it has got me thinking. What applies to the England doesn't necessarily apply here in in Australia but bear with me.

The concept of something being "out of season" appears to have been eliminated for it will always be in season somewhere on the planet, or seasons can be replicated using hothouses and polytunnels, or the effect of the seasons can be minimized through breeding programs (genetically engineered or otherwise). There may be a variation in price through the year but generally availability won't be affected. I know when I was working with the lovelies they had no concept that there was a season for the growing of any particular crop.

As a result of this our expectations around food have changed and our diets and lifestyles have followed suit. I mean why both bottling your own tomatoes when you can buy them fresh all year around? I also acknowledge that there are social and economic issues including both parents generally working outside the house and having less time for these pursuits, house blocks being much smaller that the traditional quarter acre so there is less space for vegetables and fruit trees, and the overall urbanization of the population. Is this a chicken and egg situation? Not sure ....

I also acknowledge my passion for food within 100-miles of home is another layer of consideration. And I know that I have contradictory views in that crops like rice should not be grown in Australia for the simple reason of a lack of water but I like to eat rice. I also know that Australia exports large quantities of agricultural products and that changes to that would have a big impact, both socially and economically, on  individuals and the country as a whole. Not to mention the importance of balance of trade between nations and the existing treaties in this area. I also know that the size of this country and the range of weather experienced means that we are more able to produce food and less reliant on international imports.

So where is this all leading? Well if we, as a country, want to have food security as we progress thorugh the 21st century we are going to have to consider some questions before any answers can be found. Do we want to be self-reliant when it comes to food security or are we happy to collaborate with others? Are we really willing to consider the environmental costs of our food requirements (farming on marginal land, land clearing, water availability, various forms of pollution generated)? Do we want quality food, or food for the lowest price? Are we willing to make changes to the way we eat or live? What foods are now "basic" and we need to ensure they are "secure" and which ones are not? Are we willing to continue to subsidize some aspects of the agricultural industry to sustain communities and the individual farmers? I am sure there are more.questions but these were my starting points.

The reality is that I can find no outcomes to the proposition of food security until the answers come in. I know my answers - and acknowledge the contradictions that included in them. I think we as a nation need to have the conversation .... after there has been considerable education on the current realities of agriculture, and we re-connect with our food and its sources (yes the milk issue is still there lol). And we probably need to have the conversation sooner rather than later because the inevitable change that will occur will take time.


pita-woman said...

That's a tough one. All good points, yet is there a right/wrong answer?

Currently in our region, 'tis the season to plant tomatoes and await with much anticipation that delicious red fruit to appear in 6-8 weeks. I can hardly wait! The 'maters from the grocery the rest of the year just don't compare to home-grown!

Mountaingirl said...

I think I would bend down and kiss the feet of the person who gives me homegrown tomatoes .... you are so right, the commercial ones just don't compare :-)