Everyone loves a good food fight, don't they? Apparently not. Last week the children and I travelled to Melbourne for the EatBuyGrow Rally held by the Regrarians. We expected to see hundreds of people and hoped to see thousands gathering to stand up for this important issue.
I was very disappointed to find around a hundred (correct me if you were there and I've made a wrong estimate) people standing up for a better food system. Admittedly it was a week day so harder for people to attend but still..... I found it strange. Climate change rallies are so well attended but this one was not. Is it possible people haven't made the connection between the way food is delivered and the damage to our climate?
Families trying to manage their weekly budgets are often looking for the cheapest options to provide food. The commercial companies wanting their dollar have responded by finding cheaper ways of manufacturing food. Small farms are dying out as companies push them to supply food cheaply. They simply can't make ends meet. They've had to sell their land. This has resulted in HUGE farms owned by corporations growing crops as cheaply as possible. I can tell you now, the main concern of these companies is NOT your health or the health of the environment. They encourage intensive farming and they are not focussed on environmental issues such as salinity, erosion, water conservation etc. Their focus is how to make a profit. The super-farms aren't worrying much about improving soils because they don't need to. They can use chemicals to fertilise crops and kill weeds and there's now the option of genetically modified seeds.
But wait! There's more. There's the issue of transport. Years back I briefly lived in Shepparton. I was buying my apples from the supermarket and paying through the nose for them although I was in the very area that these apples were grown. The large supermarkets were buying from the local orchards, transporting the fruit to Melbourne to their warehouses and then trucking them back to Shepparton. I paid more for my apples than people from Melbourne were paying! I've learnt a lot since those days. The unnecessary use of fossil fuels was causing damage to the environment when I could have just searched for a local orchard that sold direct to the public. Convenience has a lot to answer for!
Food is tampered with in so many different ways. Milk is an issue that is close to my heart because it is such an obvious problem. As a person who milks goats and yes *gasp* drinks raw milk, I'm very interested in what is happening in our milk industry. Milk is taken from many dairies (again the smaller dairies are pushed to provide cheaper prices but are outcompeted by large corporations taking over and forming super-farms), put into one lot, forced through a tiny strainer to homogenise, heated to a temperature that damages vitamins and good bacteria, and then transported again to the supermarkets. Now not only do the corporations, advertisers and supermarkets but also our government tell us this is done for our safety.
I know that my children are being nourished by the raw milk from our goats. I have been giving it to them for over a year now. One of my children has suffered terribly from colds for eight of his nine years due to a low immune system. He caught them easily, was affected for weeks, developed infections and developed hearing loss from his colds. Now he rarely catches them and recovers quickly. Ironically, I have my first cold in two years as I write.
I had never attended a rally or protest in my life until a couple of years ago yet now I've been to a handful. I don't go willy nilly. It takes time, energy and effort to traipse to Melbourne with three children in tow. I attend rallies if I think they are addressing issues too important to ignore.
Okay. I've painted a pretty bleak picture (because it is) but there's heaps you can do on a personal level. You can grow fruit and veggies, buy locally, buy in bulk, buy organic, buy direct from growers, cook from scratch rather than buying pre-prepared food. You could also link in with organisations working to create change.
Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA). They are aware of all the above issues and their website will explain them much more clearly than I did. They are lobbying government to try to bring about a better food system.
The Regarians are also very proactive with changing our system. I must admit I didn't know much about them before the rally which they were instrumental in organising.
There is also an organisation fighting for our right to drink raw milk. They are the Australian Raw Milk Movement. I'm sorry but I couldn't find a website for them, just a Face Book page.
Now, you know I'm not a food scientist, chemist, doctor etc. I'm just a mum. But being a mum doesn't make me inconsequential. It gives me the strength, the right and also the responsibility to fight for a healthy and fair food system that doesn't damage our climate. I owe it to my kids.