Thursday, 26 February 2015

Food fight

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?
Our food system has become so commercialised.  Since the introduction of supermarkets food has moved further and further from our homes.  It became easy for people to buy fruit and veggies so they stopped growing vegetable gardens.  Women left their homes to go to work and appreciated the ease of buying food from supermarkets.  Now busy families can buy pre-prepared meals and can avoid cooking at all if they so choose.  As time has gone by, large commercial food suppliers have found more and more ways to sell their products.  They market their products with a great deal of thought and their advertising works well.  Most people no longer know how to provide food for themselves without going to the supermarkets.

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.
Can you see the strong connection between buying from the supermarkets and the damage we are causing to the climate?

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!

Now think about the production of manufactured food.  The plastic and cardboard used in the packaging.  The unhealthy process of adding preservatives so food can sit on shelves for weeks/months.  Additives so that their products will look more attractive.  Do you think this is done to make your life easier, your family healthier, or to trick you out of a dollar?

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.
This is a half truth.  Yes, pastuerising milk ensures any dangerous bacteria are killed.  It also kills many health benefits.  It's a half truth because while they have told us about the risk, they have not explained that this risk is absolutely minute and applies to soooo many foods including foods like fruit and vegetables.  Since the tragic death of a young child (linked to raw milk) the FDA have painted such a vivid picture of the risk from fresh, untampered milk that in many people's mind the term RAW MILK equates to drinking poison.  What rubbish!!  You could die from eating a lettuce!  It's not possible to eliminate all risk from life.  We are human and susceptible to bacteria from many sources every day.  I can only think that we are being fed this half truth to encourage us to spend our money on the milk the large companies are profiting from.  Did you know that the milk in question, in the recent case, tested negative for e-coli?  No?!  Well the media haven't really been running with that very relevant information!  So before any proof of a connection with raw milk, our government have banned sales unless it contains a bittering agent (making it undrinkable) and non-compliance attracts ridiculously HUGE fines!  Just for the record, you can legally drink raw milk in many countries across the world.  I feel failed by a government that seems to value money before people.

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.
The EatBuyGrow Rally was of vital importance.  Costa Gorgiadis came to speak, amongst others.  He was great!  Joel Salatin also spoke at the rally.  He even waived his fee because he is so passionate about changing our food system.  The current one isn't working.  Farmers are going broke, our food is being produced overseas, some people can't afford good food and cheap food isn't good for them.  (think obesity, diabetes etc...)  Our food is poorly labelled so we can't truly make choices about what we are eating.   And now we are banned from using food which we know is good for us.

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.
Why not join 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. 


Frugal in Derbyshire said...

Great Post! It feels just the same over here in Blighty.
Some of the recent directives seem designed to bankrupt the smaller farmers, playing into the hands of the BIG firms, who are not what I call farmers.
Many milk farmers are going out of business because they do not receive enough from the big supermarkets as everyone wants cheap milk.
I suppose that we are lucky that, like you, we can "pull up the drawbridge" and live our chosen life. It can't be easy if you are living in the middle of a city and have limited funds.

Cheryl said...

I think you sum it up perfectly in the one sentence, "Convenience has a lot to answer for"!
Given the current Hepatitis scare from imported berries, I would have thought there would have been bigger numbers at the rally!
Great Post!

Kim said...

Oh you are so powerful as a writer when you are all fired up. What an awesome post , and it is all true. I start milking my goat again in Spring - and I am wondering after all the negative publicity , will I have to explain the way we live to convince people affected by the raw milk propaganda in the media .
I don't think I could go and protest like you have,my 'no conflict ' personality gets in the way ( and I love that you did) , but I think my way of protesting is living the life and getting people to come here an see what we do and write about it.
I think you are really brave and amazing , and your kids must be so proud of

Kathy said...

You are so right that people are not paying attention to their food. I come from a long history and tradition of family farmers and the regulations and forms and filings that a farmer has to make these days just to be allowed to farm is daunting! It is a sad thing - the passing of the family farm, but our governments are paying farmers not to grow things, subsidizing parts of the industry and making the tax law for farmers a joke. Keep protesting, don't let the low turnout get you down, all movements tend to start small and someone has to carry on for awhile! What you are doing is important! (and it is a valuable lesson for your kids to know they have the responsibility to stand for what is right and good)

purplepear said...

With you all the way. I'm more fearful of processed food than fresh and raw.

Linda said...

It's sad but you're right Gill. It seems to be a worldwide trend.

Yes cheryl, the berries made a good point.

I love that you, and others, are so proactive in your own lives Kim but more needs to be done at a governmental level. Unfortunately many people will never go to effort to provide for themselves but should still be able to source good food. Yes, it will be interesting to see if visitors reactions to you milking a goat have changed at all. I look forward to hearing.

Thanks Kathy, I'm not sure I understand what you mean about govt. paing farmers not to grow things?

You worded that well Kate! Yes!!

Caro said...

Great article Linda, thanks. I would have loved to be there but was unable to because of the day and time. A weekday rally does not suit people working or doing school pick ups! I also think that a city-based rally on a food issue like this is possibly not the best way to go about it. Many people making the connections between convenience and health and environmental issues live in country areas and have often moved there so they can grow and produce a lot of their own food. Like you and me! These sorts of protests are not easy for country folk to get to and making it a weekday made it all the more difficult.

Fiona from Arbordale Farm said...

Linda this is a great post. You are so right. I really believe that our food system will fail one day soon and there will be so many people out there who cannot feed themselves because the do not have the skills. The food system is trying to make the food so cheap for the consumer but that cost has to be picked up somewhere else, why do we think we can cheat nature. Sooner or later the books have to be balanced.

Chris said...

What upsets me most about the new milk regulations is, these government bodies are asking these raw milk producing farms to suddenly give up their income.

Because of what happened in Victoria, an organisation called Safe Food Qld is sending letters to 7 producers of raw milk in our State, demanding they stop raw milk leaving their property.

In effect its ceasing their only income for maintaining their business. That's 7 producers of raw milk. Seven forms of primary producer income which generate money for our economy. In order to sell your raw milk off the property now, you have to have your milk trucked to a Safe Food accredited facility, and heavens knows what that's going to cost - or what it will do to the milk. Kill it most likely.

Anyway, I think the reason more people don't stand up for it, is possibly because the people who drink the stuff have all been hiding in the closet for years. They drink raw milk but cannot admit publicly to doing that. We're conditioned to believe its wrong.