Demographic, climatic and socio-economic factors are changing the way we source our food. Globalisation and climate change running concurrent with populations moving from rural areas to cities are fundamentally changing the human condition. After millennia of humans being agrarians we are returning to being hunters and collectors. For the first time in human history more people live in cities than rural areas, with the consequence that most communities no longer support themselves in terms of sustenance. The source of their hunting and collecting is no longer the wild, but shops and markets, a phenomena amplified by globalised food and fibre distribution. This situation currently works well for wealthy western societies, but not so for subsistence farmers now at the whim of globalised food markets, and the ravages of drought and flood. The affluent buy, and often waste, global food supplies whilst poor people increasingly go without. Oxfam say 1 in 7 people go to bed hungry; their GROW project is one example of a move to greater sustainable food and fibre consumption across the planet. Act local is the catchcry, if your dinner has come from a struggling country, it has probably been taken from the mouths of their population.
On the local front food security is gaining attention, it’s all about ensuring we have consistency of supply, and buying from local producers is the way to do it. Buying imported food because it is cheaper puts local producers out of business making us vulnerable to volatile global markets. I’m writing this on Sunday after returning from the Grower’s Green Market at South Fremantle Senior High School, where I got to choose from a wide range of seasonal local produce. A lady next to us in the queue said this has got to be better than going to a supermarket, how right she is.
You are what you eat and feelings of lack of connectivity with our food has led to a growing movement for urban gardens. All sorts of people are now taking pride in growing their own food and eating seasonally. As a result of trade embargos put on Cuba during the cold war they had to quickly become self sufficient. Today’s legacy is more than 200 gardens in metropolitan Havana which supply 90% of the city’s vegetables. This success has led to people worldwide following that example. Perth City Farm is doing a great job reconnecting community through food production and preparation. Closer to home Hilton Harvest is a Freo success story, a line from their great webpage sums it all up; We have grown a beautiful place celebrating community. A garden that encourages people to come together and share diverse approaches to life. Where I am in South Fremantle we have the fledgling FreoFarm run by a group of dedicated people who are determined to grow community through gardens on a section of the old landfill site. You can meet them and find out more about the FreoFarm proposal at a Community Landscape architecture workshop at the Fremantle Workers Club, Henry Street, Fremantle on Saturday (1-Sept-2012) at 1:00pm.
Verge gardens around Fremantle have blossomed, starting with the now famous Hulbert Street, nowadays I’m seeing them all over, there’s a particularly good one on Jenkins Street. Our wide verges are ideal for them and they look so much better than the usual patchy grass. Personally, I’ve turned a small north facing section of our yard into a vegetable patch and currently have the luxury of picking broccolini, carrots, spinach and baby beetroot for dinner.
For a sustainable, ethical future grow your own, join one of the urban farms, buy local and if you do buy global make sure it’s Fair Trade. This weekend sees the start of Sustainable September, keep an eye out for local events around Freo.
Published in Fremantle Herald 1-9-12