Thursday, April 23, 2015

Is "local" food always best?

I LOVE THE idea of eating "local" but if I’m completely honest, sometimes it worries me. How near/far is local? If local is a couple of hundred kilometres then no one except ST and I would be eating Burragan lamb, mutton or beef. Which is what worries me.

I know it's only a smallish section of the population who can really afford to seek out meat direct from the farmer, but it’s important to note that it’s also only a smallish section of the farming population that can by-pass the middle man and sell direct to the public.

Australia is a huge country and around 60 percent of Aussie land is used for agriculture, according to stats from the World Bank. Between 6 and 7 percent of that is arable land used for growing crops, fruits and vegetables, meaning roughly 53 percent of that area is home to grazing animals – Burragan is in that 53 percent.

As you can imagine, a lot of agricultural land is covering areas of Australia that are a long, long way from the towns and cities, which, by the way, account for about 1 percent of Aussie land use.

Meanwhile – 64 percent of Aussie people live in capital cities. And only around 2 percent of us live in “rural” areas – that’s me!

There is a huge overlap there, between the majority of that 53 percent of land that’s growing animals and the 2 percent of people that live there.

I’m not saying it’s impossible for farmers within that 2 percent to sell direct to the public, but it is unreasonable to think all of them can or should. And just because they don’t, doesn’t make them any less fantastic farmers than the ones that are launching boutique brands and accessing new markets.

Burragan sheep and cattle are just as well cared for. ST and I are just as conscious about our environment, our practices, the welfare of our animals and the quality of the end product. And I know the vast majority of farmers looking after the land and animals within that 53 percent of Australia are the same.

But our meat ends up on a shelf at the supermarket or butcher shop alongside meat from thousands of other farms, indistinguishable from the rest.

Of course farmers seeking out direct to public avenues are doing a wonderful job and I hope their businesses are reaping the rewards of their hard work. Maybe we will head in that direction one day… who knows?

I know if we didn’t supply our own meat I’d love to be able to buy it through those types of avenues – I love knowing the story behind food and feeling that connection with a meal... and fortunately we get that for free at Burragan.

But not everyone sells local, and that doesn’t make our farming practices any less ethical, sustainable or innovative than the rest. We’re still supplying healthy, safe, affordable food, just to a different market. A market further afield.

If you can’t buy “local” don’t sweat it, because as long as it’s Aussie you’re probably buying from somewhere just like Burragan. And that’s just as good.

Do you try to eat local or Aussie food? How far do you think is still considered local?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Best and Worst

THIS AFTERNOON a friend on Facebook posted a question: “What’s the best and worst thing about where you live?”

My answer came easy.

I had just tripped over an old loose section of tiles in my kitchen doorway, stubbing the two little toes on my left foot. ST is out doing a water run. After rolling around on the floor in agony for 10 minutes I managed to crawl to the freezer to extract some ice packs and then prop myself up in front of the laptop.

The worst thing about living where I live? Is being so far from medical help. Not that a doctor could do anything for my toes, whether they are broken or not, but those times when you do need a doctor, those times are excruciating.

The 110km emergency drive to a hospital that doesn’t even have a doctor, when someone you love is in pain, or sick, or scared… That is the worst.

But my best was an easy answer too.

And I think the best thing about living where I live beats the worst thing, even at the worst of times. Because the worst of times can happen anywhere… and they’re traumatic even if you only live minutes from the doctor. The best thing is a little more special, more privileged, more magical. And you get it every day!

The best thing is space.

Space to have pets and a garden (water permitting). Space to accommodate all your friends and family at once, even if they have to BYO swag. Space to not wake up the neighbours.

Space to buy really, really big toys and not worry about where you’re going to fit them.

Space to be your own person. Space to choose to be free of influence (if you want to be) from society.

Space to spread out and to get lost.

Space to find freedom.

Space to move around - if you’re not stuck on the floor with ice packed around your (possibly broken) toes.

Space to sit still.

Space to breathe.

Space to just be.

Combined, the three stations we run are a total area of around 800 square kilometres - which is totally and completely average for this region and absolutely teeny-tiny compared to regions further west and further inland.

But in that same space in Sydney, fit the lives of around 3 million people. And where I live, there are just four people...

Right now I kind of wish a certain one would come home and help me to the couch.

What's the best and worst thing about where you live?