For all the talk of being aware of where our food comes from, very few of us have the chance to visit our food producers and see how it happens first-hand. As a self-confessed urbanite I jumped at the chance when YFM recently spent some time doing just that at Mulloon Creek Natural Farms.
As a little girl I grew up with a small yard, and every possible inch was filled with bok choy my grandparents had planted, fighting it out with Dad’s spring onions and my mother’s insistence that there be some flowers amongst the sea of edible greens. Despite both parents working full time (some would say double full time), and not knowing what a “foodie” was, they insisted on growing these few simple staples because supermarket versions tasted foreign in comparison. Secretly though I think my Dad found the whole circle of life from food scraps to compost to free food again pretty amazing – and why not? As a penny pinching student, I found myself similarly enamoured with the whole process and grew all sorts of things in yoghurt pottles on my windowsill, and former patches of lawn. Up sprung tomatoes and salad greens that made the supermarket stuff taste like crunchy water.
It was all these memories that came flooding back during our retreat at Mulloon Creek Natural Farms with the Youth Food Movement crew, who instantly felt like my family set against the breathtaking hills of the country that greeted us. There’s something about the quiet peacefulness of farms that binds people together like toffee.
Over the next 48 hours, the experiences of my “micro farming” as a kid turned macro. Sure I grew the odd salad ingredient, but I was curious to see how the majority of my food could be produced. Despite being really interested in food system and production issues, actually being on a farm and hearing what farmers themselves had to say was truly eye-opening. What struck me was that much of what urban foodies hear about food is from academics, journalists and chefs. As well meaning as they might be, they don’t live off the land, see the soil, or have that daily, visceral experience with nature that farmers do.
I felt positively ignorant listening to Tony discuss the state of the land, and utterly naive asking questions about why farming on the whole still continues to be unsustainable, even with increased collective knowledge about the reasons farmers struggle in faraway places. Then there were the animals, which in their chilled out, free-roaming lifestyle, were a charming example of why factory farming is so abhorrent.
In meeting the team at Mulloon Creek one question was answered for me: who on earth would take it all on? It turns out that all it takes is a weekend experiencing the beauty of producing real food, respectful, nourishing food, the sort that is so full of richness and flavours, to make you willing to start growing yourself – even after an exhausting day at work. That might be what anyone needs to understand why there’s still something very much worth fighting the good fight for.
Image credits: Zo Zhou