I love knowing where my food comes from, partly for environmental and ethical reasons, but mostly because it adds joy and meaning to my life. My Gran used to delight in starting every meal with a tale of where the food came from. “The beetroot and beans are from our garden and the mushrooms are from Uncle Bernie”, she would say. I hear myself telling similar tales before our meals these days. “The lamb is from Tom, the corn from Mick, and the pumpkin was grown by Dennis.”
I’m able to connect with the farmers that grow our food only because they are small-scale family farmers. Farmers markets, food co-operatives, and being able to buy direct from farmers online, make it possible for us to know the farmers that grow our food. Greengrocers and butchers are also often happy to tell you about the farmer behind their produce. On the other hand, we have no chance whatsoever of knowing the farmer behind the produce sold in supermarkets and grown by big agribusinesses.
Given my preference for buying food from family farms, I was excited to learn that 2014 is International Year of Family Farming. The year was declared by the United Nations to highlight the important role that family farms play in improving food security and preserving natural resources. Family farmers are being acknowledged for their vital role in sustainable food production.
I recently visited one of my favourite family farms – the Little Black Cow Farm near Branxton in the Hunter Valley. David and Kim Barnes grow grass-fed beef, run a farm stay and grow much of their own food. They are typical of many of the family farmers that I know - they are passionate about the land, the welfare of their animals, and the quality of their produce.
David and Kim are working towards gaining more control over the welfare of their animals. Up until now, their cattle went off to a sale yard, from where they may have spent their last few months in an intensive crowded feed lot. David and Kim can now sell direct to the public so that they can ensure their cattle are humanely treated for their entire life. If you are interested in more information you can contact David and Kim.
I’m going to embrace International Year of Family Farming and do my best to buy mostly from family farms. Would you like to join me? All we need to do is steer clear of the supermarkets and instead, shop at the greengrocers, butchers, farmers markets, food co-operatives and direct from the farmer. Sounds like fun to me.
Originally published in my Newcastle Herald column 'Less is More' 28th December 2013.