Food doesn’t have ingredients. Food is ingredients.
Accessing and promoting real food should be high on the priority list for any community. Simply eating more real food (anything processed is not real food) is the foolproof way to improving both physical and mental health, reducing reliance on pharmaceuticals and alleviating some of the stress we are putting on our environment. In a lot of cases, large supermarkets have dominated the landscape and fresh food outlets have become few and far between. For people with reduced mobility or as is the case with many of us these days, simply time poor, it is far quicker and easier to access processed and fast food than to get hold of a tomato. I see this situation as the root of many problems and why we aren’t moving quickly to correct this is something I really struggle with.
I see the beginnings of a solution in the new wave of biofarming and urban farming techniques being developed all over the world. New biofarming models are bringing together the way we used to grow before the Monsantos with a 21st century business approach to enable food to be grown sustainably in an environmental, economical, and social sense.
A recent study by Washington State University looking at the last 40 years of the emerging organic farming movement has shown that organic systems might not yield as much food as conventional systems but they are far more balanced over all key indicators like energy usage, soil health, employment of workers and nutritional value.
Organic farming currently only accounts for 1% of agriculture worldwide, which means that there is still only a relatively small amount of data to use in the comparison, coupled with the fact that the study only looked at certified organic farms, ignoring farms that are farming sustainably without paying fees each year to prove it. In my travels, I have witnessed farms that are completely spray free and using practices that are rebuilding the soil into a thriving ecosystem (biofarming) producing tremendous amounts of food in a very small space. Barely any of these farms were certified organic because they believed that paying hefty fees each year to have the certification was a slap in the face when conventional farmers were not only exempt from fees, but given huge subsidies on top. On these farms, I believe that the future of our food system is taking shape and it looks amazing.
Common sense, practical methods of controlling weeds and pests naturally along with a huge focus on soil health is changing the game in organic farming. Using only hand tools and a couple of workers, there are farms producing enough real food on a single acre to feed 100+ people. This type of yield would outstrip any conventional farming, so the argument that we need to stay conventional to keep up with the food demand is now invalid. The only question is, how can we get this biofarming movement to make a difference when the system is already geared towards huge, centralized production and distribution? The answer – decentralise. We need to get creative and use fringe spaces around cities, unused backyards and vacant lots to split food production up and move it closer to the people that need it. To do this properly we need to harness all of the available knowledge developed recently about small scale biofarming and get organised. If a reasonable attempt at urban biofarming is made with the right people in place, it could potentially transform whole communities and light the way for other areas to follow suit. This is my dream.
In case you have only just heard about my crusade, I am currently riding a bike from Brisbane to Hobart dressed as a bright orange carrot to raise awareness of the stupid distance that we ship most of our food. In the process, I am raising money through crowdfunding to kickstart a backyard based urban biofarming project in Brisbane that will hopefully bloom into a model that can be replicated elsewhere. The project is a very basic but powerful idea, using people’s backyards in the city to grow a series of microfarms, essentially creating a jigsaw farm that could potentially provide a serious amount of real food for people in the local community. No shipping across the country, no need for complex distribution and inflated prices. Just real food, grown naturally next door.
I am currently riding through Gippsland in Victoria and should arrive in Melbourne within a week, which will coincide with the end of my 6 week crowdfunding campaign. I am tantalisingly close to my $3000 tipping point target, which is absolutely incredible and a tribute to the generosity of anyone who has supported so far, however the more I can raise the faster and more efficiently I can get this project off the ground. If you like the idea of investing in a real, hands on, down to earth (pun intended) community based, not-for-profit focused on improving the health of the community, the planet, and our frail food system where the money won’t be hoovered up by administration teams, please visit my crowdfunding campaign site – http://www.startsomegood.com/backyardfarming – and take a look.
It all starts with a seed.