So much has changed in one generation. A couple of years ago a customer sent me a paper clipping from 1939 featuring an article on seasonal vegetables. Imagine back then, there was diet and health advice: “Fresh green or root vegetables….should be the staple part of every family dinner”.
But the food back then was different to our food today in so many ways. It was fresher, it was local, it was plastic free and it was free from chemicals. Can you imagine if our food today was produced without artificial fertilisers, without toxic chemicals, not wrapped in plastic and was produced locally.
Our ancestors did not contribute to the mass of plastic pollution choking our planet. Plastic didn’t exist. My grandad would have grown his own veggies, and if he didn’t grow it, he would have bought them in the local market or in a green grocer. Supermarkets didn’t exist back then. There was no such thing as Roundup the food was clean. Fresh produce was highly valued, it was not discounted, loss leading was not a thing and as we have seen today this is sending Irish farmers out of business.
Today we live in a world of everything and anything all the time. It is amazing to have such choice, but there is a cost, a cost hidden behind the plastic: the chemicals, the exploitation of workers, the clearing of rainforests, the destruction of habitats, the pollution of our oceans. The list goes on.
THE SUPERMARKET MODEL OF FOOD PRODUCTION IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF ALL THESE PROBLEMS, A MODEL WE ALL RELY ON AND YET ONE THAT NEEDS TO CHANGE. HOW CAN A BAG OF CARROTS COST 49C? COST LESS THAN THE ADDITIONAL OF AN EXTRA ESPRESSO TO OUR COFFEES?
Life seemed much simpler in my grandad’s day, life was certainly tougher, food was scarce at times, but the food was clean, healthy and did not leave a trail of pollution behind. We don’t need to return to a land of scarcity, but maybe a mindset change to see value in fresh food again would be a good thing, it is after all the building block that we put into our bodies every single day.
Being out in the rain and wind, harvesting leeks and pulling parsnips, is no fun, and it takes a certain caliber of person to persist with this work well into the winter. But this is seasonal food, this is the reality of local food production. The smell of freshly harvested parsnips, is quite frankly amazing, covered in muck they feel alive and real and you get the feeling that just by holding them in your hand you are doing something positive for the planet!
Producing good clean food, while respecting the ground beneath our feet that gives us so much deserves to be valued. Because if we don’t value and respect the earth then there will not be much left for the next generation to enjoy.
I THINK FOOD PRODUCTION HAS SUCH POTENTIAL TO CHANGE OUR LIVES, TO CHANGE THE WAY WE EAT, TO CHANGE HOW WE WORK, TO CHANGE OUR WORLD.
Here’s to learning from the past!