Australia is a pretty fantastic place. We have every climate possible, from the freezing Snowy Mountains in NSW, tropical paradise of Northern Queensland through to the Mediterranean-style climate of Adelaide (and all of the above in Melbourne on any one day). This wide and varied climate and topography makes for some pretty awesome growing conditions.There’s not many fruits or vegetables that can’t be grown here.
As a result our supermarkets are chock full of an amazing variety of fruits and veggies. Irrespective of the season, you can buy apples and peaches all year round. Incredible huh? Well, not entirely.
We can get this climatic variety because Australia is a pretty big place. Just consider it’s about 4,110 km between Sydney and Perth, and 3,042 km between Adelaide and Darwin. There’s a few other factors that go into our climatic variation too, but I won’t bore you with a science lesson. My point is Australia is massive. To source Tasmanian apples to Brisbane, they need to jump on a ship to Melbourne, then travel by truck the next 1,669 km. From there they will be redistributed all around Queensland for me to enjoy in sunny Gladstone (my hometown).
What’s even crazier is I live 100 km south from Rockhampton, the beef capital of Australia. If I were to buy beef from the supermarket, it would have traveled 700km to Brisbane to be redistributed back 600km to Gladstone. That’s insane!
Whilst I’m a big fan of traveling, I don’t care for my food to have seen all of Australia before it gets to me. It’s a massive waste of non-renewable resources in the form of fuel and energy for cold storage trucks. One of the best ways to minimis your food miles is to buy from local farmers markets. Plus there’s a whole host of other benefits.
Why buy locally?
1. Less energy, emissions and food miles associated with our food
2. Food is fresher (plus it tastes better)
Ever wondered how you buy apples all year round? Produce that is purchased in the supermarket often has been in transit or cold-stored for days or weeks. Apples, for example, are generally an Autumn crop so they can be in storage for ages in order to supply them all year round.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that Coles got into a lot of trouble for advertising its “spring” apples as fresh, when they had in fact been picked months earlier. They defended their fresh claims by saying, “Coles considers apples can remain fresh, even if placed in cold storage. ‘Freshness’ is determined with regard to the quality of the produce, not whether it has been stored or not.” This is a pretty standard practice for supermarkets; it’s how they can ensure they can provide customers year round with seasonal produce.
Produce from your local farmer’s market however has often been picked within 24 hours of your purchase.This freshness not only affects the taste of your food, but the nutritional value. Locally grown fruits and vegetables are often allowed longer to ripen, because they do not have to be locked up for shipping and distribution.
3. Support farmers and local growers
Supermarkets are giant middlemen. They buy the produce from the farmers for $x then add their fee and sell it on to you for $x+y. By buying locally grown food you’ll be cutting out the middleman and putting your money directly into the pockets of the growers. Because there’s no middleman, you’ll generally get produce at much better prices.
This was my haul from my local markets this Saturday. It cost me $48.90 and will feed my bf & me for a week and a bit.
What I got:
- Red Capsicums
- Cherry tomatoes
- Purple carrots
- Butternut Pumpkin
- Spring Onions
- Garlic shoots
- Snake beans
- Australian Garlic
- Free range eggs
4. Eat seasonally
By eating with the seasons, we are eating foods when they are at their most flavoursome, are the most abundant, and the least expensive. I LOVE mangoes and have been hanging out for summer so I can finally get my hands on them. One of the benefits of living in QLD is we get them first and super fresh (they grow along streets here in summer).
5. Get to know your growers and your food
By buying directly from the farmer you get to find out more about their farming practices. Organic certification is expensive and whilst some farmers may farm completely or partially this way it’s not cost effective for them to get certified.
During the cooler seasons my local grower doesn’t use sprays on the greens (as verified by the juicy caterpillar living on my kale last fortnight). I also love their eggs which are entirely free range. When I first bought them I was skeptical as without certification how could I be sure they were telling the truth? However after cracking the first egg (which took a few bangs thanks to its super strong (healthy) shell) I was pleasantly surprised to see that brilliant yellow yolk, associated with healthy free range eggs. When you know your growers you know exactly where your food’s come from and the conditions in which they were sourced.
Eating locally can be beneficial to both the environment and your health, and in putting your dollars into supporting the local community and farmers directly. Farmers markets are generally on weekly. Check out the Australian Farmers’ Markets Association to find your nearest markets.
I live in a small town in Central Queensland and even I have access to growers markets at least fortnightly, so for those of you in capital cities you have no excuse!
Do you shop locally or have a market you want to recommend? Share with me below.