CHALLENGE: Connect with your food

sustainable swaps, weekly challenge

eco-empire_connect-with-your-food_farmers-markets04

My latest challenge has been to re-connect with my food. I think a lot of people blindly shop for their food these days. We simply don’t ask enough questions (where did this come from? Who grew this? What are these ingredients? What does this food do to my body? Are these ingredients harmful? etc). By connecting with your food, you connect with your body and health and happiness.

My “re-connection” with food was sparked by a recent dietary challenge* after trying veganism (FYI I was inspired to go vegan after watching the documentary Cowspiracy). However my body reacted so badly (terribly, painfully) to this new seemingly healthy diet that I had to keep a food diary and really, truly, think about everything I ate.

If you’ve watched a documentary like Cowspiracy, Food Inc, or even Jamie Oliver’s Fowl Dinners (I was vegetarian for years after watching that one!), you’ll start to question what (or more importantly WHO) you are eating.

Here are some simple challenges you can set yourself to reconnect with your food:

BUY LOCAL

There really is not comparison to buying your fresh food (fruit, vegetables, meats, dairy + more) from the farmer’s markets. You are buying direct from the grower. You can ask questions and get answers. It’s also a great way to buy food in season (i.e. not buying vegetables flown in from the other side of the world). It’s also a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning!

eco-empire_connect-with-your-food_farmers-markets02

EATING MEAT

Spending a good portion of my life as a vegetarian (and that small time as a vegan!), I have had to learn the hard (and emotional) way that I need meat in my diet. Some people make this choice because they simply like the taste. But hey, let’s at least give a shit about how this animal came to be yeah?

Some easy ways to keep meat in the diet in a sustainable and ethical way:

  • Get your portions right. The Australian Department of Health suggests a maximum of around seven serves of protein a week. A serve of meat is around 90-100g raw meat (that’s about the size of a burger patty!). So that means only one meal a day should be meat, or if you have a large portion of meat in one meal then skip the meat the next day. Don’t forget two eggs are considered a portion of protein, so you could forgo the meat all together if you had eggs for breakfast! Some quick and easy solutions: Cut your steak portions in half. Roast a whole chook at the start of the week and you’ll be set for days (you can even freeze the leftovers).
  • Choose ethically sourced meat. Livestock kept in natural habitats (i.e. pasture fed cows and free range chickens) are a better choice. Organic and bio-dynamic is even better. Their livestock are generally given a much better life and the farms they come from don’t use pesticides, herbicides, growth promotors or hormones – and they don’t eat genetically modified food.

eco-empire_connect-with-your-food_farmers-markets03

GROW YOUR OWN

I know, easier said than done – and nothing is more demotivating than being a plant killer. I’d suggest starting small; herbs are generally pretty easy and move on to leafy greens from there. Check on your plants regularly to check they’re happy and healthy and look out for pests. More on this later!

eco-empire_connect-with-your-food_farmers-markets-2

REFUSE PLASTIC

This goes beyond remembering to bring your ‘green bags’ (which by the way, are an environmental nightmare in themselves – the fabric is made out of plastic!). But extending your bag collection to produce bags (some are made from mesh, or you can make your own hessian ones), and bringing plastic tubs with you (for bulk buying fine things like flours or liquids etc).

If you buy through a bulk buy store (who openly welcome you BYO container) or local farmer’s markets it will be a lot easier to avoid this conundrum. I fear that refusing plastic containers at conventional supermarkets will just have them thrown in the bin.

When I went to the farmer’s markets however, it was super easy. I asked the organic farmer if I placed my cherry tomatoes into my own bag would they take the plastic tubs back to reuse them? They were more than happy to accommodate me and even commented that the plastic tubs are quite expensive. I also managed to visit a banana stand just as the lady was about to bag up a kilo of bananas, I told her to not bother bagging them up and to simply had them over. No problem.

So here are some initial challenges to get you reconnected with your food. What will you choose first? What will be your biggest challenge?

 

* by dietary challenge I mean the doctors can’t seem to diagnose why I react to certain foods. I’ve spent the last 10 years eating a self-diagnosed gluten intolerant diet but am now finding myself intolerant of other foods too. The GP has simply handed over a FODMAP diet information sheet and wished me luck.

A local weekend getaway in Instagram photos

Uncategorized

There’s nothing better than getaway weddings – the kind that ‘forces’ you to travel to lovely locations. This past weekend I was ‘forced’ to spend four days in Eagle Bay, three hours south of Perth. It’s located on Geographe Bay and surrounded by wine vineyards and gourmet delights. I love this area for its passion for nature and being very ‘local’ focused. Isn’t it great that I can drive my fuel efficient car (with fuel consumption at around 7.4l/100km) for only three hours and find myself in paradise?

Here are some snaps from the weekend!

The view from our rented holiday house - of Geographe Bay

My favourite cafe "Kombi Cafe" at the Samudra surf and yoga centre. They have a huge vegetable garden where a lot of the food comes from. This is a raw, gluten free, vegan pizza!

Decorations from the wedding (a great upcycling idea!)

Lunch at Cullen Winery - an organic and biodynamic winery whose restaurant serves organic, biodynamic and locally sourced food.

Visiting the local beaches, baby bump and all. This is in Eagle Bay.

And one last stop at the Kombi Cafe - a (gluten free & vegan) live raw muesli with nut milk

With baby on the way it’s great to know a simple three hour car ride can provide a holiday in paradise, which is ALSO super kid friendly. There is so much yet to explore and I am excited knowing I’ll be spending the next few years discovering more wonders, so close to home.

Have you found YOUR local paradise?

Find your local farmers market

Uncategorized

In the last year or so I’ve gone from doing all my shopping at the large chain supermarkets to then shopping at the local independently owned markets and now I’ve discovered the local farmers markets. Supporting local businesses means so much more to me than supporting a large corporation with shareholders – and farmers markets are a great way to buy straight from the source in one location.

What is a farmers market?

The Australia’s Farmers Market Association defines farmers markets as:

“a predominantly fresh food market that operates regularly within a community, at a focal public location that provides a suitable environment for farmers and food producers to sell farm-origin and associated value-added processed food products directly to customers.”

Basically, farmers markets promote fresh, local and sustainable food systems. It’s also a great place to find local small businesses and artisans (think preserves, natural body products, arts and crafts).

My local farmers market

My local farmers market is the Farmers Market on Manning located at the Clontarf Aboriginal College grounds in Waterford open on Saturdays from 7.30am to 12.30pm.

There are fruit and vegetable growers (including a few organic and biodynamic ones), a few bakers (including an organic baker), a dairy stall (selling fresh milk and yogurt in glass bottles!), butchers (including an organic one), flowers, gelato, free range eggs, fresh juice stand (who have a great recycling bottle program), organic olives, raw honey…. just to name a few. There is also a bunch of freshly made food options – my favourite being an organic gluten-free crepes stand!

I’ve found everyone is so friendly and approachable, which is great if you want to know more about what you’re buying – you’ll actually be asking the growers/makers themselves. I’ve also noticed everybody brings their own reusable shopping bags. There are two big eating areas and we’ve made a tradition of getting breakfast there before we buy all our food. Even our dog Zeppelin loves the markets – yep that’s right, dogs allowed!

How to find YOUR local farmers market

The Australian Farmers’ Market Association lists association-recognised markets, or a simple Google search will probably put you in the right direction! Give it a go!

What’s so good about ‘Organic’?

Uncategorized

Organic is the latest buzz word around town and if you’re not sure what it is, you at least know it’s healthy… or something like that.

photo (c) Kat Wray

So what does organic mean?

According to the BPA (Biological Farmers of Australia):

Organic produce is grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers, or GMOs with a focus on environmentally sustainable practices”.

To be certified organic in Australia there are three main focuses:

  • Soil fertility – methods such as crop rotation, green manure crops and composting to maintain natural soil fertility.
  • Pest & disease control – mechanical and natural methods of pest and weed control.
  • No GMO’s (genetically modified organisms)

This means no artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides are permitted creating a more natural product. An organic farm must also adhere to these practices for a transition period of a few years before being certified organic.

Aside from your food being chemical free, you’re also supporting sustainable agriculture which also supports a better ecosystem.

To ensure you are not buying products that have misleading claims of being organic, looking for the accredited logo “Australian Certified Organics” is your best bet.

What does biodynamic mean?

photo (c) Kat Wray

Biodynamic farming is an enhanced version of organic farming (which actually predates it). Whilst similar to organic practices, biodynamic agriculture is all about ‘self-sufficiency’ where the entire farm becomes ‘a living organism’ – the farmer, the land, even the animals play a part – that’s right animals. Animal husbandry plays a part, as animals aid in successful crop rotation and the manure being an essential tool in cultivating the land for crop planting. The animals are primarily fed from the farm itself.

Vegans beware – aside from manure, there are other animal bi-products used to condition the soil, such as “cow horn manure” and “horn silica” HOWEVER, the guidelines depict that the animals receive continuous observant care and must be able to carry out their innate behavioural traits and recognise animals as ‘ensouled beings’.

Soil husbandry is the most important part of the system however, with high standards of soil conditions being vital.

Biodynamic Agriculture Australia explain Biodynamics:

“Biodynamics is a regenerative agriculture, holistic in approach and practice, through which the farmer and gardener bring the substances and forces of nature into a quality and sustainable production.”

The concept of biodynamic agriculture was born from the lectures of Austrian scientist and philosopher Dr Rudolf Steiner in 1924. Dr Steiner wrote the lectures at the request of local farmers who were concerned about the future of agriculture due to their depleting soil conditions and quality of stock. The concept was brought to life by other practitioners and is now somewhat managed by world certification agency Demeter International.

Biodynamic food has been known to stay fresh longer than organic produce and because of its focus on rehabilitating and enhancing soil this is a very sustainable agricultural practice.

Why choose organic (or biodynamic) food?

  • It tastes better (some people will say this is an arguable point, but if there are no chemicals involved in the production how can it not taste better?!)
  • Supports sustainable agriculture practices (not only improving soil, but no nasty chemicals get into our ground water system)
  • The food contains a higher level of nutrients (scientifically proven)
  • Produces chemical and additive free foods
  • Supports the local community

For more reasons why you should check out the Organic Food Directory website.

Don’t be fooled

There are still some products on the market that claim to be organic or biodynamic but with no certification (or at least, a certification you’ve never heard of). If unsure, you can double check for a company’s legitimacy using the Ethical Consumer Guide iPhone app as I have suggested before, or check  the Organic Federation of Australia’s website for current certification labels.

You should also be wary of products such as premade food and beauty products claiming to contain organic produce – whilst there might be one organic item in the mix, this doesn’t mean the entire product is organic or good for you. Organic lavender isn’t going to make a difference if you’re still putting harmful chemicals on your face. It really does pay to read the label.

My experience

Without really knowing what it was all about, I made a pledge for 3things that I was going to buy organic produce, which is how my organic adventure began. I didn’t realise at the time that I’d go one step further and order weekly packaged boxes of biodynamic fruit and vegetables from a local farm called Mimsbrook Farm  in Darling Downs (Perth, Western Australia). Eating only organic produce for a month seemed like the best way to experience the food.

photo (c) Kat Wray

My delivery box only has what is in season and available at the time of packing – you never know what you’re going to get! Eating seasonally is sustainable and nutritional.  Whilst the selection at your local markets appear fairly vast – if you look closer you’ll realise a lot of the fruit and vegetables are from interstate or even international! A few weeks ago I almost picked up some asparagus at the supermarket but noticed it had been shipped from Peru! The carbon footprint on that asparagus was far too much. Locally grown fruit and vegetables ensures freshness and a low transportation distance ensures a smaller carbon footprint.

Because I am supporting a community farm, I have to support their business too – which means I had to pay for a month’s worth of vegetables up front. It might have seemed like a lot at the time, but I barely have to visit the supermarket anymore so I’m certainly not complaining!

In order to not waste anything I also have to pre-plan the entire week of meals – it can’t be about what I am ‘in the mood for’ but more about ‘what can I make with this?’. Personally I am keen for the challenge, but not everyone’s a cook! It requires dedication to get pre-packaged boxes!

There is also the cost. Yes, organic or biodynamic food is generally more expensive. I personally put good food first, so paying extra doesn’t bother me and unless you are on a super strict budget, you have to think that the extra cost comes back in return as extra nutrients, chemical free food and supporting sustainability.

The conclusion?

I have fruit and vegetables that are rich in colour and flavour, I could hear the fresh crispiness when I cut into the produce, I am eating food that is in season – even vegetables I have never tried before (such as kale, which happens to be the super vegetable of the world!) and I feel good knowing I am getting nutrient rich food whilst supporting a sustainable local business and community. It feels good to buy organic!