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Living Lightly column

Know where your food comes from

By Jade Miles, Black Barn Farm

When I deliver school programs, I ask the kids where their food comes from.

Ninety per cent of the time they say ‘the supermarket’. Sometimes they say ‘farms’. Very occasionally they say ‘We grow it’. Never do they say ‘We forage it’.

I outline the difference between long and short supply chains, price takers vs price makers and I talk about Australia’s ‘just in time’ approach, with only three days of food on shelves. I ask them what would happen if we were to experience calamity.

It’s a powerful conversation and I really enjoy challenging their belief that we will always have food available, but it’s a very esoteric conversation as never in their lifetimes have they not been able to eat what and when they want.

And not in our living memories has there been an actual event that I can reference to create a real example of why short supply chains are far more robust. I always ask them to ponder what they would do if our food supply was threatened.

In the last week I’ve watched with intrigue as our usual social etiquette has been overcome by self protection.

Without access to food security our society displays very different behaviours and sadly I now have real examples to share with my school kids.

In contrast, this week I’ve placed an order for flour with a friend who is a farmer that grows and mills their own, I’ve offered food from our garden to neighbours, I’ve gifted jars of homemade relish and I’ve foraged baskets and baskets of roadside apples for our winter stores. Today I foraged hawthorn berries to make jelly with.

Sadly, our connection to food has been eroded by a system that relies on long supply chains. We are no longer equipped with food literacy skills, can’t connect ourselves to the seasons of abundance or famine, don’t have the knowledge of how to feed ourselves without ‘ducking to the shops’.

We don’t hold our smallscale family-owned farmers on deserving pedestals because we have traded the value of their noble work for industries of money making and prestige.

But when our highly financed, globalised existence shows cracks, I’m grateful that I know where my food comes from.