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There’s a growing city appetite for what we once had down on the farm (Australia)

Photo by aardvark. CERES Market Garden, Melbourne, Australia

There’s a growing city appetite for what we once had down on the farm

The Sydney Morning Herald
January 23, 2010

When I was growing up, in the 1960s, the supply of food we ate was tangible – outside the dining room window. We had cows for milk; sheep that grew from suckling lambs to Sunday lunch; chooks whose eggs we ate, and whose feathers we plucked, when their recently headless bodies stopped the mad dervish dance; vegetables that still had clods of dirt on them.

Our animals were not pets – they were creatures that fed us and that could be trucked to the saleyard to pay pressing bills. It was smelly, dirty, unrelenting hard work, even on the fertile plains of Victoria’s western district.

Most of the time we ate what my father produced, and my mother cooked. We did not think we were fortunate; it was the way life was. Food came from the ground; it was seasonal, predictable and, apart from the occasional pavlova or brandy snap, pretty boring. Even our city cousins had chooks in their yards – those in the southern states had mandarins, apples, almonds, plums and apricots, and the northerners had mangoes, pawpaws and bananas.

Occasionally we glimpsed another world. Friends, who owned a big farm nearby, would load us in their Chevrolet to town. It was a treat and signalled the cheque for their fine wool had arrived. In the milk bar, they would buy us Chiko rolls, Violet Crumbles and Tarax soft drinks and laugh kindly as we devoured this exotic food. I recall furtive talks with my sister. ”This must be the food rich people eat; if only we lived in the city we could eat this stuff all the time.”

We were wrong. Rich city people are more likely to want to consume the food we grew up with – local, seasonal and organic. Poor people are much more likely to eat the cheap, mass-produced and packaged sustenance sold in convenience stores.

The disconnection between food production and consumption, between the food available to the rich and the rest, is now a matter of global anxiety. It is set to become more pronounced as the world’s population soars to 9 billion and global warming disrupts traditional weather patterns. The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates there are at least 900 million people without enough to eat every day. Even in developed countries, despite an epidemic of obesity, a shockingly large number of people go hungry – 49 million people in America alone last year.

The enormousness of the problem makes it hard not to be pessimistic. A more enlightened approach to feeding the world’s hungry – by giving them the tools for sustainable production rather than having them wait for shipments of instant noodles or powdered milk – is producing impressive results, but the challenge looms like a threat.

Food production and food security will be a bellwether of climate change. As more than half the world’s population now lives in cities, urban food production will overtake the rural-peasant allotment of old.

See the complete article here.