Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

An article in Organic Gardening magazine's 100th edition - March / April 2018 by Malcolm Maguire is an eye opener for me. I have known that many fruits and vegetables are subjected to spraying and that it is very difficult to know exactly what the chemicals are and how bad they might be for us.

The article is from a book which is titled "Your food - where it comes from and how it is produced". is the website where you can access more info. Just a few snippets from the article to (a) whet your appetite or (b) shock and appal you.

Among the worst chemicals are the systemic insecticides, which work by being drawn into the plant by it's leaves and roots where they remain. Pests are killed when they suck the sap of the plant containing the poison. As the insecticide remains stored inside the whole plant and not just on the skin, then washing, peeling, or cooking the plant will not remove it.

Qld Mangoes and Tomatoes must be dipped in a systemic insecticide after harvest before travelling to market, to stop fruit fly.

The worst offenders for contamination with chemicals, known as "The Dirty Dozen" contains some surprises. Apples, Strawberries, Pears, Grapes, Lettuce, Nectarines, and Peaches are amongst them.

Conventional Apples reign supreme when it come s to pesticide load and over 1500 synthetic chemicals have been approved for use on them. There are many risk factors for apple growers, including insect problems (aphid and spider mite), fungal diseases and even fruit sunburn. as a defence against apple scab, apple trees are frequently doused with a range of powerful fungicides as a preventative measure both pre and post harvest to ensure that disease spores lodging on these parts are killed before they can establish an infection. In periods of wet weather this can occur every 2 - 3 days.

Sunburn can cause harmless but unsightly blemishes on the apple skins and can affect large parts of the crop. Chemicals used to counteract this are petroleum based and while banned in Europe, can still be used here, but are possible carcinogens.

Another problem (for apples and pears), codling moth are also treated with chemicals banned in Europe, but used widely in Australia.

This article goes on to list a host of problem chemicals and practices that farmers use on produce. This information does not make this observer want to eat any of the treated produce. However, even the best of our efforts in growing our own, organically and chemical free cannot supply us with a large enough range of produce that could enable us to escape entirely the risk of poisoning ourselves. We will do the best we can and hope that this is sufficient to lessen the chance of becoming sick. What do you think?

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Few of us have the spare land and time to grow virtually everything we want to eat ... and seasonal factors can stop us growing some foods anyway. There are organic home-delivery services which are worth looking into. And more organically-grown fruit and vegetables are stocked by Woolworths. Don't know about Coles, there's none close. Aldi have some organic products but few-to-no organic fruit and veges. There's more available commercially and it is increasing all the time. Shop around, you may get a pleasant surprise. The commercial growers are usually using just the commercial crops meaning there is little diversity of varieties available unless you can grow your own. Still I do find that what I can buy is superior in flavour and keeping ability than the conventional produce.

I'm not so sure that spray=sickness as that can be an idiosyncratic response. Millions are eating these foods and our bodies have processes in place to protect us from toxicities.

Well, most of our bodies, anyway...

I'm not trying to make light of the health risk -- as that's proven espeically as an accumultaive effect. I'm trying to point out that another option to factory farming is required on a massive scale. On top of that challenge is the current distribution system ruled by a few supermarkets.

To insist that foods be organic misses the very real pressures farmers face  as they attempt to transition to more sustainable methods.

So I don't support an either/or approach. Healthier produce can be produced if farmers are offered a better deal and can afford to drop production quotas in order to deploy less in the way of fertilisers and other chemicals.

I say 'less' rather than not at all. 

'Organic' is a very brutal label to aspire to.

Grow your own by all means. You can also abstain from the Dirty Dozen if you are especially concerned. However, I do point out that farm produce here is  chemically 'cleaner' than elsewhere because of our Antipodean  isolation and  (until recent budget cutbacks and free trade agreements) protectionist protocols.

The other issue is nutritional bang for your buck.Why eat apples when you can buy oranges? Why bother with strawberries if they are problematical? Use other salad greens rather than lettuces...

Eating organic lettuces won't supply your daily caloric needs.You have more opportunity  to adjust your consumption by investing your food dollar in  organic cereals and potatoes.

To complicate matters further it warrants pointing out that just because a food item is 'organic', it doesn't necessarily mean it was grown sustainably.

This does not surprise me, Roger.  Do the growers have a time span that they must stop spraying before harvest or picking.  I thought that there was a withholding period. 

If organic produce is anywhere near the price of other stocked fruit or veggies then we usually choose organic.  Lettuce, I was once told was sprayed most often for supply to large stores.

Elaine, can you tell us which organic delivery service you use.

My motto is dumb and simple.  Grow as much organic stuff as you can and eat it for the flavour.  Accept that almost nobody can be self sufficient and eat the things you have to from the shop.  The great news is that the less processed stuff you buy, the better off you are.  Roger's information is good - but then add all the extra crap that goes into processed food.  I try to stick to buying dairy, meat, fruit and veg.  The less processed the better. 

Generally I regularly buy in carrots, celery, potatoes and garlic among the veg we eat. The rest comes from the garden.

Herbs especially and spring onions. But we are only really looking at 25% at most of what we eat.

If you consider the cereals and pulses -- that's a hefty portion of our total buy-in consumption.

If I market shop I know I can get fresher, better quality and more long lasting produce. But the organic options are very slim (currently one stall) and I don't bother -- except for the spuds.

When you look at the desultory organic offerings of veg in the supermarkets -- why even consider those?

Most of your market stuff is probably "chemical free" but not organic mate.  That works for me.  I refuse to shop supermarket "organic."  I understand the system, and maybe I should - but my protest is with the government not the farmers.  

That's the problem I reckon: how to support the farmers.

There are a few models that are used.While 'farmers markets' seem kosher that often presumes that, as well as growing it, the farmer must also spend time selling his crop directly.

Then there is the CSA template(LINK) -- community supported agriculture -- but that 'contract' between supplier and consumer can often be localised and not general. Variations of course are specialist distributors but the main gain is that the farmer has  a guaranteed income as the harvest is bought before it is planted --so to speak.(LINK)

That's a great way to ensure that the farmer gets  a fair & regular income.

The costs for organic certification are pretty steep and while inputs are likely to be less, so too is productivity in the short term.

Mind you if we still had Redlands as Brisbane's food bowl-- we'd be much better off today. Just as we'd be if council corporatism hadn't forced farms out of the suburban municipalities.

Backyard kitchen gardens can only go so far as a food resource and you still have regions whose viability rests on their role supplying the whole country with specific foods.Allowing 'the market' to rule only panders to free trade agreements so that instead of tinned Shepparton fruits you are offered ones from South Africa.

There were an estimated 2,075 certified organic producers , 1,163 certified processors , and 513 certified handlers in Australia in 2016. By 2017 there were 4,028  producers. But  a good part of that production is exported -- mainly beef, but also vegetables, fruits,grains, dairy,wine...and personal care products. So the veg sector's impact on local consumption  isn't as large nor as significant as it may seem. There is a more reliable income elsewhere in the organic universe.

This is sharply shown in regard to what is grown:

And relative to the big picture:organic is  8% of the fruit, veg and nut sector.

These charts are sourced from HERE -- much more info..

Oh!, you say, there are 10 million ha 'organic' in Qld!

But a good part of that would be given over to beef production.

Good heavens. I really miss my organic garden :(

I have no option these days but to buy stuff from the markets or shops. I've been eating locally grown strawberries these last few weeks knowing full well that there is a problem with pesticides/herbicides. I just hope that I am getting something good out of them to help counter-act the bad. I figure I just can't avoid being exposed now I'm not growing my own.

Thanks for the information Roger, it is an interesting read, and one that will make a person think twice before putting some Fruit and Veg into your mouth.

We purchase a lot of our fruit and veg from and have been doing so for may years. The quality is always good. We also buy one brand of our Milk and Cream for Cheese Making from them and Goats Milk when I can't get fresh. They also have a good range of Organic Meats. They have a very wide area that they delivery to.

This is why I started my own organic co-op. Most of the services I found on the internet at the time I started in 2012 were way out of my family price range. Through the co-op, which is essentially buying as a group, I met many like-minded people in my area and formed some solid friendships. Over time, it became almost more of a social endeavour. We also swap harvest and tips and a good natter over a cuppa when I am not submerged with my day job. 

It is great however to remember the initial reason why I started this. So thank you for the info, which I shall pass on to the group. 



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