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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Thanks everyone for your feedback. It seems most people have a similar philosophy. We grow as much as we can with space/time constraints hampering what we can grow. I know we grow a good range of produce here at Park Ridge, but we can never grow everything we like to eat, but like most people what we eat is often adjusted to fit in what is coming from the garden at the time. Even a staple like potatoes which we can grow here (and do), is difficult to grow anything like the amount that we eat over a year. Cooler climate gardeners might be able to produce two crops a year but I only get a single crop and having enough growing space is difficult even for us on acreage, as none of my soil is suitable for growing such things. We all evolve our own practices and crop ranges according to our likes and circumstances. It is always good though to learn from the diverse membership that BLF has attracted. I have now been able to expand what I grow due to garden visits and knowledge shared by our generous members. Thanks to you all! 

Thanks mate.  I suspect little groups like our represent the future of "chemical free" produce.  I reckon none of us will ever make "organic" standards.  It's going to be a trust issue.  I think we can!

I'm interested in this issue of organics...but not so much from the POV of the consumer, more so of the land and soil and run off..

I'm not convinced that the non organic menu is as dangerous to the human gut & metabolism as it is often made out to be.I think conventional agriculture is a disaster  but we eaters are doing OK ... up to a point.

Historically our 3 meals a day lives  are way ahead.

But the soil, rather than our gut, rules.

Organic is a production rather than a consumption protocol.

I think you can live to 100 y/o despite pesticides. But the land and the sea isn't set to be so fortuitous.

Given that most of our elegies and somatic 'reactions' are due to grown foodstuffs I think we need to consider the trajectory we embrace..

Here's a POV:-- an article well worth taking in: LINK.

"Don’t freak out if you can’t afford a completely organic diet. Although organic foods do seem to taste better much of the time and are often grown in better soils (which is the reason for the better taste), you aren’t dooming yourself to a toxic overload if you eat some—or even entirely—conventionally grown food. And when it comes to nutritional content of your fruits and veggies, organic-versus-conventional matters less than freshness—the total transit time from the tree or bush to your dinner plate. Spinach, for instance, loses half of its folate within a week of being picked. Yikes, right?"

Yes, I'll admit I'm a freshness freak.Fresh is definitely BEST...and 'organic' is a secondary plus.

[I am ruled by poverty after all. It is a lifestyle. And I know a fresh veg when I see one.]

Needless to say, nothing is as fresh as the menu you harvest from your own garden  minutes before you prepare it. You also get to grow stuff you cannot buy so easily out there in the market place.

I don't buy organic from the shops because I can't afford it.  That was the a lot of the reason I started growing as much of my own as I can.  My yard is grown entirely organically.  The critters get no weird chemicals/antibiotics - if a chook as scale, then I massage the bugger's feet with olive oil.  I do try to buy free range meat, but can't always afford that either.  You will note that I eat my fish and my quails.  I don't buy eggs nowadays, even in winter (thanks to the quails).  I would buy entirely organic and free range if I could afford it.  In the absence of that - I'll do as much as I can to provide for myself.  

Freshness rules here too. Years ago when 'organic' first hit the conventional shops, I noted fresh and canned foods from far-away places notably U.S. Even now, veges and fruits come here from at least Victoria. It's a balance I suppose between 'fresh' and 'season'. If we were to strictly adhere to eating only in season then we have to put up with not having this and that during whatever is the off-season. It still seem ridiculous to haul foodstuffs from distant places just so we can have e.g. Asparagus (from Peru) in our winter. I noted some lacto-ferments in the supermarket made in ... Poland and Russia. The idiocy of it!

Not really idiocy as those countries have a rich lacto fermentation tradition -- and export trade keeps many farmers viable.The out-of-season imports may be an indulgence  but then distance rules the retailing of many fruits and vegetables, grains, meats and dairy.

What about Parmesan? Swiss cheese?

Indeed Parmesan -- like so many unique foods --should emanate from just a few valleys in Italy. Pumpernickel should come from just one area of Germany. Some wine names (like champagne)are now owned by specific French regions.

The problem with the Polish ferments -- for example -- is that they are pasteurized before distribution and importation.

Nonetheless, the great regional differences of production (eg: grapes for wine) and processing (eg: cheesemaking) is a culinary essential. What neo-liberalism and free trade does is dumb down food stuffs to generic commodities ruled by cheap supply so that farmers in different countries are pitted against one another to the detriment of both.

Terroir (LINK) should rule -- rather than convenience.

Nonetheless, that Australia is such a large place with a relatively small local markets, farmers need the national distribution option. No bananas for Melbourne-ians? Why should Cairns folk forgo potatoes & chips? No 'shrimp' for a Alice Springs bbq?

Back in the day, before federation, you had to pay customs to transit goods across state borders. Localism was protective if itself.

Now, with refrigeration, food moves everywhere up and down the country in overnight transit. The movement of foodstuffs throughout the land by truck  is simply mind boggling. Without that option even the organic farmers would not get market access...and without that transport system our suburbs would starve.

I'm not endorsing it: just stating a fact.

And it has ruled what we eat as it is all about shelf life and travel capacity.

I know from running my own local stalls how hard it is to harvest fresh and distribute your own. When the sun is up, by 10am -- without refrigeration -- your product is toast. And moving your stock around is a problem of bruising, sweating and crushing.

Professional organic growers I know suggest to me that farm gate sales are the best way to proceed.

I like the idea of sharing regional foods - like seafood etc to places that don't have it.  I also don't mind particular places charging a premium for their speciality local foodstuffs - it seems fair to me.  If you don't want to pay, then don't buy it.  There's lots of different foods and drinks that I can't afford.  I'm at peace with that because there's also lots of special things that I can make, grow or buy cheaply in season where I live.  Mangoes spring to mind.  I am talking about ingredients here - not cooking styles.  The more that the entire world is our "recipe village", the happier I am.  I love eating food from different cultures. 

However, I very much dislike importing from overseas to overcome the seasons.  I believe people would benefit from eating a seasonal diet.  Out of season imports make our diets "beige" and aren't healthy.  For example, citrus are common in winter when we need vitamin C, we should eat fattier foods in winter when we need it, and salads in summer when we require a lower fat intake. 

There is also a lot of value in limiting food miles.  They are the major invisible heater of the world.  It makes no sense to me that someone can grow a tomato in Italy, harvest, process and ship it in a tin to Australia cheaper than we can do the same.  It's frightening because freight costs are apparently built into those cheaper prices.  Remember, I'm not talking food from slave labour countries - they are from Europe.  

Even more scary - places like Europe have better food laws than many of ours. They are banning pesticides and herbicides that we continue to allow in Australia.  Our local foods start to take on a frightening cancerous hidden cost.  It's enough to make you a prepper!

Many Tomato growers in Italy employ people at less than the recommended minimum wages. Modern day slavery is still alive and all too well apparently.

Eat seasonally and as locally as possible. Exceptions are crops we do not or cannot grow ourselves.

Just think what would happen if the big supermarkets could only sell food obtained from Australian local suppliers in Australia.  Do you think our country would be better off?  We would definitely have more food in season to fill the shelves.

It would be a shock to our population to learn what food is actually produced in Australia. If things became more difficult in the future, we have the availability of a bit of spare land to grow more food i.e. plant food but out meat and dairy supply still needs to come from elsewhere.  Chooks are still a protein source with eggs for the home grower and then there are bees.

With all this prepper stuff happening in America, it reminds us that things can become difficult if a disaster happens and our economy is affected.

A small percentage of gardeners, will always help supplement our food needs with locally grown foods or local market fresh foods.  

 We have found, Andy, that as our income has reduced we have had to change our buying habits. In our retirement years, it is difficult to buy what we used to. With the time we have to tend to our garden though, we just get more savvy about what we grow and how. We can spend the time to go and pick off those annoying grubs that infest our cabbages, we don't have to rely on store bought produce and eating things in season makes for mostly a very good variety of food that is not sprayed at all. It is worrying to hear of Lissa's strawberry reactions. I haven't eaten store bought strawberries for a long time, but at the same time I have not grown any this year of my own due to a lack of wanting to do so, I prefer to grow other things which are not so pest prone. I found that when growing strawberries, the addition of lots of organic matter also brought lots of slaters, which just love to eat the soft flesh of the strawberry, from the bottom up. I will tackle this problem again next year, but will have to work out a better way of doing it than I have tried so far. This where the value of being a member of BLF will again, hopefully come to the fore. 

We can't afford bought organic meats or vegetables but will only buy grass fed meat as we believe it to be unnatural to feed animals on grain at any stage of their lives, although at the moment with the lack of grass due to the drought it is more understandable to feed them whatever they can to keep them alive.

We were in the UK when the "Mad Cows" episode happened and saw the idiotic Minister of Agriculture at the time, chewing on a burger to "prove" that the meat was "safe". "Mad Cows" is an example of what can happen when producers try to change proven eating habits for their animals. We are still unable to give blood to the bloodbank because we were in the UK at this time. So if at a garden visit at any time I go off mooing, or snorting, etc. you will understand, wont you. 

Elaine I agree with you on the ridiculousness of the situation where tomatoes from Italy can be cheaper than from Australia. The food miles involved here are mindboggling. People will buy the cheapest on offer though and so we all have to weigh up the pros and cons of what we buy and balance that with the money we have available. I don't suppose that either the Aussie or the Italian tomatoes are free from systemic pesticide contamination as the Qld fruit fly and the Mediteranean fruit fly respectfully would affect the crops.

I also added (but it seems to have gone into cyberspace), that in Qld we are lucky that we can grow the tom thumb type of tomatoes, which seem to self seed very well and grow so quickly that even fruit fly doesn't affect them. So if we grow enough of these we don't have to ingest any poisons. 

If there are none on our bushes, we occasionally buy organic. They still lack real flavour since they are the 'Gourmet' commercial variety. Mostly we go without inbetween crops.


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