food sovereignty part 2: Reconnecting with the suppliers

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The second salient question of the Food Sovereignty forum was, “How can we extend awareness of good local food?”
The unanimous answer was “Farmer’s Markets” And there are many in Perth.
My local one, is in Palmyra Primary School on Mckimmie street. So I head off looking for all the ingredients for Sunday lunch. It’s not a huge collection of stalls and most are fruit and vegetables. It’s a cheerful place with a steady stream of buyers. I’m slightly disappointed I won’t be able to buy everything in one place but that’s not really the point; the more customers who visit a market, the more stall holders will come. We have a small amount of power in that respect.

We choose grapefruits from Gin Gin, strawberries from Wanneroo, eggs from Pinjarra and simply can’t go past Gourmet Mushrooms from Gidgegannup.
Swan Valley Gourmet Fungi
– Grow your own gourmet mushroom kits, Oyster mushrooms

213 Old Toodyay Rd, Gidgegannup 6083 / email
David Proudmore ph 9574 6540 mb 0414 478 826

David started off as an environmental scientist and has ended up as a facilitator of the most beautiful fungi, they are a living art installation and very hard to pass by without stopping to admire. And as we stop we are offered samples, and are hooked. I ask David why Farmers’ Markets work for him. “You can’t beat direct selling for feedback. The two way information between us and the end consumer is invaluable to our business. We like to be appreciated”
We buy a handful of mushrooms for $5 and with the eggs we have our lunch.

Oyster Mushroom Omelet: local to 100kms? Yes. In fact I could buy an oyster mushroom growing kit and be local to 5 metres)
Sautee the mushrooms in olive oil and butter, add local organic parsley (10 metres local to my kitchen), and black pepper and we have lunch

I don’t quite know what this gadget is for, not whisking eggs that’s for sure as it won’t break up the albumen.

Back at the McKimmie street market I ask if there is any meat to be had and am told to take the short trip to Lefroy Street in South Freo for the jewel in the crown of Sunday Farmer’s markets: The Grower’s Green Community Market. I am told I will find organic meat. I grab my child and propel him to the car and zoom off.

This is Freo after all. Tie -dye aplenty

It is buzzing. The car park is so busy it needs an attendant. There are stalls arranged around a centre of cafe style tables. There is a stage with belly-dancers and African drummers. I can buy Moroccan spiced tea and arrange to have my pet professionally photographed and feed with Natural Dog Cookies. I can stay all morning have breakfast, brunch and lunch. This is a Day Out.

There is no mistaking the driving force behind all these stalls; they are proud to be local. The first banner one sees on entrance is from Karra Orchard.
Here we can buy all the fresh produce we want, and what my son and I really want is apples for the lunchbox that are not the size of a fist, they don’t get eaten. We are faced with glorious mountains of apples that have just been picked and washed – not sized and sprayed and stored. There are small ones, medium sized ones and we quickly choose the ones that suit us.

thanks to these chaps

I buy my son a banana icecream and station him to the side of the Redtail Ridge stall. and set about pestering one of the owners Mike Gaebler.
Redtail Ridge farm started out with olives and expanded to cattle. Mike drives the 280 km distance from the farm in Mumballup on Fridays, makes deliveries to his large customer base and spends Saturday and Sunday between Subiaco, Bentley and Lefroy Street Farmers’ Markets. The meat is frozen and transported in a refrigerated van. Mike’s stall is very impressive. His shiny new van is resplendent with the company logo and although he displays no meat the brand clearly attracts a large crowd. Most of the customers know what they want already but Mike is skilled at matching need to product and sends people home with the best cuts and tips on how to cook the dishes they fancy. The customers certainly feel there has been an experience of value.

Between the brisk stream of customers Mike kindly answers my questions and problems around processing come up again and again; as I discovered last week at the Food Sovereignty forum, Annie Kavanagh of Spencers Brook Farm relies on contract butchers who will take her product if and when it suits them, often pushing back the dates if a larger corporate customer is putting on the heat. Annie and Mike advocate a network of small Regional Food Processing Centres with access to cool-rooms, health and safety advice and marketing consultancy. At present she can find the logistics to ship tonnes of product but not kilograms.

In order to address difficulties of scale Kim Chance talked of getting rid of Health and Safety red tape and introducing small domestic abattoirs which are not forced to operate at Export Standard, set incidently by the World Trade Organisation and the USDA. Few facilities have stepped up to support the small producers’ needs as Export standards demanded at Domestic level mean 350 head of cattle per day would need to go through in order to maintain the cost of meeting those standards.

Rearing and supplying a thoroughly organic product is a costly business in time and money and those that see it through to the finish invest a great deal of both. The contract butcher used by Redtail Ridge has Organic Certification to ensure the product is Organic at every stage of production. Mike Gaebler is certain of this qualification at that stage in the chain because he had to pay for it. “It’s about control, and in order to guarantee our meat was butchered organically, we had to fund the butcher’s training ourselves.” Ultimately Mike believes the cost is worth it, “Our product has integrity and that value is appreciated by the customers.” I appreciate the 1.5 kilo bolar blade roast for under 20 bucks. And a jar of organic Kalamata olives. Roast beef with olive tapenade crust for dinner tomorrow as the joint is frozen it will need to thaw.

Recipe next week.

So would one do this each week? Basics and boring stuff at the supermarkets and IGAs and support for local producers at the weekends? Is it reasonable to expect the “average” consumer to afford the time and money to shop this way? Food buying options can be spread across a broad portfolio of choices, as the Food Sovereignty panel concured towards the end of the discussion. A consumer will spread the activity across the supermarket and, if we are lucky and make enough noise, independent food stores who care about selling local produce and of course Farmer’s Markets. Kim Chance pointed out that today food has never been so cheap, especially in comparison to our Grandparents’ days. Consumers do have spending power to make a difference and a distinct desire to reconnect with suppliers if only the opportunities are supported by agricultural Policy and retail facilities.

Will the new government listen?

Link to Farmer’s Markets Perth

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