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17 September 2009

Towards Organic and Local

I read this at Jenna's blog yesterday and it galvanised my thoughts for today's post. This is actually a continuation of yesterday post, it's about food security, making better choices, convenience, freshness and nutrition.

When we look back 20 or 30 years we usually think things have always been the same as they are today. Yes, 30 years ago, in the 1970s, supermarkets were starting to sell meat on polystyrene trays that were protected from the world by the new cling wrap, invented in the 50s. Food shopping was beginning to change - we started to be removed from food and its origins. Thirty years before that, in the 1940s, you bought meat from a butcher, you saw carcasses hanging in the shop, there was sawdust on the floor to soak up blood and you knew when you saw that meat that a life had been taken for you to eat your steak or roast. The entire animal was eaten - it was common then to eat liver, heart, hooves, ears and everything else that was part of the animal. I clearly remember shopping with my mum and seeing the butcher slice through muscle still attached to the carcass.

We have come from a long history of knowing and growing our own food to this current aberration of being cut off from it. This has never been part of our history, the connection with animals and the soil was the norm. Now we don't know exactly where or what our food comes from and we blindly buy it trusting the seller and government regulations. Last night I was horrified to see a report on TV that said there's been a huge increase in the amount of food imported into Australia from China. Australia is a primary producer of all foods from beef to seafood to vegetables and dairy. We don't need to import any food! So why are we? Is it because it is cheaper, more convenient, easier than growing our own?

I have seen feed lot cattle and poultry farms and I swear I will never eat that way. I know it is cheaper, I'd rather not eat meat or chicken if it comes from those farming practices. I know that vegetables and fruit sold in Australia recently, imported from China, has been contaminated with eColi. But this is not an Australia-only problem, this is world-wide. This part of Jenna's post really hit home to me, she wrote: "Ask the average American if they'd rather buy feeding lot chicken that comes with a death warning then drive to a farmer's market down the block and pay a dollar more a pound for a free-range disease-free bird. Most will prefer the healthier option, but few choose it. "

Why not choose it if it's your preference? Is it the money factor? Is non-feedlot meat seen as too expensive? I can buy pasture fed meat here at my local butcher for less than the same cut of meat at the local supermarket. It's not certified organic but it is grass fed, free range and local. I think a lot of Australians would have access to this kind of meat, and maybe a lot of Americans and Europeans, but it will not be at your supermarket, it will be at your butcher or the farmers market.

I am going to challenge everyone here to eat one meal a week that is either organic or local or free range and pasture fed. I know there are many people here who cannot afford to be exclusively organic. I am one of them! But I can move towards my preference deliberately, instead of haphazardly. Hanno and I will eat at least one fully organic, local or free range and pasture fed per week from now on. If we can't afford to buy our preferred cut of meat, we'll still buy organic but it will be a cheaper cut. We are already meat-free a few days a week, but if you can't afford to buy the meat you prefer, maybe you would sacrifice a couple of meat meals and eat vegetarian, using organic or local eggs and vegetables, for a couple of days to free up that money for organic or local free range meat.

This is not only about meat and poultry, it's also about dairy foods and fruit and vegetables. Buying (or growing) local foods and organic foods over mass produced cheap non-seasonal food will brings us closer to how we used to shop and eat and towards more nutritious choices.

As Jenna writes: "Experts say if every American ate one meal within 100 miles of their home a week the food industry would be forced to change dramatically. The organic wouldn't be expensive, it would be normal. That's right, the more of us eating organic and local food the cheaper it becomes."

Make a stand with me, change what's inside today and move towards this healthier option. If you can't afford to buy local or organic meat, buy local vegetables, cheese, milk or as Jenna suggests, "get some oats at the farmers' market and you've just eaten a breakfast that can change the world." Buy or swap some open pollinated seeds and grow your own heirloom vegetables. Start seeds saving. It is as easy as that. Let's get back to simple clean fresh food. I understand that you might not be able to buy all organic or local food but stick with me and lets move in that direction on purpose, even if it's only one meal a week. At least let's make a start.

Who is joining this challenge? If you'll eat local/organic/free range and pasture fed meat, poultry, dairy foods or fruit and vegetables at least once a week for the next six months, I want you to join in. And tell your local politicians, your friends and family and anyone who will listen what you're doing and why you've made this change. If you've preferred the healthier option but never chosen it before, now it the time. And if you can't do a full meal, do your best.

I will start a new topic for this challenge at the Down to Earth forum this morning so if you will join me, comment here to join then tell me about your plan at the forum. Each week we'll all list what we've done and through that we will learn more about what to buy and where to find it. Tell us the shops where you're shopping, direct us towards farmers markets where good food is available, lets do this and help each other to do it as well. We need addresses and phone numbers - list them all, promote your local community and help each other in the process. I'm calling it the TOOL Challenge (Towards Organic Or Local), so grab the button, put it on your own blog then join me for a full discussion at the forum. I also invite Jenna's readers to join as well. Please read her post, it is what compelled me to write this today.


  1. Here here! Rhonda, the mobil butcher who does our beasts for us was once a meat manager for Woolworths. He left, he told me, because he did not like the industry. Started up as a mobile butcher about 18 months ago. When we rang the other day he said the first available date he could make it was 9th December. Busy man.

    I went shopping with a 33 year old the other day. She was about to buy some grapes in the supermarket. I pointed out that they were imported from overseas and were likely to go bad in a day or two. She told me that she had never noticed before. Needless to say she had a crash course from me about local food etc.

    Will gladly join the challenge but am away from home at the moment for an indeterminate time as I am with my daughter in Brisbane (She lost her husband suddenly last Friday night)

    See you in the forum.
    Cheers! Karen (near Bundaberg)

  2. Count me in! I'll be a 'TOOL'. ;)

    I recently read Fast Food Nation and In Defence of Food, what an eye opener to modern food practice! We try to eat local and organic where we can, but like many there's a financial imperative that keeps us from living up to our values in this area.

    One day a week I can definitely do! Maybe even more if we eat less meat.
    It's such a shame it's so hard. Sometimes buying a single product involves a lot of question asking. It concerns me how much 'organic' food is marketed as such only, but isn't genuine.

  3. Oh dear, Karen. I send my sincere condolences. It's good you're there with your daughter. Take care love.

    Hi Melissa, I hope we get a lot of TOOLs to join us.

  4. Count me in to this challenge! Oh Karen! My prayers are with your family.

    Laura Z. (NC, USA)

  5. Fantstic posting today!
    I started doing this about 9mths ago at the beginning of the New Year, having one meal a week that was totally local, I started travelling once a month to the closest Farmers Market 150ks round trip and I found that the produce that I was buying was lasting far longer than the cheaper supermarket produce.
    Then about 3mths ago the very same market I was travelling to started up within 20ks of me on a monthly basis, they were swamped and as of last month they are now here f/nightly and yes I do pay alittle more for my food now but now that they are closer and the quality far better I have even less waste and finacially probably better off in the long term not to mention healthier.
    When I place a meal in front of my 15yr old son and he comments on the taste and texture with out knowing there has been a change that just goes to show there's proof in the pudding.
    My husband never ate fruit until this year when I started getting it from the markets, he even said he didn't know fruit could taste so good!

  6. This is an area I've been wondering about. Thanks for clarifing the issue for us. Linda

  7. Interesting post Rhonda :)

    Can't stop long, it's rather late here and we've got a busy day tomorrow...

    Thought you might be interested to read this (very short!) article about a bit of a hoo-ha that's going on over here at the minute about a farming project in a school and a sheep that's being sent for slaughter.

    Apparently the children voted for slaughtering him, but there's several parents in uproar...

    Anyway, best wishes,


  8. Amen!
    During the past couple of years I have steadily been moving towards a completely local and organic diet. Not there yet fully, but I can say that all my produce is local and organic! I don't see how anyone can eat the meat that we get in the US grocery stores once you know how those animals are treated. I've given up meat for all but holiday dinners (to avoid family strife!)
    Your charge to eat organic and local is a great one. I hope lots of people sign up!

  9. I'm in! We are heading in this direction anyway, so I'm happy to make it official :)

  10. What a well written post!
    I wish everyone would do this.
    This last week, almost everything I've eaten was grown on my own small city lot (with the exception of dairy products and flour).
    If I could find a local farmer that would sell me milk "under the table" I would buy from them.
    Sadly, in my state it is against the law to sell milk directly to the consumer.
    Also, I HAD pet chickens that provided me with eggs, but the police made me take them to a friend's farm.
    The farm is only 10 mins. away, so I think they still count toward the eating local challenge.
    It seems like the government really doesn't want to encourage local eating!

  11. The grocery store I usually shop at is a local chain, it's a family run operation and is in two or three small towns near where I live. One of the reasons I like to shop there is because they use local farms for quite a bit of their produce and now are starting to use local farmers for the meat they sell. They are a chain store, but they are not like most of them. The food is better quality and much fresher, they always label what is locally grown and even though it might cost me a little more at this store (not too much, just a little more), it's worth it. But I'm really looking forward to having a garden again next year.

  12. I made the change to eating almost completely organically and found there wasn't much difference in how much I spent. (Yes, it's a little more but not ridiculous) I stopped buying chocolate biscuits and pre-prepared food and swapped to fruit/veg, whole grains and eating less meat. Recently my husband was between jobs and we had to cut down on spending for a few weeks so we bought 'supermarket' food. After initially complaining about 'the cost' of organic food, Hubby said, 'This isn't organic is it? It's not very nice....'
    I consider him now a convert!

  13. Hi Rhonda, count me in. I'm just back from the produce market where everything is produced within 150 miles. Yes, I paid a little more for some items but they are fresh. local and without a huge petrol footprint. My purchases will bring these people back next week, it's worth it.

    I wish I could buy organic all the time but I can't afford it. I can choose free range and sometimes local and I do and support your post 100%.

    PS Enormous excitement this morning: The Gardener has extended the vegie plot and ordered two chooks! He's on board. :-D

  14. Hi Rhonda, I will be a TOOL lol. I have been heading this way for the last few months using the local Farmers Markets and I have just discovered, all organic and they will deliver to your door so Im thinking of using them.
    Bye for now

  15. Great post Rhonda. I have been trying to follow this path for awhile but find it difficult buying meat that the local butchers can guarantee is at least grass fed. They are also not able to tell me if the animals have been raised with hormone pellets in their ears which are apparently allowed in Queensland. They are quite shocked when I ask this question.
    My family farm beef cattle in Tasmania and inform me that it is the only state where hormone pellets are illegal.
    I have read that the King Island (Tas.) label is being abused and copies being put on any old meat
    I haven't followed up on all of these questions myself at this point in time.
    It would be helpful if this could all be made clearer and guarantees given to the consumer.
    I look forward to reading what others have to say.


  16. We are definitely in! We try to buy as much organic as we can afford but we will make a pact to eat or drink at least one organic product per week. :)

    Thanks Rhonda...this is so get back to basics.

  17. I have been searching for local providers since we moved to this area and it is very difficult. We have secured local for many items but still have SO many to go. I would like to put a word of caution out about farmers markets. I am in the US and my dad and I are avid farmers market attenders. He was horrified as was I to find that in two seperate locations two different venders were not selling produce that they had grown themselves. They were purchasing fruits and vegetables wholesale from the SAME grocery distributors that stock the store with food from who knows where! We both had no idea individuals could do this and felt slighted that they would pass this food off as home grown. Since the rule of thumb at a farmers market is that it's HOME grown not purchased. I don't know if this is happening in other countries or not. A tip would be sometimes some produce that isn't yet in season, chilled produce was the biggest tip off for dad. He asked the gentleman if he refrigerated his produce and he told him he had to, this led to him inquiring as to why and he said it was refrigerated when he purchased it and it kept longer. He had a large walk in cooler at his home. It is profitable for this man to buy this produce and resell it at markets around the area. This led me to believe that quite possibly was a few weeks old by the time someone purchased it. Horrible! It saddened me. Just take this tidbit into consideration and continue to shop your local farmers market. You will meet so many genuine and wonderful people and just like anywhere else every so often you get a bad apple but the good apples make it all worthwhile.

  18. Hi Rhonda,

    I eat local wherever possible with vegies and fruit but not a lot is grown here and we have to buy items which are brought in from further afield. Part of the answer, I think, is to grow as much as possible of your own.

    I wanted to comment today on how difficult it is to purchase grass-fed meat; I would never have guessed it if I hadn't undertaken a little research of my own. My local butcher only keeps grain fed meats, and when I found a butcher with organic chicken, I was hopefuly about the meats as well. However, I was informed that grain fed was definitely a better quality meat. As I don't agree, I didn't buy any and haven't been back.

    We now bring in organic meats at the co-op I help to run, so all is grass fed and chemical free - but not local.


  19. We are blessed to have an organic wholefoods store that is passionate about supporting local growers and producers. I always feel confident about shopping there.
    I would also sound the warning about farmers markets. I know some of the stalls at the city market are not the actual growers and are not sourcing their produce locally or even from NSW. Much is trucked down from QLD. Some of the local produce advertised alongside the organic is in fact hydroponic - I am very wary- especially about tomatoes and strawberries. I just prefer food that has been grown in soil- my own if possible or from my local region. Rhonda - do you buy Aldi's free range chicken? Do you know whether it is truly free range?

  20. Interesting post Rhonda.
    For 35 years my DH has been transporting stock (cattle and sheep) to and from feedlots, abattoirs, saleyards and farms all over the country. When you read about the horror stories of animal abuse, it is mostly from overseas. We have the RSPCA and animal rights constantly checking these places. We have even seen them at the saleyards in the middle of the night when we have been unloading stock.
    Also, how much grassfed stock do you think there is? We're in the middle of a drought and NSW has been the worst affected. Much of the stock have been sold off long ago. The last twelve months,we have particularly noticed the reduction in work. Like Ann at eightacresofeden pointed out, you might be eating QLD transported meat.
    Another thing I'm concerned about....if it was possible to all eat local organic food, think of the thousands of jobs that would be lost in the transport industry, abattoirs,supermarkets,feedlots etc etc. There could be a price hike on everything else to compensate.
    By the way, just a point of interest. A lot of the QLD cattle have been transported to VIC to fatten up, then trucked back north again. Think of the miles they have done.
    Unfortunately I can't join you in your mission this time. I'd like to see my DH keep his job. I wish you all the best anyway.


  21. Thanks for this. I've only made a mediocre effort really, so this will be quite educational, especially in the meat department. Looking forward to learning lots! :)

  22. I'm in Rhonda. How timely a post. Only 2 days ago my husband and I decided that we would only eat organic beef, free range chicken and organic fruit and veg and whatever else we can get, after reading an article (here is the link)
    about fertilizers and nitrates in non organic food and the repurcussions for our health. My dad has stage 3 alzheimers so it was a wake up call for me.

    I will also gladly join the challenge. I have found the only butcher in my area who will buy in organic meat for me (other than getting it at Woolies or Coles, how fresh can that be?) and have found an local fruit and veg organic home delivery service (they get a lot of their produce within a 4km range) and have already placed my orders yesterday. I refuse to buy organic at woolies and coles as it is not fresh where I live in Southern NSW, it does not even last a week. Like Ann's our is mainly shipped down from QLD, unless I can get it from a local grower up the road. We do have our own veges and orchard growing but they are only babies at this stage so we will purchase organic where we can until we can get our own. Yes the cost is more so we are eating less meat like yourselves and I will be making some vegetarian meals and making other things go further but it will all be worth it.


  23. Rhonda,

    I'm not sure I can afford to purchase something that has the name "organic" on it and I often doubt if it really is "organic". What I have been able to do is grow many of my own veggies, and purchase fruits from a local orchard. We buy beef locally by the quarter or half and only buy chicken, flour, dairy in the store. That's about the best we can do since I can't get these other things nearby. To me this is still a healthier route than processed foods.

    My biggest concern is people who have no idea where their foods come from--"What, you're digging potatoes from the garden--I;m not eating those dirty things. What, your cutting lettuce from the garden--that's grosse!" I believe we as a world have to get back to learning how to grow our own veggies and "putting them up" again. It has become a lost "trade" and fast food and processed foods have sadly taken their place. We are in huge trouble if we don't change things ASAP.


  24. I'll join the challenge...but I'm already doing it! I'm veggie, so no meat worries and 90% of everything else is organic, local when possible. I just can't bring myself to buy non-organic fruits and veggies or eggs unless nothing else is available. I think of it as yucky! I find that when you're living simply and making lots of things for yourself, the money to buy the organic seems to appear from your savings in other areas. But beside that, I think I might actually pay less for organic foods now than for what I paid for regular foods 10 years ago. Processed food is expensive and making your own is always cheaper. You also have to buy in bulk on sale and preserve. Organic grapes are $3.69 lb here...then last week they went to $1.49, so I just froze 6 lbs worth. When organic bananas go from .99 lb to .49 lb I buy 15 bunches and dehydrate, freeze and make baked goods for freezing, etc. If you do this, you will always have organic fruit at the ready, often at a lower cost than standard non-organic fruits. And even being without a garden (NYC highrise), I can still grow lettuce, dwarf tomatoes, herbs, etc. either on the windowsills or under two beautiful flourescent grow lights I got cheaply from craigslist. They were a great investment. I spent my money on them instead of paying for cable or a cell phone.

  25. We're already eating these kind of foods as the largest portion of our diet, to the extent possible. We live in a community that has not yet seen much progression in this area, and organic fruits and veggies are hard to come by. However, we do buy a side of pastured beef yearly, along with pastured chickens from a farmer in our state. Our milk comes raw from a local family, and we have our own chickens who have now been laying since June. Although we garden, we're not yet to the place of producing a large amount of produce.

    Thanks for a great post on an important topic!

  26. We were blessed to split half a beef with my husband's aunt this past year. Our main meat consumption has been from this one grass-fed almost local animal. What a relief it has been to know where our food came from! Our garden and laying hens have helped tremendously with our goal to eat locally. I enjoy the site for ideas on how to eat more locally.

    Thanks for the post!
    Lorraine in Washington State

  27. Count me in.
    I am very concerned with the quality of our food here in the US. Our stores are full of food from China. In our town, you cannot purchase any fish that is not from either China or Indonesia. That is just crazy to me.

  28. Rhonda, Thanks so much for this post. It is a shot in the arm for me! I am trying but my most difficult problem is changing the way I automatically think about food preparation. I work everyday outside the home and while we planted a garden I had to remind myself to walk down there and get a couple of this and that to have for dinner. I know that sounds simple minded of me but it is requiring a huge change of "thinking" on my part to change my habits! We picked berries and sour cherries this year and I froze and made jelly and preserves from them. I have a friend buying chickens so I am on board for eggs now. I never gave alot of thought to meat until my husband and his friends started butchering their own venisen in the fall. It was so much better and that made me think of the beef we get. I'm trying to find a local market that sells grain fed beef, I'm still looking.

    Trying to change, but I am not afraid to admit it is hard!!

    WV USA

  29. to echo Prairieharmony, there was quite a bit of discussion, I believe on Jenna's blog also, about checking out that your local farmers' market is truly selling locally produced stuff and not trucking it in. It was very disappointing how many people found that out and posted it. I drove right by the tomato field Thursday, so I know they are 'home grown'!

  30. I don't know if there are any markets in my area that are selling locally grown food. I'll at least try to find out. I used to go about 150 mile round trip to buy at a great market. Like someone else here said the food lasted longer. It's a long way to go to shop for food every week.

  31. Have you read the book The Omnivore's Dilemma? I just finished it and it talks a lot about what your post did. A very good book to read, by Michael Pollan.

    I also just wrote a post about eating in season produce. That is frequently why countries import so much stuff, because they can't grow it at that time in their country. Here in the winter there are plenty of grapes, but they are from Mexico and Argentina. In the summer you can get grapes from the US, so I buy lots then and freeze them for the winter.

  32. We got into chickens this spring. I currently have 6 laying pullets. A new group of 16 young birds that will be layers and or meat birds. We had a big garden this year. Gathering eggs each morning puts a big smile on my face :)

  33. We have a small flock of 24 chickens. The goal is for meat and eggs. The main group is buff orpingtons. I try to buy local meat. One relative has pigs so we can buy from her. My son works for a dairy farm and we have been able to buy meat from them. It is a good thing to know where your food comes from. We also put in a big garden this year and next year it will be bigger yet.

  34. What a great idea, Rhonda. Last week I saw Barramundi in a Safeway deli. Thinking BH would love a meal of Barramundi I asked for two pieces. Stood there with my mind millions of miles away while fish was wrapped when I suddenly focused again on the display. The Barramundi came from Thailand and there was no frozen fish there at all from Australia.All from South Africa or places in Asia. I told the lady I did not want the fish if it was not Australian and she informed me in a very annoyed tone "We have no local fish" We live only 79 klms from the sea.

  35. Im also a bit suspicious of farmers markets - my husband bought Peruvian asparagus at the farmers market in Brisbane last month...
    We eat mostly fruit and veg from food connect (a CSA) or homegrown. i made stirfry the other night with three homegrown veg, one CSA veg and a tin of babycorn from Thailand and the kids all had a go at me about the corn :)

    and it is not very easy to buy grassfed meat in the butchers here, but i plan to buy half a grass fed cow when i run down the freezer. otherwise i buy the free-range chicken from Aldi and play make believe when i eat pork.

  36. Excellent post!
    We buy all our produce at farmers markets here in NJ or drive directly to the farm. I would never give that up. The product is far superior than what I would get in the supermarket, I get to speak to the actual farmers and the prices are better than the supermarket. Now if you will excuse me I am off to eat my fresh farmed leeks and escarole :)

  37. Yes. I'd like to join this challenge.
    I've been trying to move more this way for the past year, buying organic and local, and participating in my local CSA. Most meals have been a blend of local and non local, organic and non organic. It will be good to focus on making one meal totally in line with my goals. Thanks Norma. Great idea.

  38. I'm in! It's a good reminder for me to really look at the ingredients in the meals I'm planning and cooking... I posted about it on my blog. I can't access the forums yet, but when I do I'll be interested in seeing what others are doing with this challenge.

    Thanks again!

  39. I think this is very important and I think a lot about it. Right now it's easy to eat local because there is a lot of variety of local affordable food. I try to be aware of where things come from and teach my children the importance of eating and buying local. That said, it can be very hard because we are at about half of the poverty level and have to make sacrifices sometimes. We live in an apartment where I can't have animals and all my attempts of container gardening were basically futile (not my first attempt but at least this year I got a handful of tomatoes out of the dozen plants I had). I want to do better but sometimes we need to do the best we can and learn what we can so we can try harder to do better in the future :) .

  40. I so agree with this. While we can't "afford" organic meat much of the time I do try to buy cheaper cuts of the meat so we can eat it more.
    Organic pasture fed chicken legs provide an inexpensive alternative to the whole chicken sometimes.
    I can spend a little extra on a couple of organic pasture fed beef roasts and grind it for ground beef or cube it for steaks and pair with beans, rice, or another filler to make it stretch.
    My dh recently lost his job, but I am finding ways to still buy the best food for my family. It might mean cutting out some of the extras we have enjoyed, but it's so worth it!

  41. Last summer I grew a garden "in earnest", plus visited a local Grower's Market once a week to buy what I wasn't growing myself. The prices were much higher than the supermarkets, but I didn't mind because I knew how much work it was to grow it, and the food was so fresh and tasty! It kept longer in my refrigerator than the super market food. I did the same thing this summer and will continue to do so for as long as I'm able. I'm 68 yrs. old. Another plus is sharing our garden produce with friends & relatives. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Helen

  42. Our "Farmer's" market is filled with CRAFTS--not food. There is one in town that says it has food, but all of the growers listed (there are less than 5) are from another state--more than a full tank of gas away from here.

    I live in the middle of the Great American Desert.

    I do have a garden, but it is a rariety here. Most homes have zero-lot lines or close to it. Chickens are illegal in most of the city (suburbs, actually).

    I would have chickens if I could, but, sadly, I cannot. I would love to have a cow :) but we do not have that kind of space.

    We grow fruits and vegetables.

    But, does the cost of eggs really matter to some people? YES, it does. We eat 18+ eggs for breakfast, along with toast and fruit salad. As our family grows, this number is only going to go up. If we ever get to have chickens, we're planning on 35-40 of them. In the meantime, we'll have to eat eggs only when they go on sale.

    I have seen the grocery store food at farmer's markets here. There are just very few people who grow food here, and the water restrictions and tiny lots make it difficult.


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