My goats say a lot about supermarkets
The journey started a few years back when a tomato and pumpkin self seeded in the mulch in our backyard.
And it’s culminated now with me doing my best to avoid the supermarket for fruit, vegetables and meat by producing my own.
And in between - while I profess no inside knowledge about trends in food shopping - I have concluded that when blokes like me start talking about self sufficiency, the retail supermarket giants have to lift their game.
I am not a greenie, never have been, never will be.
In fact, I’m quite the opposite: a staunch believer in free market forces and choice. So if you want head down to Woolies for Chilean grapes and Chinese garlic, good for you. They do run a good business.
I won’t be. But I’m not about to lecture anyone about their choices.
In fact, it’s a point of shame for me to now admit I enjoy watching shows on the Lifestyle Channel like “Half-tonne Veg”, where Poms compete to grow the world’s largest vegies. My wife says she’ll divorce me if I start growing giant turnips.
And my mates find my ambitions to win a ribbon at the local show with my goats to be a never ending treasure trove of hilarious one-liners. “You show one goat…”
This week, one particularly helpful friend texted me asking whether dinner had been prepared by “shootin’ or slittin’”. Very droll.
But for me, that humble tomato plant and the sprawling pumpkin that spread over our driveway a few seasons ago delivered such great tasting produce that it triggered a desire to seek some of the more traditional ways of producing food – food that tasted better and was healthier.
I should make a small disclosure. I live on a property outside town so I had the room to put in a good sized vegetable patch, plant fruit trees and run some goats in the paddocks. I had the wherewithal to take a lifestyle decision that many can’t.
It gave me the capacity to at least cut the number of trips to the shops. And I reckon it’s been worth the effort.
It’s not been fuelled by any desire to cut my carbon footprint, nor to end the grip of Monsanto on the agribusiness world. I’m not on some mad anti-consumer drive. I certainly don’t have plans to tuck in my dreadlocks under one of those knitted tea cosies.
I’m not trying to make a political statement; I’m just trying to eat better.
I was never a particularly keen gardener. For years I was content to let others go to all the effort while I parted with cash for zucchinis and capsicums.
However, the delicious driveway tomato brought about an amazingly simple (some would say obvious) revelation: that fruit and vegetables didn’t have to taste like coloured cardboard.
They didn’t have to be picked many months before and locked away in cold storage and transported halfway around the globe to end up as nice looking but bland tasting “stuff” in a supermarket chiller.
They didn’t have to achieve the supermarket “fresh food” trifecta: stuff that tastes poor, lacks nutrition and costs an arm and a leg.
All this got me to the point where I have been prepared to put in the effort achieve something that has turned out to be quite important to me. I’m quite willing to go the extra mile to get my family the best tasting food around.
And that’s where I reckon the supermarkets could be doing better.
If a pro-free-market, pro-globalisation, pro-business bloke like me starts turning his back on your shopping centre there’s something seriously wrong with what you’re selling.
Sure Woolies and Coles have reported increased sales of food and they’re trying to get into the business of organic produce and to diversify their lines. But after tasting theirs against homegrown, I’ve made my decision—and so have many others if the reports of a boom in home gardening are true.
Seed and garden equipment companies are also doing great business. And I would bet it’s not just the global financial crisis forcing people to cut costs on their food bill (if anything, you spend more when you factor in all the costs of a home garden).
People want quality food, food they enjoy, food that tastes like it’s supposed to taste, food that is a pleasure to eat and nutritious to boot. And they are willing to grow it themselves.
And it doesn’t hurt to have your kids get their hands dirty in the garden finding out where food comes from.
I’m not going to be a real zealot about it. When it’s convenient, I’ll still run into Coles to get something I can’t grow myself.
I realize that what I’ve embarked on is not for everyone. Many people won’t have the luxury of time or space to rediscover the simple pleasure of eating decent produce.
That’s for them to decide. But I reckon they’d change their mind if a tomato self seeded in their mulch….
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