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The Dependent Colony of Colesworths

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The picture above shows what remains today of my local papaya farmer's roadside stall.  It symbolically illustrates the state of Australia's family owned small farming enterprises.

A nutritionally diverse range of fresh locally grown food is now almost impossible to find, when just twenty years ago there were ample supplies.

So who and what is responsible.

You, me, and everyone who elects to buy from either of the two supermarkets who control up to 80% of our food supply and refuse to buy locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables from individual farmers.

It is our choice to buy the papaya that has just travelled 3000 kilometres before reaching the supermarket shelf, rather than the local farmer's offering at the non-airconditioned weekend produce markets.

But it is not all our own individual fault.

Hungry Jacks has decided to abandon loyal Australian potato growers and import product instead from North America.

Governments have enabled corporate players to buy up huge tracts of previously productive horticultural land to grow timber. 
These new enterprises were established not with any environmental do-goodery in mind.  They are simply tax minimisation schemes for top-end-of-town investors.
Bananas imported from the Philippines will soon replace those previously grown on this land.

Citrus from California flooded into this country during the last decade while our own farmers were busy bulldozing their mandarin and orange trees in the Sunraysia because of a "market glut".  Go figure.

Our Government provides financial subsidies for food to be grown and imported into Australia from other countries in the Asia Pacific region.

Instead of encouraging domestic food self-sufficiency, all tiers of Government in recent times have imposed legislative and financial burdens on smallholder farmers. 
The administrative effort and cost of complying with all the regulations of workplace health and safety, public liability, workers compensation, taxation, disease control, produce inspection and certification have all combined to force small growers out of the industry.  
I know a little about it because it once happened to me.

So, as a society what have we lost?

1.  Fresh fruit and vegetables grown locally instead of being
     transported from halfway across the nation or the world.

2.  Old food varieties that were both tasty and nutritious.
     (International agribusiness Monsanto now wants to genetically
      modify vegetables to improve their flavour. How about they just
      leave the genes alone and give us back some of the heirloom
      varieties which tasted just fine ***).

3.  Fruit and vegetables picked ripe, without chemical
     preservatives or a superabundance of plastic wrapping.

Supermarkets;

We wished for them.
We got them.
We will suffer from the health consequences of ingesting all the artifical, additive-polluted chemically-enhanced "food" which they sell.

Governments;

We live in a country which actively discourages it's own self sufficient food supply.
Nobody cares one iota about the demise of smallholder farmers or the little towns which once depended upon them.
Australia will become reliant upon food produced in distant politically unstable countries, and place life or death trust in the vulnerable shipping transport necessary to get it here.

Australia….sometimes you are utterly DUMB and STUPID!!!!

***  India and China, free from the ethical constraints of the West, are now the world leaders in the genetic modification of fruit and vegetables.

Does anyone else find that a very scary scenario?

PS.  If you haven't noticed previously, this whole subject makes my blood boil.  I promise I will not bother writing about it any more.  Instead I'll go and have 52 colonic irrigations next year to get all the shit off my liver.

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Farmers and supermarkets

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One of the most disturbing trends in our society is the way corporations are taking control of our fruit and vegetable (F&V)supply. To entrust provision of our essential food to those with financial profit as primary motivation could have far reaching repercussions both for our health, and the survival of many rural communities.

Small family farms were responsible for growing our fresh produce since early in the 20th century.  Capital cities often had designated horticultural areas on their outskirts where generations of smallholder farmers produced F&V for our increasing urbanisation.  New waves of immigrant farmers from Europe and Asia ensured that we had an extraordinarily diverse range of fresh F&V available at reasonable prices.  Farmers often travelled to a city market and sold direct to the consumer.

An example, typical around Australia, was Rustys Bazaar, in the centre of the city of Cairns.  It was established in the 1970's by a local entrepreneur who also possessed a good measure of civic consciousness.  What was a car parking lot during the week was converted into a market place on Saturdays.  Perhaps 100 smallholder F&V growers would pick their produce on Thursday or Friday and sell to the public on Saturday.  A large proportion of Cairns' total produce sales occurred at the market. Rusty's soon became a centre of community with public entertainment, and arts and crafts.

Then, in the 1990's along came suburban shopping malls.  People were attracted by the proximity, glitter, easy parking and airconditioning.  Rusty's opened 3 days a week to compete, thereby eliminating growers who could not spend that amount of time away from their farms.
The Bazaar now consists of an assortment of opportunistic produce resellers, and very few growers.
Many smallholder growers lost their only means of survival. 

SO WHAT IS WRONG WITH SUPERMARKETS?

1. Australia has only two major supermarket players.  They can effectively fix both the purchase price and retail price for fruit and vegetables.

2. They deal only with large and/or corporate producers from purchasing centres in capital cities.  They refuse to buy from local growers.  We witness the stupidity of a grower in Cairns having to send his produce 2000km for central purchasing in Brisbane, and watch it come back 2000km to be sold in the supermarket just down the road from where it was grown.
Who ever said humans were intelligent. 
Monetary greed knows no intelligence.

3. Supermarkets demand uniformity of product.  Contrary to human health.  We require infinite variation.  At Rustys Bazaar I could buy 14 varieties of sweet potato.  In the supermarket I can obtain just one.

4. Supermarkets are primarily concerned with the physical attractiveness of F&V, its longevity on the shelf, and not with its nutritional value or taste.  The "little" farmer proudly sold his papaya for its superb taste and texture.  Supermarket papayas have been specially bred to withstand treatment normally reserved for cannonballs, and they taste like something out of a petrochemical factory.

5.If supermarkets have their way, they will gain complete control over the F&V chain from farm to consumer.
Additionally they will attempt to control seed supply by patenting genetically modified varieties.

So folks, where do we go from here??
To put it bluntly in Australian English……I'm buggered if I know.
For some of us, we are blessed to be able to grow our own. Most people just seem happy to pay inflated prices and sit back and watch as they are overtaken by events. They are attracted by all the tinsel, and ignore the substance and gravity of the situation.

Farmers are not blameless in this debate.  Fifty years ago smallholder farmers were often well served by co-operatives which facilitated unified marketing.  Many such co-ops yielded to corporate takeovers with the consent of farmers who benefitted financially.

The resurgence recently of "farmers markets" around Australia provides a glimmer of hope.
I reluctantly have to suggest that farmers have had a spectacular failure rate when it comes to speaking with one voice, and utilising the huge political leverage they could theoretically apply.

The demise of the small family fruit and vegetable farm is now a sad fact of our history.  One that I suspect will, somewhere down the track, come back to haunt us.

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About Aesop, and poultry farming

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So, the chickens have finally come home to roost in the global financial meltdown.  Who would have guessed it?

Well I have been, for several months boring everyone to death here commenting on the inadvisability (stupidity even) of acquiring large personal debt.

And I know some other people who will not be surprised.

The farmers of the world are an often maligned, underestimated and criticised sector of society.  Yet not only do they provide food and fibre essential for our civilisation, they are often repositories of profound wisdom about life and the universe.
They have acquired this knowledge, not only through formal education, but from lives lived in thoughtful observation of the natural and human world around them, and from the harsh lessons learned during their stewardship of land, water and environment. 
Self-evident truths, the products of toil, hard times, and dealing with the vaguaries of nature.

And farmers are inevitably grounded in common sense.  They know about risk……not the elective sort you take in gambling on the stock exchange with the mistaken view that economies and profits must inevitably keep getting larger…..the risk they have faced every single year of their lives knowing that they must accept the hand given to them by Mother Nature. 
They also know that happiness in this world is not dependent upon material possessions.

I have previously dealt quite adequately with the high flying corporate financiers and bankers who contributed to this financial crisis. (here)

There are however, other equally responsible co-contributors.
The individual borrowers who applied for and received loans beyond their means to repay.
It was their impetuous and impulsive choice to take a path of extreme indebtedness in order to own everything RIGHT NOW, without considering the time honored processes of previous generations which accumulated wealth and possessions gradually during whole lifetimes as a reward for hard work.
They have been seduced by the culture of greed and instant gratification which has pervaded our culture, especially during the last 3 decades.
It was never, ever going to be sustainable, and the farmers of this world could have told you so.

The old wisdom always applies;  If it seems to good to be true, then it probably is.

When you were offered finance up to 110% of the value of property, did it not, deep inside your heart and mind occur to you that something was wrong with both the arithmetic and the morality?

When, in your twenties, you married and demanded instantly a brand new house complete with every luxury item of furnishing imaginable, in exchange for a lifetime of debt, did it not trigger your intelligence to question whether this was either a necessity or indeed the reality of how life should be?

Have you never ever learned Aesops fables?  Did you not learn about the ant laying food aside for winter and the grasshopper squandering his resources irresponsibly.  Do you not think that these fables have been perpetuated for centuries because of the sound life principles contained within them?  Do you think they suddenly became irrelevant from 1980 onwards?
"It is best to prepare for the days of necessity"

Some will view my sentiments as unnecessarily harsh.
Truth sometimes appears that way.

Our civilisation will not support limitless consumption indefinitely.
Increased profits or Gross National Product are not indicators of quality of life, or that we are living life as it should be done.

We now have a whole generation which must either voluntarily understand the need to radically modify its fiscal behaviour, or be forced to do so by financial disaster and elective poverty.

And, ask a farmer to share his wisdom.

P.S.  For the purposes of this discussion I refer to the old-fashioned family farmer, and not the modern corporate farming conglomerate which will shortly receive a little GOF wrath as well.
 

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