On most Sunday mornings I visit a local farmers market, coming away with fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs, fresh bread, free range eggs, and honey. I tend to come home from these visits feeling rather good about myself, for several reasons. Firstly, it saves money, as the vendors’ prices are nearly always cheaper than the supermarket prices. Then there is the knowledge that my money is going directly to those who have produced the food instead of a supermarket, and that what I have bought is fresh and newly picked instead of an unknown amount of days old. I am doing my bit for the environment by cutting down on plastic consumption. It’s a good feeling.
There’s also the ambience of a market to consider. There is a real sense of community when you are dealing directly with the producer of the goods. It’s people trading with each other without middle men taking their cut. It’s how it used to be, and there’s a lot to be said for that.
It’s inevitable, with increasing urbanisation, that so many of us become separated from the process by which the food we eat is produced. Increased ownership of farmland by big corporations like the huge supermarket chains increases the efficiency with which food is grown, packaged, and transported into cities to be picked off the shelf at your local shop. But at what cost? Modern farming practices focus on increased yield, but studies have shown that the resulting product contains less of the vitamins we need for health. Also it changes the taste. You eat a shop bought tomato, and a home-grown tomato, and you will taste the difference.
I think that there is a swing among many people to go back to basics. Human beings weren’t designed to live in plastic cocoons, and certainly aren’t supposed to eat food that is just as cocooned in plastic packaging. We yearn for the taste of good food from the good earth. We yearn for our roots.
Technological advancement is a great thing. I was watching a documentary yesterday about life in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and after hearing about the efforts required to wash clothes I experienced a whole new level of appreciation for my washing machine. The internet allows me to write in Australia and you to read in many different countries. It’s fantastic that we have such ease of communication and ready access to information and education. It’s good that we can live more comfortably than our ancestors.
We can be so black and white in our thinking though, can’t we? Should it be so hard to be moderate in all things? Can we not look to the future without uprooting ourselves from the land that bore us? Can’t we improve our lot without poisoning our tomorrow? Those who profit from the status quo will tell you it’s not possible, but I don’t believe it. I believe that we need to keep on fighting, even in small ways, even if it’s just by going to your local market and buying better food.