A little recovery

Cucumbers ready to be picked...
Cucumbers ready to be picked…

A local grower has flooded the market with extremely cheap cucumbers. Will we get to see the benefits in our bigger supermarkets? Probably not. Another is pulling out their Zucchinis because of waterlogging…

Several local supermarkets though have taken advantage and stocked up and big bags are selling for below $4. That’s a win for the local economy!

But the big sadness is that, faced with a huge drop in potential earnings because of the excess in supply, some local growers are simply scrapping their current crops. Yep, you read that correctly – they’re pulling up the crop of cucumbers that’s just about ready to harvest and disposing of them because there’s no money to be made from them.

Long, straight Continental Cunumbers heading for the compost or the dump.

The growers and the land owner in this farm are enlightened enough to invite community groups and individuals who are engaged with local food security to pick what they can in the short window before the crop’s destruction. They invite us in whenever there is a bounty to be gleaned but we hardly make a dent on what is there.

A boot full of cucumbers.
A boot full of Cucumbers.

Yours truly headed down yesterday and managed to grab as many as I could. Cucumber leaves bring up itchy red welts on my skin, so I couldn’t harvest too many before I was driven to madness.

I managed to pick about 50kg which went out to UCare Gawler and the Grow Free Carts. I took another tub to The Salvos at Riverside to see if they’d be interested in future bounty and happily they are.

While I was at Joe and Rosanne’s birthday the other day I saw some big bags of cucumbers on their front porch, so others had got the invite and responded to the call. I’m not sure about this haul but I know that food security advocates come in teams from all around to harvest some bumper bounties throughout the year.

The tip of the iceberg

This seasonal bounty (seasons in greenhouses, that is) and waste is the tiny, local tip of a massive icebeg of food waste due to, need I say it, the markets driven by capitalism. Buyers try to squeeze down their costs so that they can profit more, they pass a part of those low prices on to consumers, but most of the profit goes to shareholders.

Shareholders won’t invest in something that won’t grow their dividends every year and to do that, the company needs to continuously grow. Much f that growth is supplied by cost cutting whether it’s the prices they offer suppliers once they are locked into contracts or by cutting staff, working conditions or even closing stores, depriving local communities of services such as the suoply fresh food. We saw that happen in Meningie recently.

The Aussie food market is dominated by two huge players – Coles and Woolies, who drive down the prices at which they’ll buy produce at and, doing so, dictate the prices of goods for every other retailer and supplier. Often, they don’t even look locally for suppers, but tap into their Australia-wide and global networks to source food that can be sold at a profit.

I remember a situation a while back where those very companies competed to sell the cheapest milk to their customers and doing so, made it impossible for dairy farmers to make profits for their own ventures.

What does that mean for us? Cheap food at the lowest prices? A regular supply of food? We have seen that the very opposite is true.

‘Food shortages’ and ‘ supply chain breakdowns’, a spike in diesel prices…the list goes on, showing that security and reliability are two words that cannot be applied to the current system of doing things. Prices are starting to jump again because, for the last little while the items we were buying were picked months ago. Now we are starting to see the price with all the problems factored in.

What’s the answer? I think you know…

I sound like an old record, I know. For Zoomers who may not get that reference, it means that I seem to be repeating the same thing over and over. Not just me, all of the sustainability, ethical living, permaculture community, Many large organisations like the UN and associated groups, peak bodies and NGOs are saying the same thing – ‘we need to grow our food in out local communities or at least in areas adjacent to our geographical location’.

Local economics, local labour, local innovation, local growth, reduced transportation, simplified supply chains…you get the picture. This thinking will go a long way to reducing the impact of climate breakdown on our communities, remove the effects of distant wars, buffer us from economic meltdowns.

Politicians at Federal level, international investors and those who profit from convoluted food systems that work ‘just in time’ and benefit from the food system as it currently exists and are not likely to change the system as it exists.

We need to do much of it oursleves, grow local systems in parallel to the current models, nuture families in ways that enable them to grow at least a little of their own food.

We can’t directly fight what is already here because we are actively a part of it and have been for decades. We need to take a gentler approach and start local options.

Zucchinis to go too!
Zucchinis to go too…

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