By Penny Kothe, Caroola Farm
With recent scares (as well as not-so-recent ones) about the chemicals used in agriculture that DO have the potential to end up in your food, what do you do?
Aside from going and doing your own science degree so that you can understand food labelling systems, and being fastidious at ready every label, and not buying something without one, there are a few choices…
The biggest voice we have is our wallets and the only way to stop large companies using chemicals is to choose NOT to purchase their products!
Grow your own
Yes, grow your own, or more of your own food! Most of us grew up with grandparents, if not parents, who had a plentiful vege garden or community plot, some of these extended to chickens and other small animals. Even in cities, you can grow a lot on a balcony, or even indoors.
When you grow it yourself, you control what you put on it – and none of those chemicals are necessary, lets face it, nature has worked for many millions of years without pesticides and herbicides and so can we too.
Growing your own is one option, but unless you have a large backyard, or live on acreage, you probably can’t fulfil all of the protein and nutritional needs for your family. So, another option is to buy what you can’t grow, but buy direct. You can buy direct from farmers at roadside stalls, farmgates or from farmers markets, obviously you’ll still need to ask them what chemicals they use, but it is mostly these farmers who sell direct who are not having to conform to the mass production levels required by our major supermarket chains and who therefore use limited, if not no, chemicals.
A note here that produce does not have to be ‘certified organic’ to be natural or chemical free. Having a farm certified as organic is an expensive process, so it’s worth looking for producers who are chemical free, biodynamic, operate on permaculture principles, or simply use ‘natural’ means. Talk to them, they’d love to talk to you!
Buying ‘certified’ organic is one way to steer clear of ‘nasty’ chemicals, however do be aware that there are organic versions of chemicals approved for use, so whilst most probably safer, these are still made to ensure increased and managed production, so may still be ‘mass produced’ even though they are ‘organic’.
Personally, I do all three, grow my own, then buy direct and if I can’t then buy organic, and even then if I really can’t, I buy local…. Actually, in some instances, if the organic produce is imported and heavily packaged in plastic (not sure what is organic about that), then I would prefer to buy local even if it may not be organic…
Ahh, the trials and tribulations… However, if you take control of your own food, not only will you be in control of the chemicals applied, you’ll also find your home grown food has significantly more nutritional value too.
How do you make a change?
Sure, you can just get out there and garden, but if you really want to understand how you can do this in the most water, energy and time efficient way, then understanding a little bit about permaculture (permanent agriculture) will help. Permaculture is a design science that can be applied to both urban and rural settings (and is often used in communities and international aid) – it helps you to place each of the elements in your living environment into the right place in order to maximise output and efficiency – and it’s chemical free…
A permaculture system may include other tools such as organics, biodynamics, holistic management and so forth… permaculture itself is not a tool, it is the overall design element.
Find out more at one of our upcoming Introduction to Permaculture courses (coming up in Braidwood, Goulburn, Wagga Wagga and Canberra), or join us for an exciting 2 weeks of our Permaculture Design Certificate course starting in October.