Sept. 19, 2013
Paddock to Plate
TWENTY people in the small room at Barrett House makes a full house, and that was the number attending the Paddock To Plate workshop there this Fair Food Week.
Paddock To Plate was one of 3-Council's contributions to Fair Food Week 2013 and it attracted some apparently new to the topic.
The workshop traced our food from farm, through processing, to the shops, on to our homes, and then traced food and food packaging waste either to landfill or recycling.
Into the garden
The workshop was segmented into three parts: growing, distribution and eating.
There was a chilly late winter breeze as the growing segment was conducted outside in the Barrett House Foragers' Garden on the footpath, a trial of edible footpath planting. The concept of garden agroecology was introduced as participants explored natural cycles and processes influencing the ecological approach to food production and its interconnections: photosynthesis, the water cycle, the use of nitrogenous fertiliser plants like nitrogen-fixing alfalfa in the garden and planting a diversity of species as habitat for benfiicial insects and pollinators.
Back inside, innovative small farmers were the topic and here we made use of the new Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance's Orange Tree Blues video, a story of redemption of a farmer who, faced with the competition of cheap imports, saved his farm when he started direct selling to eaters through a farmers' market. We also used the story of an Australian pig farming family on Jonai Farm in Eganstown, Victoria, as an example of how farmer innovators can provide good food and a viable rural livelihood.
The journey of food
Glad to return to a room into which the rooftop solar heater was pumping warm air, the Journey of Juice introduced the food supply chain and alternative, community-based food distribution systems like community supported agriculture, food co-ops (pointing out that the next day was Rhubarb Food Co-op's weekly food distribution in the room where people sat) and other models. Industrial and agroecological food production were compared in a table drawn up on the whiteboard.
The final segment was on health aspects of our food and waste. We went through what makes up a nutritionally balanced diet and supplemented this with a label-reading activity to choose food products based on their listed contents and the packaging, such as whether it is recyclable or overpackaged.
Here we used food writer, Michael Pollan's dictum that if you don't recognise the stuff on the label then it's probably less authentic food and more a foodlike substance. The fewer the ingredients the better. We looked at nature's packaging — nude food — and the health benefits of eating real food. Another of Michael Pollan's food rules proved useful in summing up the basis of a good diet: eat food, not too much, mainly plants.
Journey of juice
The Journey of Juice activity traced the route followed by apple juice from farm to drinker. A tetrapack of Italian organic apple juice and an apple from Bilpin were used for the comparison to map the stages of the food supply chain from farm, through processing and packaging and on to retailer and drinker. As the flowchart was extended on the whiteboard the number of transportation links became apparent — in the case of the Italian juice, a journey around the world all for a minute or two's consumption.
One smart participant pointed out that we could have added the journey of the packaging material from its source to landfill or recycling, too. This would have provided a more comprehensive picture of the juice.
The point of the Journey of Juice was to introduce the food supply chain and how, in one example, it spanned the globe while, in the other, it was a short journey from Bilpin to city and how the product was fresher. The exercise could be done for any food product and its packaging.
Tossing it out
After that we drew on materials from the NSW government's Love Food Hate Waste program to look at food waste. This is a surprisingly large volume of edible stuff that is tossed out:
Annual value of NSW household food waste: $2.5 billion.
- fresh food: $848 million
- leftovers: $694 million
- packaged and long life foods:$372 million
- drinks: $231 million
- frozen food: $231 million
- take away and home delivered food: $180 million.
Food waste, we found, was due to buying too much, cooking too much and saving and storing food incorrectly.
A brief tour
The Paddock To Plate workshop was just a brief tour through the food system, however it yielded ideas that could be developed into a longer course on food.
It was interesting how, when a participant spoke about using food, a discussion spontaneously assembled itself around recipes. Something similar happened when personal experience with food was raised and it indicated that there was a lot of experiential knowledge in the group and that an event that enabled people to share this might be useful.
Paddock To Plate was the 3-Council's mid-week Fair Food Week event. It followed a Permablitz in the Permaculture Interpretive Garden at Randwick Community Centre the preceding Saturday and the Seeding Our Food Future event followed by participatory pizza making and the food film, Fresh, the following Saturday run by Randwick City Council.
Story and photos by Russ Grayson, 27 August 2013