By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
With bushfires raging across NSW and most other states in Australia, it occurred to me what a privilege it is to be able to access and eat fresh food.
In a response to the devastation in SE NSW, our local community in Sydney's Northern Beaches, and communities across the country, rallied to help people who lost their homes, animals and land in these horrific fires. The message spread as quickly as the fires themselves and people came from far and wide to donate bedding, pharmacy items, batteries, canned and packaged foods, nappies, and water.
Amongst everything donated, there were only four unfilled boxes with a few apples, oranges and bananas. The reason understandably is that transport and limited cold storage prohibits the collection of perishable goods which means that aside from produce delivered directly from Sydney Markets to Foodbank and distributed locally, people in more remote areas have no choice but to go without fresh food.
It's hard to imagine right now, but what if we were unable to access fresh food ever again?
Us humans typically really recognise the true value of anything when we stand to lose it. Through the years our farmers have been in drought and in these recent bushfires, they have lost so much. Hundreds of thousands of animals have perished in the blazes, many of which are livestock, and more have abandoned paddocks that have had fences burned. Australia's Defence Force will dig mass graves for the country's burned livestock in a bid to fight off a biosecurity emergency, and 100 vets are being sent to bushfire-affected states to assess and euthanase thousands of animals injured by the blazes. As of Monday afternoon, 3,872 animals had already been euthanased. Animals which up until 3 months ago were struggling to find food in the drought have either been burnt alive or, due to injury will be put down. In Batlow, famous for its apple orchards, whole produce farms have been wiped out. Sue Dodds from Sydney markets tells me she's heard from a chestnut grower whose livelihood was wiped out as fire washed through his farm.
So, what's next? As Sue anxiously waits to hear from other growers to find out if they are safe and we anxiously wait for it all to end so we can resume our normal lives, I question what will happen when the fires go out and we next see rain. Will we return to a place where we are delighted to pay bottom dollar for 2 litres of milk, or continue to complain about paying $3 for a head of lettuce when it would cost more in water to grow one ourselves?
If you, like some people think farming is a lifestyle choice, it's worth asking whether it's a lifestyle you would choose, or indeed whether any farmer who has lost everything would want to go back to it.
And it's worth also asking what value you would place on fresh food if, after all this, our country couldn't provide it.
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