Thought for food: Dumpster diving, organics, farmers markets and a challenge…

September 20, 2010 — 2 Comments

First of all, I want to apologise for not getting an article up last week. I started three and finished none. I promise quality not quantity, but I am finding my writing groove now so I should be more consistent from here on in.

Saturday night I had the pleasure of being invited to Melbourne’s Environmental Film Festival (thanks Jadeski!!). We saw 2 movies; Dive and What’s Organic about Organic?

What is Dumpster Diving?
The former movie was particularly interesting because it was about the culture of Dumpster Diving (DD), which is about groups of people who raid supermarket dumpsters for food that is still edible but discarded by overly cautious and overstocked supermarkets. Some of the binning is done pre-emptively, for example if food expires on the 25 or 26 December, the meat and produce will be thrown out on Christmas eve since the stores will be closed on the public holidays. Often this is done without offering the food first to food banks (organisations that collect and distribute almost-expried food to the needy. For a list of Australian food banks click here). I find it fascinating the amount of dedication and turning-a-blind-eye required to live this way. Definitely not for the weak-of-stomach and with my food poisoning paranoia, I’m not a good candidate for DD.

Hit me with those Organics!
The subject of this post (which I’m getting to) is related to the second film, What’s Organic about Organic?, a thought provoking film on the organic industry…obviously. I think it’s safe to say most people recognise the benefits to our bodies and the environment about “going” organic – and lets face it, they just taste better – but the industry is still a work in progress the society at large remains confused. Many would question “is the industry standardised?”, “is it worth the extra cost?”,  “how do I buy organic without going broke?”. To answer the questions simply and in that order;

  1. Like the US, there is no legislation governing the organic industry here in Australia. We have 7 Organic certifiers who have joined together to form the Australian Organic Standard, which is legally enforceable under the Trade Practices Act. Theoretically however, if your product carries any one of the certifier’s label, then you know you’re getting an organic product that has at least 95% organic ingredients, unless it’s stated higher. You can read about certifying standards here.
  2. In the words of American-Mexican civil rights activist Cesar Chavez on the topic “you pay for it now or you pay for it later.” A recent article in The Age said ”We’re so disconnected from our food that very few of us understand what farmers go through. We’re so used to having relatively cheap food and the [low] prices come at a cost.” This cost is to the farmers’ livelihood, our health, the environment and animals. At the same time we need to be realistic – certainly being aware and actively doing what you can is a good start. It’s no point giving yourself a stomach ulcer worrying about balancing an organic lifestyle and your accounts – just do what you can. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding (ie raising a human life) it is more so important that you give your kiddies the best start in life, and recommended to consider transitioning to organics at this time more than ever.
  3. Start small and selectively buy organic. Start off with buying organic leafy vegetables and ones that are usually heavily sprayed due to higher risk to pests and imperfections like apples, stonefruit, strawberries, capsicum, tomatoes. It is just as important to buy organic meat and milk for a whole host of reasons. Root vegetables – as in grown underground – and ones with thick inedible outer casings like corn, avocados and pineapples you can get away with buying conventional produce as there are less toxins in direct contact with the part of the vegetable you consume. And buy direct from the grower to avoid the middleman costs. Easier said then done? Not really, read on…

And the reason I write has arrived
Farmers’ Markets provide an opportunity for our farmers to sell direct to the consumer, and for the consumer to purchase quality products from boutique suppliers, bypassing the middleman thus saving yourself a pretty penny. By supporting local farmers you are directly putting money back into regional communities and assisting farmers do good things. This is a real concern in the small producer market and sadly many well-meaning and incredible businesses can go under because they’re pushed out by the big conglomerates with less inclination in preserving quality over quantity.

At Farmers Markets you have access to a huge variety of produce and products not normally found in the supermarkets. The quality is often far superior which means your tastebuds, belly and body will love you.

Plus, it’s just a really nice thing to do of a weekend while stocking your foodiecure pantry.

More awesome for us S.E Australian punters, the Victorian Farmers Market Association has formalized an accreditation system. The accreditation system “provides a solid basis of quality, integrity and fairness to all consumers. The program advocates best practice and celebrates the work of genuine farmers, specialty makers….(and) ensures the credibility of participants in a proudly transparent process.” So rest easy that markets and their producers listed on the website are true to form. Don’t be surprised to find out there are markets out there using the name but not bona-fide.

To look for a farmers market Australia wide, visit the Farmers Market Association website.

Some of the things you’ll see at Farmers Markets:

  • A large variety of Organic and Biodynamic produce
  • Olives and olive oils
  • Dips, pates
  • Baked goods – mmmm fresh bread!
  • Honey
  • Meat and poultry
  • Eggs
  • Preserves and sauces
  • Condiments
  • Beverages
  • Flowers and Plants
  • Custom food products
  • Chocolates
  • Ice-cream

My proposed trial
So I can still hear the “doubting Mustafa’s” (Aladdin quote) thinking it can’t be done, so I’m going to put my words into practice to demonstrate eating healthily and gourmet can be done, and on a budget. As a fledgling freelance writer, the funds are t-i-g-h-t. But dedicated to the cause of eating for health and combined with the fact I simply love eating good food I will prove me right – in a public domain. I will shop at farmers’ markets and let you know of any other options I source organics (I already frequent 3 places for organic dry goods).

Make sure you subscribe to foodiecure to keep updated on my progress (link in sidebar of home page under “about”).

Links and sources

Organic Federation of Australia (peak body for Australian Organic sector)

Biological Farmers of Australia

Farmers Market Association

Victorian Farmers Market Association

The Age – Organic Food Market Branches Out

Organic Advice

Where to buy organics

Biological Farmers of Australia – where to buy organics

Organic Food Directory

Green Pages Australia

Clean Foods

Foodielicious (love the name!)

Transitioning to Organic

Transitioning to Organic (pt 1)

Transitioning to Organic (pt 2)

How to be a budget organic


2 responses to Thought for food: Dumpster diving, organics, farmers markets and a challenge…


    I can’t wait to go to the farmers markets in Australia!!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Farmers Market challenge: update « Foodiecure - October 10, 2010

    […] officially marked week one of Farmers Market challenge. I set myself a challenge in this blog post to demonstrate how easy and enjoyable it is to buy your weekly produce at a farmers […]

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