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Supporting local (how on earth did that tomato get here?)

John Joseph Rudkin was a pig farmer in the early 1900s. He’s my great-great grandfather, had thirteen children, and is the reason that most people in my family are bizarrely known by their middle names. This generation committed, and I mean committed, to increasing the population of planet earth. But they also protected the planet and supported local far better than what we’re doing today.

The technology to create more sustainable food didn’t exist in those days. But they didn’t need technology to create more sustainable business models and trade. Our ancestors had it right.

Pre-industrial era, Joseph would cart his pigs to local markets and send them up and down the river to London by canal boat. His homegrown meat would be enjoyed by people around the country, but no further than that. Locally grown food for local people.

Fast forward a century, and the opposite is true. 70% of our agriculture in Australia is shipped overseas to feed the rest of the planet.

No single economy can lay claim to self-sufficiency. But should we accept that?

I think it’s mad that we fly tomatoes from one side of the planet to the other so that we can eat them out of season. There should be more import and export regulations at an industry level that protect future generations. But in keeping with things that we can actually change here and now, there’s a handful of things that I do that I think great-great granddad Joseph (and maybe my fellow sustainability nerds) would agree with…

  1. Buy from local farmer’s markets or your local greengrocers. The behemoth supermarkets have the range, but they don’t have the quality of locally-sourced, heaps better for you produce. It sometimes costs a little more, but it costs the planet a lot less. Those woven baskets on the front of bicycles function perfectly as a shopping bag, too.
  2. Don’t just buy. Grow. I don’t have a garden, which makes growing my own produce challenging, but not impossible. Industrial areas tend to have spare plywood hanging around - cut it to size, sand it down, and you have yourself a plant shelfer - mine’s on the apartment balcony. Now you can talk to yourself AND your fruits & veggies. The benefits of going from garden to table for you and the earth are astounding.
  3. Pop into your local butchers and fishmongers. They will have way more product knowledge than what you can read on the internet, they know exactly where it’s come from, and the taste…oh the taste…is incomparable.

We had it right once. Surely with a little patience, understanding and commitment we can work towards getting it right again. And surely our planet, and future generations, will thank us for it.

By Joe Carter, co-founder of The Ironclad Co.

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