A reader has put us on to the ABC’s ‘From farm to family dinner’ story in Brisbane, where there is community support for local growers, (CSA) and we’ve talked about relocalisation. How do the two relate? Is the difference just semantic?
In response to an increasingly globalised food system and the corresponding, social, environmental and health problems, this concept developed in the 1960s in Switzerland and Japan, where consumers interested in safe food and farmers seeking stable markets for their crops have formed economic partnerships.
This is a different vision for food production and distribution that encourages local, environmentally sustainable food production which supports both farmers and ‘consumers’ alike.
The CSA movement has been growing rapidly in the US and in Europe, with over 2000 CSA projects in the US and Canada by the early 1990’s. Some farms supplying up to 4000 families directly and in Japan 5,000,000 families are supplied in this way. In Denmark 40,000 families are supplied by the basket system. It is not proposed as the only alternative way to ‘do’ food, but it is model that has proven to work for many thousands of communities and farmers around the world.
Robert Pekin from Food Connect explains:
“It basically works as a collaboration between a group of farmers and city people…the city people avail the farmers of their skills – whether it be marketing or bookkeeping or getting the produce into town or providing a delivery access – so it’s just a group of city people sharing the responsibility of getting that produce as directly as possible between the farmer and the family.
City people – no matter how many people in their household – can choose a box of fruit and veges for their needs, from the variety that farmers offer. “There’s a minimum of four weeks where you subscribe to a particular type of box – we’ve got about nine varieties of boxes…
You then locate a city cousin for yourself, which is our community distribution system. For the purposes of distribution, Brisbane is divided into three ‘paddocks’ – the Hill Paddock (north of the river, west of Kelvin Grove), the Top Paddock (north of the river, east of Kelvin Grove) and the South Paddock (south of the river).
Subscribers in each paddock then get in contact with their city cousins to arrange pick-up of their fruit and veges delivery, which the farmers have delivered direct to the city cousins.
For the subscribers, the most difficult aspect of the service involves learning to cook seasonally, as it’s only seasonal fruit and veges that can come direct from local farmers. The stone fruit’s just ended, and they’re going to go a long time without them…
With carrots and onions, those sort of staple things that aren’t really grown anywhere near Queensland, they haven’t been harvested anywhere now for the last couple of months – they’re coming up from Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria now – and it’s been difficult for people to go without brown onions or carrots, so that has been tricky.
But the good news is that – just as the fruit and veges are coming straight from the farmers – the money subscribers pay is going straight to the farmers. We’re non-profit – we work basically on the principle that we’re just the facilitators of the food and that’s where that community food distribution system has been so effective.”
Relocalisation is the reversal of globalisation where communities support local food, local industries and local economies, developing and rebuilding community as preparation for a future where we use much less fossil fuel and move into energy descent action plan. Australian relocalisation groups – there are 166 around the world – are clustered mainly along our NE coast, there is one in Canberra, and three in New Zealand.
Kuranda Economic Localisation Qld
Post Carbon Northern Rivers Qld
Sustainabundy Bundaberg Qld
Qld After Oil – Cedar Vale
Eudlo Relocalisation Group Qld
Sunshine Coast Relocalisation- Noosa Eumundi and Districts (SCReNE)
ACT Peak Oil See-change in Canberra
Under the industrial, and increasingly globalised model of agriculture, farmers are subject to the whims of ‘the market’. With large mono-crops a single ‘event’ – a market price drop, a hail storm, flood, insect plague or late frost – can often be enough to put a small farmer out of business. Consumers remain oblivious. They are still able to purchase their tomatoes, or whatever – and probably wouldn’t even notice that this time they come from Spain instead of from the Brisbane valley.