When you’re eating dinner tonight, take a moment to think of the farmers who produced the food.
I am no green thumb. If I had to rely on food I grew myself, well… I wouldn’t last very long.
So I’m quite thankful for our farmers. But food security isn’t the only good reason for buying Australian produced food. This article shares five other reasons to support Australian farmers.
5 Reasons to Support Australian Farmers
It can be surprisingly difficult to buy local especially if you’re on a tight budget. Sometimes you have to make compromises to feed your family.
But if you can, there are some great reasons to buy Australian beyond regional food security. Here are just five.
1. Buying From Aussie Farmers is Safe and High Quality
Australian producers are world-renowned for safe, disease-free, high-quality food products and because of that, our products are in high demand overseas. Part of the reason for the high quality is because the food industry is highly regulated from farm to plate.
You don’t always have the same assurance when buying overseas food products as the recent frozen berry incident shows.
A survey showed that customers want supermarkets to make ethical decisions on their behalf before the products even hit the shelves. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable expectation. In Australia in 2017 customers should be able to expect our food to be safe, ethical and clearly labelled.
But that’s not the case and it can be dismaying when “Australian” products are labelled “made from local and imported ingredients”.
We can’t always tell if we’re buying local or not.
The alternative is to buy directly from your local producers either from a Farmer’s Market or a reputable greengrocer.
2. Buying from Aussie Farmers is Good for You
When you buy local produce, straight from the farmer, you know your produce is fresh and at peak nutrition. It hasn’t travelled thousands of miles and it hasn’t been in cold storage for months on end.
3. Buying from Aussie Farmers is Good for Your Local Economy
“Any local industry strengthens a local economy, but communities become truly resilient and robust when they have a strong local primary industry.” [source]
There are around 134,000 farm businesses in Australia, 99% of which are family-owned. Between them, they supply almost 93% of Australia’s domestic food supply and the complete food supply chain employs around 1.6 million people (these stats come from here).
Buying local keeps people employed. Local farming businesses employ three times the rate that large farming corporations do.
It also keeps money circulating within the community. More than 50% of money spent within a community stays within the community as opposed to 15-30% when spent in non-local businesses. Australia imports around $12 billion dollars of food a year. That’s a lot of money that leaves our local communities.
Another reason Australian agriculture is better for the economy than we realise is that it’s one of the least subsidised in the whole world second only to New Zealand!
That means farmers aren’t supported by taxpayer dollars like many people think they are and we’re not paying hidden food costs through our taxes.
While you can buy local produce from the supermarket, the major supermarkets tend to deal with large corporations rather than the smaller family-owned farms and the farmers only receive a small proportion of the total profit.
4. Buying from Aussie Farmers is Good for Your Local Community
Living in the land of “drought and flooding plains” means that Aussie farmers do it tough. Buying directly from them is a great way to ensure they receive a fair price for their produce. But sometimes they need extra help.
Aussie Farmers Direct established the Aussie Farmers Foundation in 2010. So far they’ve invested $1.3 million in grassroots projects in rural Australian communities (things like disaster relief and mental health projects) thanks to donations from customers and the wider Australian community.
They are also a partner of Foodbank’s Meals for Mates program which helps to deliver meals to struggling rural families. They are also working to reduce food waste. If you watched the ABC’s War on Waste program, you’ll know that wasted produce is a big issue for farmers.
5. Buying Local is Good for the Environment
As well as feeding the nation, farmers are the caretakers of a large proportion of our land. In fact, farmers look after 70% of Australia’s landmass!
While they are one of the lowest subsidised in the world, the majority of subsidies they do receive go towards environmental programs and Landcare initiatives, which is good – the environment is all our responsibility.
With our lack of water and geologically ‘old’ soil, Australia is relatively disadvantaged when it comes to agriculture. They’ve had to develop very efficient farming practices and as a result, they are world leaders in dryland farming, natural resource management and sustainable agriculture [source].
The emphasis is on low-tillage practices, biodiversity, crop rotation, water efficient irrigation and good land management practices.
If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your food supply, buying from local farmers helps!
The average shopping basket of 29 common items travels over 70,000kms. Just four imported items account for around 50,000kms. Shopping locally reduces the carbon footprint of your food consumption.
I think François Quesnay got it right when he said the foundation of every economy is agriculture. Without our farmers, we don’t eat or do any other economic activity either.
Family farming is essential for our future food security. Despite our climatic disadvantages (or maybe because of them), Australia has a great agricultural industry that has a strong commitment to improving environmental practices while meeting the food needs of a growing global population. It’s in our best long-term interest to support the hand that feeds us.