All of us, walking contradictions

I recently spotted Norman Reedus on the cover of Men’s Health magazine. Norman plays one of the most beloved characters on a zombie show I indulge in from time to time. On the surface his character ‘Daryl Dixon’ is a zombie killing, angry hillbilly, but over the years has developed into something more complex, someone more deep and sensitive. I feel we have a lot in common.

As much as I enjoy discussing apocalyptic zombie television, I want to share some recent thoughts on contradiction, and this is where the magazine cover comes into play. You see, Men’s Health magazine is about Men’s Health, but in many ways it’s not. It promotes the ideology that to be ‘healthy’ a man must have a certain body type, one attained from rigorous physical training. It’s also full of advertisements for body building supplements, and high protein diets, none of which are recognised as vital or key to attaining real health. And although I’m a fan of Norman, his character Daryl, and his side project motorbike TV show, I have to say that him being on the cover of a Health Magazine is a bit of a contradiction. I’m a mild fan, but fan enough to follow him on Instagram, along with 4.4 million other fans. On his social media account he makes no effort to hide that he smokes, and of course it’s his right to live anyway he chooses. I say that as an ex-smoker, and although I don’t consider myself to be a smoker anymore, once or twice a year, if I’ve had enough beer, I may indulge, take a puff, get disgusted in myself and wait another year. Yes, I’m a contradiction, but if you’ve ever been a full time smoker, you may relate. But I’m getting off track. My point is this, sure Norman has a fit looking body, with toned biceps, no visible middle age spread or excess weight on the face, basically he looks hot, a fine specimen, but the truth is, he smokes, and let’s face it, there's nothing healthy about that. Contradiction number one.

I went for a morning walk in the bush today, my back has been playing up and I haven’t been able to jog all week, bushwalking in the hood is the next best option. I do some of my best thinking alone in the bush, and today I considered my own contradictions. Here I am a bloke that makes some level of effort to grow his own food, hunt and cook with real ingredients, all with the aim of being healthier and more environmentally friendly. And although I achieve a great deal, much more than I used to, I acknowledge that my approach is not without its flaws when considering its aims. With this in mind I can identify thousands of contradictions. I’ll start with my undies.

They’re made in China, there isn’t many local options for undies or any clothes for that matter made here in Australia. Even if they are manufactured here, the textiles likely originated from Bangladesh or India, so clothes being manufactured here only benefit in local jobs and domestic economic gain, not a reduction in our ‘clothes miles’. I also drive a car, I buy milk, ammunition, toilet paper, wine, toothpaste, flour, I burn wood for heat and I breath. Everything we do has an impact of some description, and not one of us is without our impacts, not even the most ethical and environmentally friendly. With this in mind, I started thinking about how I’m becoming more comfortable with contradiction, instead leaning towards realism.

For the last two years I’ve been doing a lot of work on a project, to create a foundation out of nothing, that will do a great deal of something. The Nursery Project has evolved into a not-for-profit business driven by a mission to positively impact our community health. The idea is to teach skills of sensible nutritional health, how food is produced, to re-connect people with the realities of food production and the impacts our food has on the environment. We’re very unhealthy in Australia with 63.4% of adults over 18 years either overweight or obese (ABS 2014), I’d also like to add that more men (70.8%) are overweight than women (56.3%) just because people often get that one incorrect. With this basic statistic in mind, I’m trying to make a difference in the community with this project. It is my life vocation; this foundation is my way of changing what I know to be a problem.

When I began the project a few years ago I was idealistic and naïve. I thought the idea was sound and that people in my social media network would agree, thus want to support it. I ran a crowd funding project which failed miserably (but thank you to everyone that did support it though, love you all). My naivety was shattered; it took me a while to recover. My tiny support network has helped me gain some momentum, and thankfully the project has a new energy (sounding more like a hippy everyday). The experience of setting up the project has taught me a great deal, especially regarding the realities of business. Yes, we are a business, it’s the preferred model set out by ACNC, even if you are NFP.   

The reality of such a massive project is that it needs money to be set up. The money side of things is something that always makes me uncomfortable. But I have to put my personal issues aside because the reality is, this project simply will not happen without it. If the project doesn’t happen then we wouldn’t get thousands of school kids (and adults) through the farm, all of which would miss out on some important health education that’s lacking in most school curriculum programs (and general adult life). I don’t have the kind of money required, the public doesn’t seem to have that kind of money, so we need to look elsewhere. Originally I was all pure and ethical (idealistic) and declared that we would never ask certain companies for support. This has changed.

Then one day, whilst feeling very millennial and disruptiveI I came up with a fairly unconventional approach to funding. If certain companies are contributing to the problem, then don’t they have a social obligation to help fix it? In all likelihood not one of these corporations would ever agree to funding assistance, but it won’t stop me from asking. It’s not like this project will be the demise of processed food retailing, or take away, but it will do a great deal of social good, and that’s a good outcome I’m sure most people will agree with (not everyone though, I can already hear someone whispering “sell-out”).

So here is the situation of contradiction. We need to build a large building, we need to buy land, source farm vehicles, farm equipment, fruit trees, vegetable seeds, office equipment, pay insurance, permits, fees, electricity, gas, pay staff, superannuation, install sewerage, buy toilet paper, you name it, it all costs money, and this is all before we even run our very first class. The set up costs are phenomenal. So with that in mind, I now begin the uncomfortable journey of asking for large sums of money and equipment from companies that are probably not perfect, but will be contributing to a project of positive social change. That kind of makes me comfortable with contradiction.

The Nursery Project has the potential to become a beautiful community asset. And when I say community I mean everyone, not just our local area, we’re aiming high. We just want to make positive change.

All funds, land, equipment, toilet paper, everything is owned by The Nursery Project Limited, adhering to the strict regulations of law set out by the ACNC.