Years ago, on a cold winters day, I looked at the tomato I was slicing, and wondered about its origins. Central Highlands winters are remarkably harsh, there is no chance a tomato plant would survive these frigid temperatures. After a little research I found the fruit had either came from a northern grower (QLD) or was sourced from a Victorian hydroponic plantation (artificially fed and heated). It was one of those light bulb moments that set me on a path of asking more questions of my food. In fact, it’s what drove me to start growing much of my own food like a ‘prepper’ gone mad.

 

My summer crop growing in my sunlight heated poly tunnel

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Out of interest I asked permission to visit a local hydroponic grower where I got a tour of the enormous hot houses that where as hot as a tropical Queensland day. I was amazed by how warm the industrial sized hot houses where, and enquired if it was a result of the sunlight trapped in the hot house. I was told that it was in fact a large heater that was powered by diesel generators. When I asked how much fuel it used, he replied “don’t ask”. In the hot house, in long tubular rows, grew stunning looking tomatoes, eggplant and basil. In the middle of winter it was a real beautiful site, and the aromatics where mind blowing. Made me desperate for summer.

That farmer was a real nice bloke. Trying to make a living for his family. Providing food for the local community. All those things are admirable and great. The downside of what I witnessed on that day was the reality that the veg was growing in a fertiliser medium (man made and totally inorganic) and the hot house was powered by a carbon emitting generator, adding to our climate woes.

I was intrigued by the paradox of wanting to eat this delicious fresh food, but having an understanding of the underlying reality, that the food may not be that good for my health (grown with a fertiliser solution) and being grown in a carbon emitting hothouse, it was clearly adding to worsening climate health. This experience was just the beginning, from here on in I started asking more questions and researching where my food came from, how it was produced and what was in it. What I learnt was a bit crap.

I know it’s really boring hearing the same old bullshit winging story about how todays food is so crap, and the world is fucked blah blah blah. Don’t you think I know how annoying that is. It keeps me up most nights, thinking about what to do about it. And you know what? My voice is a tiny wave in the ocean. Insignificance personified. It makes no real substantial difference, and in most cases I think I’m preaching to the converted. Even if I did have a loud global voice I wonder what difference it would make. Personal food and lifestyle choices are very personal. Even if one is presented with the scientific facts, one may still choose a Big Mac.

As long as us westerners continue to produce highly processed foods, we will continue to suffer the medical consequences. We will continue to inflict environmental damage.

That is a reality, whether you agree with me or not, whether you hate me or love me, that reality will remain. It’s simply a matter of cause and effect.

In my lifetime I have seen dramatic changes in what we eat, and the subsequent effects it has on our health. I started primary school in 1981, and like many people that I talk to from my generation, I (we) do not recall anyone having any food allergies. There was one kid out of a hundred that was fat (yes no denying it, he was fat) and there was one kid I remember that had an asthma pump. The remainder of my school years was the same, although more kids seemed to suffering from asthma into high school years.

20 years passed with the click of the finger. My generation are now the parents with kids at school, although things are dramatically different than in 1981. My children’s school is strictly nut free, to remain safe for the kids with severe food allergies. In fact some parents have to carry around emergency injections just in case an allergic episode occurs. When I pick my kids up from school it’s hard not to notice the many chubby kids that seem to be paired with obese parents. I’m not being mean. It’s a blatant visual reality. I was, at one time, one of those obese parents too.

What happened? Why are autism rates in children off the charts? Why is it that seemingly every second person suffers from some sort of food intolerance, be it gluten or dairy or something else. Why is that many of my generation suffer from anxiety, depression, hyper tension or diabetes?

I know it’s a pain to hear, but the reality that we’re eating ourselves to poor health is putting pressure on our already struggling health system. The reality of our preference for packaged processed foods is continuing to have a detrimental impact on our natural world. These are things that should concern us. These are things that should make us angry, concerned, and actively participate in making change for ourselves, our families and our natural world.

I feel myself repeating this message like a broken record player.

I fond myself questioning my approach to communicating this message. Am I being to honest? Do people want to hear this reality? Should I just go away and shut up? But I can’t. It’s something that has personally effected me and damn it, I want to see some change in my life time.

How long we as a population will we happily eat food, of which we are blissfully unaware of the impact the ingredients have on our health (and the health of our offspring).

How is this chemically tampered food impacting on our gut flora?

Is it damaging our DNA?

It’s clearly making us unwell in general.

There is an eerie similarity with this health crisis, to the realisation of health implications from smoking cigarettes. But just like that situation, there is a great deal of money to be lost in living healthy. Imagine how much less money would be spent on prescription medication. Imagine how much less money would be spent at supermarkets and take away chains. There is a lot to be lost, economically speaking.

I saw a packed line that overflowed out the door at a Subway Take away in Ballarat the other day. Even though the food isn’t really a perfect healthy option, it’s obvious that many people want a to make a healthy choice. Making the choices that are right for us as individuals can only be brought about with education, sharing knowledge and experience. I hope there is a brighter future.

In the meantime I retreat. I’ll work in my garden growing food as it should be.

Grown in soil, warmed by the sun and fed by natural fertiliser of chicken poo and compost.

 

The fruit that helped change my life, growing like mad in my poly tunnel.

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  • January 30, 2015 - 3:07 am

    Alice Faeth - yes it’s really easy to feel a bit worried and overwhelmed, but just trying to do one or two things better each month can make a huge difference to your health and happiness.ReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 3:08 am

    Sophie Fleming - Keep going record player. It needs to be said often and loud, keep up the good words ;) ReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 3:46 am

    so true - Im overseas now, but I grew up in oz, slightly younger than you but these changes are frightening. I knew one person with asthma and one with a wheat allergy, and it seemed so rare that she had a lot of problems getting it diagnosed. Now it is so ridiculously common, something has to be going on.

    So true about weight as well, everyone in our year at school was pretty fit, only one girl I would call obese. Now, not only are a lot of these people overweight, the kids are too. So Oz has turned into a mecca of unhealthy citizens. Really doesnt fit with how I remember Oz!

    PS its not boring, your voice is why you have all these followers.
    Oz is a new country, so the concept of heritage farming doesnt exist. whatever you are doing now, will be “heritage” for the next generations in Oz, and a legacy that isnt only mass production of commodities needs to be created.ReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 4:41 am

    Rob Wilmot - Your greenhouse looks good, it’s certainly growing a lot of stuff that seems healthy enough. Passatta here we come!ReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 4:48 am

    Anne-maree - Hi Rohan. I don’t post, but I read every post, and I agree with most ReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 4:51 am

    Alacoque - And we’re too clean. Too much “kills 99.9% of household germs” nonsense. We need more real produce and dirt under our nails. Growing food in your own garden guarantees both.ReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 10:39 am

    Tania - Not boring, I hear ya! I’m currently reading Joel Salatin’s book ‘Folks, this ain’t normal’. God he makes so much sense! I just finished a chapter where he talks about processed food being so lifeless that it doesn’t rot – even the microbes don’t want it! In order to keep our digestive bacteria happy, we need to eat things that will perish. In order to perish, they need to be living. If they can’t perish, they can’t give life. So simple! Yet we continue to eat lifeless junk and assume that illness/disease/obesity/allergies are, at best, out of our control and, at worst, inevitable.ReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 3:07 pm

    Tom - Hey Rohan,

    I just wanted to reach out and let you know how important your blog was in changing MY life. I won’t pretend that I wasn’t already on the path towards knowing about my food and growing it myself, but your beautifully photographed and documented stories showed me the appeal of living differently. I think those “fishing stories” and glamorous shots of the rural life have a value too, kind of the “carrot” to compliment the “stick” of these posts. Now I work at an educational urban farm in Portland, Oregon, and teach kids how to grow veggies and cook healthy food from scratch. We had about 9000 kids visit the farm last year! You might enjoy checking it out some day: http://www.zengerfarm.org.

    Now I have to go let the chickens out, it’s looking close to sunrise out there.ReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 6:20 pm

    Sylvie - Thank you, Rohan. I need your broken record to keep playing. I want to make better choices, but I find it is such a struggle. A financial struggle. A time struggle. A priority struggle. It is so much easier to throw my hands up, load up my pack of little kids, and go get a pizza. I need your words to continue to remind me, even if I can’t put in a garden yet, I can go to the store and buy fresh produce. I can choose to buy pasture raised meat. I can prepare more at home, and put it in the freezer for the busier days. I have every excuse to just serve crap food for my family. But you continue to remind me that I also have every excuse NOT to. Thank you. Please don’t stop encouraging us as we try to change our ways!ReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 7:39 pm

    Abe - Rohan, I’m totally on board with everything you are doing and saying. I’m a few years younger (born in ’81) and reading your post made me think that I don’t remember eating any healthier than the general public does now. My mom cooked and we ate pretty much like any normal family, and we sometimes had fast food, but my parents weren’t super health conscious or aware of the evils of the industrial food complex or anything like that. Do you think the “processed” food we have now is even worse and more toxic than what we had 30 years ago? It’s not like everyone was eating from their own gardens back then. Maybe all these problems with allergies have some other source that wasn’t present back then, like cell phone waves and whatnot flying through the air. I don’t know, just a thought.ReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 10:27 pm

    Veggie mama - Your “small” voice made a big ol’ difference to me :) ReplyCancel

  • January 30, 2015 - 11:49 pm

    Annette - Thank goodness you ARE speaking out. It takes courage. I try, but am not so eloquent, and get discouraged by the 9/10 who just look blankly at me. Zombies. that’s what most people are, and it’s terrifying.
    I grew up in the 70′s/80′s (born 1967), and also do not remember obesity being commonplace, nor ADHD or whatever the hell they call it, nor asthma, nor allergies in general. They were unusual, and noteable. Seems like every second kid has some kind of issue these days.Something is clearly SO wrong, and food is SO clearly a huge part of it. Most cannot and will not face up to the responsibility they need to take, or the effort they need to make. Breaks my heart.
    You are such an inspiration! Don’t ever stop.
    XXXReplyCancel

  • January 31, 2015 - 11:40 pm

    Jill - I tend to avoid tomatoes in winter as they usually don’t taste as good, but your info about the hot houses has convinced me to steer clear of them. I’m not totally convinced that the growing methods contribute to ill health when there are so many other factors, like over-eating, over-processing, unnecessary addition of fats & sugars, + lack of exercise etc. but I am totally on board with the need to farm in a way that doesn’t cause environmental damage.

    I’m sure tomatoes are not the only culprits when it comes to greenhouses & the use of fossil fuels, it shows we all really need to be more educated about what we eat and not just expect to eat stuff out of season all the time. Thanks for keeping the issues out there.ReplyCancel

  • February 1, 2015 - 11:41 am

    Robin Follette - We need the broken record to keep playing. This is still new news to too many people. Keep talking and writing. We’re still listening and paying attention and sharing our words.ReplyCancel

  • February 6, 2015 - 6:58 pm

    Suggested Internet Reading | naïve to cultured - […] Repeating like a broken record player (Whole Larder Love) – I love Rohan, the author of this blog. He’s honest and heartfelt and won’t stop shouting his message. “I know it’s a pain to hear, but the reality that we’re eating ourselves to poor health is putting pressure on our already struggling health system. The reality of our preference for packaged processed foods is continuing to have a detrimental impact on our natural world. These are things that should concern us. These are things that should make us angry, concerned, and actively participate in making change for ourselves, our families and our natural world.” […]ReplyCancel

It sounds a bit corny but I have been on this ‘journey’ for a number of years now. I’m not sure exactly where it started. When I look back, it seems like it was a combination of things that set me on my path. Sure I’d always grown a few vegetables in my backyard, but nothing really substantial. I think I only grew a few plants because the adult version of me was trying to hang on to nostalgic memories of the farm house vegetable garden of my childhood.

Veg and smoked bacon broth
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My lifestyle changes really stepped up a notch at a small inner city house that I renovated. It was a tiny backyard, mostly concrete. I hired a jack hammer and went mad. My flabby sick body wobbled as the hammer smashed through the thick concrete. My body was not in good shape, nether was my mind, and my ‘spirit’ or whatever you want to call that inner voice we have, he wasn’t very happy with me either.

I had a goal. For some reason I’d become fixated on converting that little backyard into an urban food bowl. I had romantic visions of walking out my back door, picking tomatoes from the vine and making a delicious breakfast. Which is a reality for me today. My dream has been achieved.

Like I mentioned, I’ve been on a journey. A corny journey. I had no idea where this little urban garden would lead to. I just knew that I wanted to do it. Like most gardens it grew, and not just in physical size. It grew so large that the boundaries of an urban fence could no longer contain it, so it moved inside of me. It’s taken over my way of thinking. It’s taken control of everything I do. It’s made me ask questions. It’s made my view of the world completely different. It’s made me reassess everything I believed in.

No one has all the answers to our world problems. I definitely don’t. I do however know that I am privileged in that I can make a choice of lifestyle that involves growing my food, hunting off the land and harvesting what nature provides. That’s definitely not the answer for everyone, especially city dwellers. What’s needed is a fundamental shift in western consumer habits and a cap on population growth. Two things I fear will never be addressed.

Today the Doomsday clock ticked over to three minutes to midnight. It won’t have any impact though. It will not change any of the decisions our leaders of government and industry will make. The machine of human progress and growth is just far too powerful. It has unstoppable momentum now. I used to think that us end consumers could make the change our world needed, but I feel more and more that the behaviorial shift for an individual is far too confronting and intimidating for many to accept, and therefore they remain intrenched in the conventional system, and the machine continues to churn. Depressing right?

But is there hope? I often speak to people that have become ‘enlightened’. People that have become aware of the impacts of western consumer culture, people that have learnt about the impacts of western food, lifestyle. People that have taken the time to become aware. When I speak to these people, when I share a meal or a conversation with them I feel some little glimmer of hope. The enthusiasm we share with each other is often a recharge we need. It’s draining to see so much around us that we know is not positive, that we know is detrimental for our health as humans and of this earth. We need to support each other, and to continue to share.

A new year has begun, new possibilities will present themselves. I want to share as many meals and conversations with people, to encourage and support, love and nurture.

Today when I sliced through sun warmed tomatoes from my garden, chopped basil and grilled jalapeño then drizzled home made red wine vinegar over it, I stood staring at that bowl of food. If only I could somehow share this with everyone. Share the experience of propagating the seed, raising the plant, watering, feeding then finally harvesting and cooking. Then enjoying all that effort, that sense of accomplishment, and the undeniable nutritional sustenance it provides. Would sharing that experience help open doors for an individual, to make the change our world needs? Is it just a matter of us sitting, eating and sharing conversation the starting point for hope?

We sure need action. We need more people to stop simply talking about it, instead we need to implement the change in our consumer habits. We need to walk the walk.

To share ideas and good conversation over some real food is definetely a good starting point.

I hope this year is a good one.

Peace.

Ro

 

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  • January 23, 2015 - 4:57 am

    Marty Jones - Amen to that Rohan! There is no option but to be ‘enlightened’, the alternatives will simply no longer exist.

    p.s.
    That Veg and smoked bacon broth looks delicious! What’s the recipe?ReplyCancel

  • January 23, 2015 - 7:28 am

    Justin - I reckon you’re right, Ro, that the machine has too much momentum, and nothing we try will stop it. I’ve been thinking about the sinking of the Titanic lately, and some of the stories attached to the night it went down. There’s the shuffling of the deck chairs etc, but the one I’m drawn to is the ship’s band. It kept playing even while the boat started to sink, lifting people’s spirits and creating something beautiful in the face of chaos. I’m convinced that this is where the hope is – creating beauty while most things around us go to hell.ReplyCancel

  • January 23, 2015 - 10:47 am

    Ashleigh Hays - So well said. I have the exact same feelings, only I feel young in my realisations so far. It’s funny how most people don’t like getting older. But I like it, I like getting wiser. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’d love to share a meal with you one day! ☺ReplyCancel

  • January 24, 2015 - 10:22 am

    Jessie - Justin, I like your analogy. I think though that, just like the Titanic, we are clinging to the fact that just as the Titanic was “unsinkable”, so too is our economy and our environment. Until we wake up and realise that not only is it sinkable but that it is indeed sinking and past the point of no return, people won’t make a change. Still, there are those of us who can see the writing on the wall so don’t despair Rohan.ReplyCancel

Guys, if you live in Melbourne and want to get a big box of organic veg, eggs, and free range pork and lamb you can. This is our third summer season now supplying Melbourne punters with real food and we’re excited the season is back!

So what’s in the box? Well the veg box is full of about 12-15kg of fresh picked organic veg with a little bit of fruit. The types of veg differ as the growing season progress, which will give you a true indication of whats really seasonal. The type of veg does change over the season but normally you will find, zucchini, tomato, cabbage, carrot, potato, corn, kale, chard, onion, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, chilli, pumpkin, daikon, parsnip, beetroot, basil. Later in the season some apples, pears, walnuts and chestnuts may appear depending on the harvest.

It’s no bullshit, real food. It’s mostly picked the day before delivery based on your paid order.
It’s a mixed selection of whats come from Rod’s farm.

The Eggs are from Daylesford organics, which we couldn’t get last year which disappointed a lot of people because they loved them. But they’re back!

The meat is from The Farmers Larder also in Daylesford, but this year they’ve got lambs for sale, so you can order either a lamb pack, pork pack or a mixed meat pack.

The system remains the same (see here)

You order and pay by each Thursday 9am cut off. (I will be strict this year ;-)) and we deliver on the Saturday.

We deliver at the times stated on the website, and you arrive between these times, and I’ll then pass you your food.

If you’re new to the system please read over the details for delivery to avoid not arriving and then being disappointed. Remember, if you don’t arrive you loose the box, and the payment, as we pick the veg based on your order. It’s a degradable commodity. Sorry guys.

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  • January 7, 2015 - 3:06 am

    maryanne mooney - Hi

    Do you deliver to daylesford?ReplyCancel

  • January 9, 2015 - 9:45 am

    Melissa - Hello! Question, what is brunswick gf ? Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • January 19, 2015 - 9:27 am

    Michelle - Such a great incentive. Wish I lived closer! Will forward on to Melbourne friends.

    You mention a 9am Thursday cutoff on this blog post, but it says 11 am on the vegie box page. Thought you should know.ReplyCancel