This kind of eating, where location and seasons dictate much of your diet, isn’t trying to be exclusive. Those on low incomes can do it. It’s possible to do some things while living in a flat. We have space, decent rainfall, some good soil, and fenced in areas to keep the animals out (and sometimes keep them in), so we grow more than most. Including our own meat, but that’s not the point. The point is, if you know where your produce comes from, if you know the grower, there’s an inherent trust involved. And that trust works both ways. Growers expect you to buy the produce, not to waste it, and to pay a fair price. And you can expect that they will do the best to produce nutritious, quality food sold at its peak, because they know you, and look you in the eye.
It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than the anonymous way, with food grown to be sold, not eaten. We call it the Commercial Tomato Principle, because it comes from an old joke. Two farmers are chatting over the fence. The young one asks the older one, because she’s seen the fella growing tomatoes over the years and wants to get into it too, what kind of tomatoes she should plant this year. 'Do you want to sell them," says the old cocky. 'Or eat them?"
That’s the reality of farming. Will it grow quickly? Can it be trucked a long way? Will it sit in cold storage for a long time? Will it look good under supermarket lights? These are the questions that farmers often ponder. Not 'Will it taste great, be full of micronutrients, and be sold at its freshest and most glorious?"
Eating locally has a social, environmental and health impact. It keeps locals employed. It creates stronger communities (ever seen the crowds and heard the chatter at the coffee stalls at most farmers' markets?). The food hasn’t travelled too far, which is better for the food, for the person who eats the food, and for the environment because of the oil involved in trucking food thousands of kilometres. And because of the short distance from paddock to mouth, food can be picked riper, eaten sooner, and contain more of its inherent quality, i.e. nutrition, than food stored for months or sent around the country.
In Tassie, to eat locally, to be a Locavore, as they’re sometimes known, is to eat from within the boundaries of the state (see Tassievore Eat Local Challenge). So pineapples aren’t often on the menu (though they can be grown here, as can bananas). But our beef is all hormone free. Our lamb is second to none. Our slow-ripened fruits are a knockout, the carrots and spuds and onions and garlic sublime. Tasmanian dairy is the envy of much of the world. If you write coconuts out of your diet, then you can buy most other things locally. You don’t have to have a very Anglo diet, either. Friends at Eatem Organics grow kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and the like in a massive greenhouse. My neighbour Terry produces chillies that are full of flavour as well as heat. The Hmong growers at Salamanca have the most amazing coriander. A vineyard down the road has an orange tree outside (though the fruit take a bit of ripening off the tree). There’s green tea grown on the island. I even got some pine nuts from Tara’s Farmstay the other side of Hobart, and you can get basil, capsicums and more from further afield.
It’s worth trying to eat just local, even if it’s only for a bit, just to see the enormous variety of food that can come from nearby. You can still have a few things from outside the area, like tea, coffee, chocolate and spices. But the substance is all supposed to come from as close to home as possible.
The best time here in Tasmania is summer. When the fruit is ripening. When the punnets of raspberries are heavy with juice. When peaches should be eaten over the bath, and crayfish are in season. And gooseberries, too. And peas. And nectarines. And apricots. And more.