the nature strip


Doing mighty things: the youth of today
July 29, 2013, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Eco, Food, Garden, General thoughts

Jo Baker, founder of Youth Food Movement

Meet Jo Baker. She is the co-founder of the Youth Food Movement (YFM) and is passionate about food security, Australian produce and giving farmers a fair go. Jo recently returned from a four month trip overseas where she met and learnt from those who are really challenging the status quo around food production in their communities. We asked Jo a bit more about YFM and what it means for us all.

What are some scary facts about food production in Australia?
Many things scare me about the insecurity of our food system such as the amount we waste, the amount of obesity and growing chronic disease prevalence (particularly that which is coming to fruition amongst the younger generations), the development and mining of our precious agricultural land and the short-sightedness of our government and their policies.

But I think the scariest fact about food production in Australia is that the average age of the Australian farmer is 54 years old; because young people are simply not choosing farming as a career anymore. If we don’t do something to entice young people into agriculture and/or lower the barriers to entering farming as a profession, who is going to feed us in the next 10 or 20 years?

Country Valley Dairy

What is the Youth Food Movement?
YFM is building a new generation of young Australians who have the capacity and motivation to support and demand a healthy and secure food system by being more considered with food choices and sharing the stories behind food via unique, engaging and thought provoking events, campaigns and experiences.

We have received a huge response from young people across Australia – we now have almost 6,000 in our community and we are just about to grow across the country to become a national movement.

Food for Change - YFM

Tell us more about YFM’s unique sustainable food events.
Some of our events to spread the word have included: Reel Food Night, a pedal powered pop up cinema in a food warehouse in inner Sydney; the Ride-On Lunch, a moveable feast to connect young people to local food champions; The Guerilla Dinner to bring together young people and decision makers surrounding issues and potential solutions to issues within the current food system (watch the YFM Crew mushroom foraging for the Guerrilla Dinner here); and Passata Day  where, this year we turned over 600kg of end of season tomatoes into 600 litres of passata to be enjoyed for the year ahead.

Passata Day

On our horizon is the Deliciously Imperfect Soup Disco (we have just received a sizable grant from the Love Food Hate Waste program) where will be raising important awareness about the ridiculousness of our obsessions with perfect looking produce and the flow on effects to farmers (and the waste generated) amongst young people. The online campaign will encourage young people to find their craziest looking fruit and vegies and then to share their photos and experiences in cooking/eating it. The event will then culminate in a Soup Disco which will see us turn 100s (if not 1000s) of kilos of farm waste into delicious soup for all to enjoy (whilst having a big party!)

What are three simple things that we can do for sustainable food production and consumption? 

  1. Get to know your food better and what/who your food choices are supporting. YFM is becoming a growing place where you can find out more (both online and at our events).
  2. Buy Australian produce whenever you can so that we are all supporting our amazing Aussie farmers, who produce some of the best food in the world. And where you can, get to know your local farmer. If you are in Sydney, there are a number (albeit a dwindling number) of farmers in the local Sydney Basin who are keen to sell their produce directly to us ‘eaters’ via farm gate sales, farmers markets and community food co-ops.
  3. Ask your parents or grandparents to teach you some of the food/cooking/preserving skills they grew up with. It is the generations before us who can teach us these very important skills, and it would be my guess that many of them would be keen to share if you asked!

Mulloon Creek

What excites you most about what you are doing?
In order to create a food system that is healthy and secure there needs to be a complete paradigm shift in the motivations which underpin the ways in which food is grown, produced and distributed. We currently operate under a system that is driven primarily by the motivations of cost and convenience. Imagine what the system would like if the well-being of the community, our environment and our producers was at the heart of all decisions we made surrounding the development of our food system! It would look very different… and what excites me most, is that I see that young people are going to be the ones to foster this shift amongst our generation and beyond.

Canapes-4

It is important that younger generations are empowered and motivated to take ownership of our food future. One day our parents and peers will ask us to feed the country responsibly, and to do this we need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge, and we need to be included right now in conversations, activities and choices being made about food, so we have the best shot at providing our communities with what they need in the future.

How can we get involved?
There are many ways to get involved – join the YFM mailing list to know more about YFM and our upcoming events. YFM sprouts are soon to be popping up all over Oz too, so hopefully there will be one in your community soon… or if you want to start one, be sure to get in touch!

Jo is a mover and a shaker with an irrepressible energy and passion for YFM, a movement that is a crucial one. Find out more at http://www.youthfoodmovement.org.au/

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Where our food comes from: cattle farm
July 9, 2013, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Food, General thoughts

As a conscious consumer, I want to learn more about where our food comes from. So recently I spent a few wintery days on a cattle farm – it was part holiday and part research project.

cattle farm

To make ethical and sustainable choices, we need to know where our food comes from and how it is produced. We should support farmers who are doing it right, for the sake of ourselves and the planet.

The cattle farm we ventured to is set in the Kangaroo Valley, a plenitude of lush rolling hills and a blanket of earthiness. We stayed in a cottage surrounded by acres of grazing land for Angus Beef. It felt hypocritical being a vegetarian but I don’t want to cloud myself in ignorance.

cattle farm

It was calving season when we were there – the cows above were getting assessed for their delivery date. A mother had given birth to twins. One of the twins was being rejected. I wanted to dash in to the yard, curl up the calf in my arms, let it sleep in my bed, tell it that the world isn’t always such a horrible place. But the calf didn’t want me – it wanted its mother.

The next day the calf was dead. That’s the way nature is.

I thought I was a ‘toughy’ – I was trying to be pragmatic by telling myself that it is just the circle of life. All creatures live and die. And it’s true, they do. But this calf had such an awful experience for its short life; it was unloved, it was hungry, it was cold. Some tears did spill.

cattle farm

Despite this sad incident, the cattle on the farm, from what I could tell, were well cared for. They were grass fed and the calves got to stay with their mother. Who knows what happens at the abattoir though.

Cattle farm

The farmers, both female and I would guess in their 60s, were committed, passionate, and hard working. Most of the meat goes to Asian buyers, primarily Japan and South Korea. Holland too. Australia gets the scraps.

pines pastoral

Being on a small scale farm feels like you are alive 100 years ago. There is no bullsh*t, no factory farming – it’s just you, and the land, and the seasons, and fresh air. And you feel better for it.

fire wood

farm

20130705_100736

You can find out more at The Pines Pastoral.



Chocolate torte – a healthy version
June 13, 2013, 9:58 am
Filed under: Food

Dark chocolate. Oh I love it. But a bit too much. I started with having two squares a day, this then upped to four. A few weeks ago it was seven squares, then I gave up buying it for a week to prove I wasn’t addicted.

One way to get a healthy choccie fix – but without the sugar or the dairy – is this homemade Chocolate Torte. Based on a recipe I saw in a newspaper many moons ago, I have been perfecting it over the last year to get it just right. And that’s the beauty with this recipe, you can change it slightly or add extra things to vary the scrumptiousness.

chocolate torte

I recently made it for some good friends. My sister is also a big fan. And yes it has avocado in it, lots of it. But you wouldn’t know – except for the green speckles through it.

Ingredients – I play around with the amounts so use the below as a general guide:

The base

  • Blend 1 ½ cups of almonds or macadamia nuts (or both) with some desiccated coconut.
  • Then add coconut oil (or butter) into the mix and kneed with your fingers until the oil is rubbed in – this will make the base stick together better.
  • Pat firmly in to a round serving dish

chocolate torte

The mousse part

Mix all of the following in a bowl:

  • 3 avocados
  • finely chopped dates,
  • 3 tablespoons of cacao powder
  • Blueberries
  • a teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • ½ block of dark chocolate (melted)
  • ¼ cup of maple syrup
  • You can also add ½ packet of silken tofu to this recipe (this version I didn’t)

chocolate torte

The finale

Add the chocolate mix to the top of the nut base. Sprinkle with some chopped dates for decoration. Another option is to decorate the torte with banana or strawberries.

Put in the fridge to set.

Once ready,  serve with a bit of love and sweetness.

chocolate torte



Sauteed tempeh with fig salad
June 4, 2013, 12:12 pm
Filed under: Food

tempeh and fig salad

Lunch, my most uninspired meal of the day. As a mum I need something quick, filling and easy to prepare. I don’t eat a lot of bread so a simple sandwich doesn’t often cut it. And with winter teasing us with its presence, salads don’t seem appropriate.

But with the mercury still hitting above 20 I thought I could sneak in some sautéed tempeh with a fig salad before soups become the meal of the day.

The figs I picked up direct from a local farm – my friend is living on a small organic farm out in Dural and we went to visit – we clucked at the chickens, marvelled at the eggplant and thought about how we need to get out of the city more.

The fig salad consisted of figs (obviously!), cucumber, grated beetroot, lettuce and kale.

The tempeh was sautéed in garlic and soy sauce. It was a tasty combo.

Maybe lunch can be exciting after all.

 



Kids apple & spinach smoothie with quinoa & avo
May 30, 2013, 4:35 pm
Filed under: Babies, Food

Apple & spinach smoothie with quinoa and avocado

My toddler is starting to become a fuss pot. I spend a lot of time preparing fresh, organic food only to find it thrown on the floor, rejected, or spat from his mouth. The waste makes my heart sink.

Greens are especially becoming the “I’m not going to eat them mummy no matter how hard you try to make me to!” food. But I’ve had a brain wave – smoothie them!

Today’s lunch was a roaring success. Even though his facial expression said: “I’ve been tricked”

  • Apple and spinach smoothie – vitamin and mineral fix plus a good combo of vitamin c and iron for better absorption.
  • Avocado and quinoa – essential fats and amino acids.
  • Vegetable tofu which he loves – great protein, great calcium

green smoothie aftermath



I’m a vegetarian and I ate lamb
May 27, 2013, 11:44 am
Filed under: Food, General thoughts

I have been a vegetarian for 20 years and haven’t eaten any dairy for five. The other day I ate a piece of lamb. And then I cried.

lamb

After some suspicious blood tests I panicked and decided to contemplate incorporating meat back in to my diet. Hence the piece of lamb. I didn’t take this decision lightly, and in fact I feel quite traumatised from it. It’s hard to put all of your beliefs and what is such an important part of you aside.

But I did it. And I don’t think I will do it again. The lamb was organic and it actually tasted quite nice, but I couldn’t get past the fact that this animal went through trauma and stress to sit on my plate. I couldn’t put out of my head the blood running like a river in the pan.

But I do understand that people eat it – and that’s ok. I am actually about to start reading a book called The Vegetarian Myth which looks at whether eating meat is healthier and better for the planet than a vegetarian one. It should be an interesting read. I have also been investigating the link between consumption of meat and high bowel cancer rates.  Meat sounds pretty toxic to me.

Another interesting point I read lately is that by shunning meat, you are turning your back on promoting and supporting ethically produced meat. Is this a valid point?  I think we all have a responsibility of looking at where our food comes from and how it is produced, especially when it comes to factory farming.

So, I am now back to my green, veggie eating ways and I’m happier for it. And so are the animals.



Toddler rainbow food
May 22, 2013, 11:26 am
Filed under: Babies, Food

It’s important – and stressful – making sure your baby is getting the right food and the right nutrients. I am forever fussing about a balanced diet – is he getting enough iron? What about calcium? Is there zinc in this?

This probably stems from my own concerns for my health and commitment to consuming a nutrient dense diet.

I am guilty of offering my toddler mashed up gloop for way too long – sure it was healthy but there is only so many times you can offer a toddler mashed up veggies and what about the essential fats and protein?

So recently I have been creating rainbow plates of food for him to enjoy that ensures a wide variety of vitamins and minerals with the added bonus of encouraging his dexterity and motor skills.

Plate 1:

tofu, veggies and blueberries

  • Sauteed vegetables of pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini and broccoli in coconut oil.
  • Marinated vegetable tofu
  • Dice tomatoes
  • Blueberries

My son ate the plate as follows: tofu first, then on to blueberries, with a bite of pumpkin in between, the greens, a nibble of tomato only to discover tomatoes are much more fun being thrown on the floor.

Plate 2:

Toddler rainbow food - tofu and veggies

  • Boiled buckwheat (excellent protein source) mixed with avocado
  • Sauteed potato, grated coconut, broccoli  and zucchini
  • Stewed apple

The plate was left bare. His face wasn’t.

face covered in food