ABC Landline: The Canary in the Coalmine
'Eco Premium: Regenerative agriculture pays off for primary producers'
Click here to watch the Landline story screened on 27 October 2019.
We worked with Sean Murphy at ABC Landline on this story featuring regeneratively-managed farms Moorlands Lamb and Extraordinary Pork and chefs Danielle Alvarez.
Amid the dysfunctional and unsustainable intensive livestock industry, there are a growing number of inspiring farmers who are taking the long view, farming compassionately for the future and producing the most amazing food in the process. At the same time, we see a growing number of consumers who are no longer prepared to be infantilised and disempowered and who are choosing to inform themselves and support these regenerative producers.
Seeing the commitment of both our customers and the producers we represent revitalises our faith that together we can fix the food system. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or omnivore, don't stop demanding accountability and asking questions about how your food is produced!
The canary in the coalmine
Vince Heffernan from Moorlands farm says that farmers are the canaries in the coal mine. When farmers start to walk away, you know the whole place is on the verge of caving in and it's time to come up with a different plan.
As farms fail and rivers evaporate and fires rage and African Swine Flu cuts a deadly swathe across the world, there's a veritable cacophony of shrieking canaries and it seems that now would be a good time for whoever's in charge to scrabble around in the safe and dust off Plan B. In the meantime, the rest of us are feeling increasingly overwhelmed and ineffectual. It's not that we don't know what needs to be done to address the problem. It's the fact that fixing it is going to take everyone working together and it's not at all clear where the will to make that happen is going to come from.
With a narcissistic, pussy-grabbing lunatic in charge of the asylum in the most powerful democratic country in the world and a lot of shuffling and eye-averting happening everywhere else, it's unlikely that a coherent response to the problem will come from our dominant political decision-makers. A coherence that is impossible until it's acknowledged that food, water, population, energy etc etc are all inextricably linked and require a holistic, comprehensive approach.
Which means it's up to us, the millions of individuals who worry that our tiny little actions are far too infinitesimal to possibly have any kind of genuine impact. But if we all decide to change together and everyone starts doing something, then surely the collective impact of all those tiny actions will amount to something? Given that whoever's in charge seems to have lost the keys to the safe containing Plan B, I don't see that we have much choice. It's up to us to take matters into our own hands (and keep pressuring our legislators who surely must be starting to feel the heat - pun intended).
Which is why we take such great inspiration from the regenerative farmers whose produce we welcome into the butchery every week.
In the face of entrenched complacency and significant adversity, they offer wonderful examples of how individuals can respond creatively to challenges and achieve remarkable, tangible improvements with far-reaching beneficial consequences for all the creatures living on and beyond their farms. They are adaptable and flexible and tough. They build capacity, foster resourcefulness and chip resolutely away, every day, at the project of building a better world. They are often lone voices in their communities, dismissed by their doubting peers as misguided greenies, but they push on regardless, convinced that the proper response to the abundant evidence that traditional management practices are redundant is to change course and adopt a more eco-centric approach. If they can do it, then surely we can too?
Earlier this year we started talking to Sean Murphy at ABC Landline about the connection between premium produce and regenerative agriculture, about the farmers we know with a fierce commitment to ecosystem restoration and the concerned consumers we meet who are looking for food with the most benign environmental and ethical impact. We're very proud to play a part in helping to bring these two groups together and we're aware that we're also very lucky to work with the best of both worlds. So we were unstoppable when it came to flooding poor Sean with suggestions for fascinating people to interview. As it turned out, there was only room in this particular 10 minute story for two farms - Extraordinary Pork and Moorlands - and one customer, Danielle Alvarez, head chef at Fred's in Paddington.
So on Sunday 27 October, we were very proud to watch Michael and Alex Hicks and Vince Heffernan show Sean their farms and explain their regenerative philosophy and practice to viewers all over Australia. Danielle played a supporting role, talking about why she chooses to work with sustainably-raised produce and the opportunities it offers to open up the conversation with her customers about where their food comes from.
But we don't think that this story is just about farmers and chefs.
It's also about the 'ordinary' customers who choose to inform themselves and spend their money on produce from regenerative farms, thereby directly investing in creating the capacity that benefits all of us. So, really, at the risk of going all Ron Howard-Hollywood on you (cue the swelling orchestral sound track), it's about the community of growers and consumers who come together with a shared sense of purpose and a realisation that the change starts here, now, with each of us.