Yesterday Lauren and I drove up to the farm for the day to say hello and to grab some milk. We ended up bringing home nearly 7 Litres of raw milk straight from the dairy vat to make some dairy products. While we were there I had a quick look around for some timber offcuts so that I can soon make a basic cheese press for hard-cheese making. I also had another look at our old hand driven corn cobber that I might use to crack Pecan nuts. We have a great row of Pecans trees that dad planted years ago to shade the cows through summer and they have been bearing well for many seasons now. This season I am going to try and make some honey roasted pecans, maple syrup roasted pecans and maybe some pecan pies before the white cockatoos eat them all.
On the way home we dropped in to say hi to my grandmother who, at 90 years of age is still very sharp with her memory. We ended up having an interesting conversation about how they used to preserve all of their fruit for the year (mostly peaces, plums and citrus) either whole, halved or as a syrup for re-mixing with water to make refreshing summer drinks.
My grandfather apparently grew some amazing peach trees, with huge fruit that would ripen prior to the fruit fly season, which meant that Granny would peel and preserve peaches until she “felt like one”, as she put it. Its funny because when I was a kid I remember granny would often offer peaches and ice cream for desert, even after the days of canning had long gone. Growing food seemed to be very diverse in those days. Every household had a canning/preserving kit and would grow many different fruits and vegetables, and a variety of different animals. Long rows of peas were often grown down on the river flats and my ancestors would walk down on dusk with the children and pick peas with some of the other neighboring farmers. This would of course result in shelling peas “until you felt like one”. Some of this connectedness with our food has seemingly been lost, even to farmers, who grow things for a living. Maybe this is because it was done more out of necessity back then. Maybe it was done because you couldn’t buy as many items in the supermarket, whereas now you can. What ever the reason I think it needs to start shifting back the other way because relying on a single or a couple of bulk commodities leaves the farmer at the mercy of the market, whether driven by fluctuations in market demand or just greedy price givers determining how much profit they should make.
Another result of this loss in diversity may be the subsequent reduction in small farms due to the industrialization of food production. It no longer seems as viable for the small farm, whereas many years ago the small farm was the back-bone of a community (in our case). Since a de-regulated dairy production system was put in place in the year 2000 we now have 2 dairy farms along our road. In 1995 there were 14. Some may say this was necessary, however, it has had a profound effect on our dairy farming community, which now seems driven by economies of scale and a few large producers. This in itself leads to environmental and animal welfare issues, where maximum production is a primary goal for many diary farms. This is not because the farmer is greedy or wants to push animals to the limit but rather the demand by price givers and a growing population wanting milk year round and lots of it. We have forgotten to eat seasonally. Cows produce less milk during winter, fruits and vegetables grow in the seasons they are suited to, chickens lay fewer and smaller eggs during winter and somehow we feel the need to alter this for the purpose of everyone wanting all foods year round. I think the growing popularity of farmers markets here in Australia will see more and more seasonal produce offered to consumers and there is a real connection and education with growers and consumers alike. Change is happening.