All this talk of community gardens, locavores and provenance has got us wondering whether the radical agricultural and social policies of Pol Pot - forcing the bourgeoisie to work the farm - might have had more popular support had they been enacted in modern day Brunswick, Williamsburg or Paddington. We’re joking of course. The answer is most probably not. Bringing the table to the farm has less metropolitan allure than bringing the farm to the table.
A group of young Sydney entrepreneurs are currently working on doing just this with the construction of the first urban rooftop farm in Australia. Green up Top are all about making good of unused space, reducing food miles and producing sustainable organic food. And they’re certainly not alone in their quest.
Cornersmith is a café in Sydney’s inner city with a similar raison d'être. Most of the food served at Cornersmith is made from scratch on site or by the team/family of staff. As well as featuring the incredible range of locally sourced masterpieces the blackboard celebrates locals who grow and supply ingredients (which are often exchanged for food). With jars of home made pickles, jellies, cordials and jams filling up most flat surfaces, it doesn’t get much more ‘back to basics’ than this. For Green Up Top, Cornersmith and the growing back to basics movement food isn’t just food - it’s art, nostalgia, morality, goodness, and a celebration of community.
As is often the case, the clever satirists of Portlandia articulated and skewered (pardon the pun) the farm to table trend while we were busy stuffing our faces with house-made ricotta and quince on Brickfields sourdough.
This heightened epicuriosity and its obsession with local produce is mainly driven by a handful of key factors:
- Heightened food awareness due to a number of recent controversial events (horsemeat scares, abattoir cruelty, botulism-casing infant formula, and so on)
- A desire for greater transparency and some degree of control over the food that lands on our plate and the process it has been through (organic, chemical-free, etc)
- Prime time television programs romanticizing the notion of ‘back to basics’ food experiences and ‘from scratch’ food preparation
- High disposable income and a willingness to pay for ‘good’, tasty and nourishing food – there’s not a lot of this sort of behaviour going on in our less salubrious neighborhoods
- ‘Little guy’ advocacy in the face of the increasing agricultural and financial dominance of large grocery chains
- The desire to reduce our food footprint and eat local (hey, it’s fresher)
- The growing number of food related allergies and the desire to control for this
- The feeling that we are part of something real, authentic, bigger than ourselves and communal (we have talked about this before in previous blogs – an enduring cultural theme or need)
This list probably goes on and certainly each of the above is worth a blog entry in itself – stay tuned on that. But we may be missing the simplest explanation of all. Food that is thoughtfully farmed is usually thoughtfully prepared and more often than not, just tastes (and feels) better.