Thoughts on food and sustainability

Food and sustainability – a few thoughts

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about food and sustainability. And I have talked to many amazing people who are making a difference in this space. Some are adopting regenerative farming practices. Others are developing plant-based meat alternatives or are connecting communities to fight food waste.

But the more I learn, the more complicated it all seems. Here are a couple of problems I have been mulling over.

1. Lack of connection with the origin of our food

In the little bubble that I inhabit, it seems like we’re making incredible progress in terms of people making more informed choices about the provenance of their food.

Many people I know are very aware of the issues surrounding food and sustainability. They aim to buy produce that has been grown responsibly. Many are eating less meat, but of much higher quality. And some have given it up altogether.

But I am under no illusion that I am mostly surrounded by people who are very similar to me.

Ideas

Cows and carbon: could sustainable beef farming help solve the climate crisis?

In our current debate on the impact of our eating habits on the planet, beef is getting a pretty bad rap. 

From the water required to raise livestock, the land degradation and biodiversity loss caused by overgrazing and deforestation to the direct emissions from the sector and chemical pollution from fertilisers. The list of environmental impacts caused by some farmers in the beef and livestock industry is long. 

But to Tasmanian farmers Sam and Steph Trethewey the cows are not really the issue. To them, and a growing number of regenerative agriculturalists, the problems we have come to associate with meat consumption are the result of industrial agricultural practices, not the meat and dairy producing animals themselves. 

Or as Steph puts it: “It’s not about the cow, but the how.”

Regenerative farmers Sam and Steph Trethewey
Regenerative farmers Sam and Steph Trethewey.

In 2019, Sam and Steph gave up their corporate careers in Melbourne and bought some land near Deloraine in Central North Tasmania to found the Tasmanian Agricultural Company (Tas Ag Co). The pair is now on a mission to prove that it’s not only possible to farm beef sustainably, but also to make beef farming part of the solution to fight the climate crisis.

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Australian farm

From tree changers to regenerative farming trailblazers

Murray Prior and his wife Michelle had been thinking about a tree change for a long time before they finally took the leap and bought a farm. “Inner City Sydney seemed like a very intense place to raise children. And as our two kids got older, it was time to make a decision,” says Murray who purchased a 220 acres property near Gundaroo in the Southern Tablelands of NSW just over 18 months ago.

The mixed-grazing plot ticked a lot of boxes. It had access to a river and the relatively short distance to Sydney made it possible for Murray to continue to work as International Marketing Director at a law firm four days per week before returning to his family and farm life over the weekend. 

Murray Prior regenerative farmer in the Southern tablelands of NSW
From tree changers to regenerative farmers: The Prior Family. Image credit: Murray Prior .

But the change in surroundings brought about much more than just a lifestyle change for the Priors. Murray and Michelle are now right in the middle of turning their property into a model for regenerative farming practices. 

Of mentors and newly minted farmers

It’s a transformation that was set in motion by a colleague’s book recommendation. Call of the Reed Warbler is an urgent call to move to less intensive agricultural practices. The author of the book is 5th generation Australian farmer, Charles Massy. His book is a powerful mix of personal memoir and scientific evidence. 

“Reading Charlie’s book changed our lives,” remembers Murray. “His story changed our perspective on the enormity of what we had just done. We started to think about our responsibility as custodians of the land we now owned.”

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