Sunday 24 July 2011

Stupermarket Break Out!

In the third of our occasional Sunday cross-posts Rachel Lalchan, editor of the Ecomonkey blog and one of the organisers of the Magdalen Streeet Celebration, reports on her recent withdrawal from buying stuff at supermarkets.

It's been over 13 months since we shopped in a large, intense, brightly lit, empire of grocery consumerism and I'm happy to report that life sans supermarket is not only viable but quite wonderful! With no intention of going back, I hope you will consider quitting too!

The thing about supermarkets is that there's really nothing super about them. Ripping off farmers and producers both here and abroad, selling cheap products at huge cost to suppliers, tricking us into buying far more than we need, producing tonnes of unrecyclable waste, filling our landfills, upping CO2 emissions, encouraging detrimental consumer habits, grabbing land from local ownership, promoting unhealthy over-processed crud disguised as 'food', destroying local communities and values as well as our own farming industry, I mean really, what's super about any of that?!

To ensure that farming can continue in the UK as part of our sustainable present and future and that we can feed ourselves instead of relying on other countries for our nutrition, we need to stop supporting supermarket shopping. It has proved to be an unhealthy, unsustainable and unethical method of putting food on our tables.

So, what can we do? Firstly, we would do well to ignore the outrageous lies that supermarkets and their affiliated corporations put out about alternative shopping and feeding methods being more expensive, too time consuming or just not practical for such busy people like us (funny how we're so often told how terribly busy we are by people who want us to buy their unnecessary convenience items).

There are many options to supermarket slavery and whilst they make take a little time and effort to put into action, as change of habits always do, they are possible. And affordable. Improved health, real community interaction and support, increased awareness of what we consume at little or no extra financial cost. All these benefits are possible. And you truly are worth it!

Secondly, research your options - box schemes, farmers markets, local shops, direct from farms, generous friends with gardens, landshare and allotment produce swaps, growing your own or preferably, a combination of all these. Some box schemes, for example, are cheaper than others, some offer standard seasonal fare whilst others provide more of a choice including fruit and other food and non-food items. Take time to find the option that best suits your lifestyle, pocket and family needs.

If home grown produce sounds a tad scary, start small with a tomato plant, 'cut and come again' lettuce and some herbs on a windowsill. There is heaps of growing advice online, in libraries as well as within community projects. Keep persevering even if crops don't work out the way you expect. Once the basics have been mastered and you've been enchanted by the magic of growing food you will feel able to turn that unused lawn into a veg patch, a tiny courtyard into a vertical feast machine, find a local allotment or join a landshare project.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, enjoy the lifestyle changes and don't give up. Once you get used to ordering fruit and veg online, make popping to the farm or market at the weekend a sociable habit, spend invaluable time on the allotment or garden, experience the joy of picking your own raspberries, lettuce leaves etc you'll wonder why you spent so long traipsing zombie-like through aisle after aisle of processed stuff you didn't need, pushing trollies full of items just because they were 'on special', coming home with reams of plastic bags, unrecyclable packaging, and that familiar feeling of emptiness that constant consumerism brings.

There are alternatives to the stupermarket madness and we need to take advantage of them now, before our ability to feed ourselves, both as a nation and as individuals, disappears. Once you walk out of the supermarket for the last time, I can promise you won't look back and your life will feel much better for it.

Rachel Lalchan shoppers reach for that quintessential summer treat, they should perhaps ponder the fact that it is the farmer, not the supermarket, who is paying for the generous discount.

The farmer may well be making no profit at all, with no choice in the pricing and little or no idea, when he picked and shipped the raspberries, how much he would get for them. Or that the packaging would be paid for by the farm, but done by a company chosen by the supermarket – at up to twice the cost of it being packaged independently.

Farmers do not talk about these things. Many of them, during a month-long investigation, told
The Observer that in the midst of the downturn they dare not risk annoying the big processors and shops. There is a "climate of fear" – the National Farmers Union's phrase – in the monopolistic world of modern food retail: small producers are too frightened to speak out about the abuses that are impoverishing them because they risk "reprisals", which may mean losing the only customers there are. Very few felt able to speak to us on the record...

Alex Renton, Guardian, 2 July 2011

Read full article here
Radish Lettuce Bed; Riverford veg box; first harvest (copyright: Racheblue@bAd) Riverford Veg Box (Riverford Farm)

Original article published on Ecomonkey

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