When I was in Primary School, I remember–in what was then called ‘Social Studies’—hearing how one day we would be eating grapes from France, oranges from California, bananas from Indonesia and beans from South America.
I recall thinking to myself, ‘That’s silly. We grow all these things here. Why would I want to buy them from overseas?’
In that era, we would travel into the city once a week to the markets and buy all our fruit and vegetables, then go to the local butcher for our meat, the bakery for our bread, and the dairy in the hills for our milk.
Today I can walk into any supermarket and see Californian lemons, Peruvian asparagus and green beans, Thai rice and coconuts and Mexican pineapple. In addition to this, we have Italian tomatoes in tins, Polish pickles in jars, and all sorts of spice mixes and pastes from India, China and Vietnam.
And it’s all so conveniently located in one place: the supermarket.
The days of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker are long gone.
No matter how I try, I can’t seem to divorce the idea of buying locally grown produce and locally made merchandise as part of the minimalist lifestyle. One of the main tenets of Minimalism is to reduce use and waste. It seems to me that buying a tin of Italian tomatoes must include in the cost the carbon price of the ship that transported it the 15,000 or so kilometres to my table and the purchase of a bottle of juice must take into account the fact that the concentrate from which it is made originated in Brazil. A price has been paid to use that product and often the price is the loss of our farmers’ livelihood and land.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a Globalist. I am all for trade. The idea of trade, however, is to give something others cannot get in their country for something they have that we can’t produce in ours. The idea of bulldozing thousands of hectares of fruit orchards in the South Australian Riverland into the ground and then buying our citrus from America and peaches from Europe astounds me!
I’m glad that Australian legislation now requires all fresh produce to be labelled with its nation of origin. I pay attention to this. Better still, shopping at farmer’s markets gives us access to fruit, vegetables, flowers, eggs, herbs, and meat that has been produced within a short drive from where we live. We support those who are part of our community and, at the same time, contribute to our own local economy. No waste of fuel. No needless pollution of our skies. No unused crops dug into the dirt. No farmers needing to sell their farm because they can’t seem to make ends meet.
We still enjoy foreign-made food occasionally, but whatever we can buy local, we buy local and support one another. That’s what the core of minimalist living is all about.