I’VE been asked how we shift the negative attitude on agriculture in Australia to a more productive, positive and proud one.
It’s not the responsibility of national and state industry bodies and needs to come from both ends of the ag spectrum, so what can we do locally?
One great suggestion is to push for locally-sourced food at local restaurants or pubs. What are some others? Let's all contribute - leave a comment at the bottom of this article and share some productive ideas on how we can improve the brand of agriculture by starting here, a level we can all influence.
As far as local produce on menus goes, most people love eating local food. Farmers are proud to see their produce on the menu and I don’t know any chef who doesn’t like cooking with fresh, seasonal produce.
Ironically, the man who said “be the change you want to see” lived in a self-sufficient community: Gandhi. Perhaps we need to instigate the changes we want to see. If you’re unsure, just have a good think about the pub food across Australia.
I reckon instructions for a chicken Parma might go like this: bake the crumbed schnitzel until edges dry out, douse in pureed tomato, slap ham on, then conceal the ham by crumbling the clotted chunk of pre-grated cheese from bag and whack under grill. Next, microwave frozen veggies then chuck the lot on a plate, rummage for some pre-cooked chips under the heat lamps, and if feeling creative, flick a sprig of parsley on top.
And for dessert, just think of that scene in the iconic Aussie movie The Castle.
“Whaddya call this darl?” Darryl Kerrigan asks his wife Sal.
“Ice-cream,” Sal answers.
“But it’s what ya done with it!?” Darryl exclaims.
“Scooped it out of the punnet!”
It’s not only me lacking that Kerrigan-esque enthusiasm when being dished up something similar to Sal’s culinary creations. From my jackerooing days to now, most of the pubs I’ve spent a good deal of time (and money) in would have great lamb, beef, pork or veggie producers that call it their local - yet the pub food isn’t.
Do pub owners and chefs never think to ask? Or do farmers not bother approaching, hiding behind the front gate or distribution channels? Sounds like an opportunity to me.
The standard of food in regional Australia can sometimes be appalling, and yet we’re one of the most abundant, well-fed nations in the world.
We’ll complain when the occasional Big Mac isn’t fresh, selectively choose Australian-made products at the supermarket and all love eating fresh food.
But come back to the pub for lunch and you could be met with tasteless white bread slathered with margarine, broiled gristly beef roast with thawed cooked greens, congealed cauliflower and cheese and a dismal scattering of soggy veggies. But we don’t do anything about it.
However, there are some great restaurants and pubs in every state that use as much local produce as they can - and they’re no more expensive than others. Providing the chef gets it right, they serve fantastic, simple, tasty meals that leave the locals bursting with pride.
The local farmers love the support and recognition and the restaurant owner makes a dollar - but the best thing that money can’t buy is the positive, proud attitude in the local community. It binds, builds and beats the drum of their district.
But that's just one concept - what’s your idea?
Sam Trethewey is a third generation farmer from Tasmania, now based in Victoria. Sam's message is 'think clearly, get muddy': inviting everyone to be clearer in and on farming by rolling up their sleeves, learning and taking action.