Accentuate the positive

The standard of food in regional Australia can sometimes be appalling...

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.

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    Sam Trethewey

    Sam Trethewey

    grew up farming down south and now commentates on agriculture across Australia
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    READER COMMENTS

    Woof Blitz
    30/07/2013 7:24:57 AM

    It's not just regional Australia, the fare on offer in the urban and suburban areas isn't much better. There are small, concentrated zones of good food, which are expensive and so border on the elite. Outside these areas, there is little to choose from of quality; the options are dominated by fast food. It's one of the reasons so many Australians have become obese. I live in an area which should bristle with good tempting, healthy choices, but the reality is I'm virtually living in a culinary void. Perhaps Australians just don't demand enough, so we get little more than mediocrity.
    qlander
    30/07/2013 8:40:59 AM

    Niche production and marketing is fine if you’re in a position to do it, but only a small percentage can – otherwise it’s not niche. I could supply the entire population of my local town with all the beef they could eat (only about 10% of my total production) – However if I tried it I would be fined into bankruptcy. Fact is - The vast majority of Australian farms produce bulk commodities for mass world consumption. Woof Blitz;Has nailed the main problem he wants top class food … but he doesn’t want to pay for it.
    Cocky
    30/07/2013 10:23:23 AM

    Maybe we could cut production by 80% and let the market come to us? That might help shed the ideal that us farmers are running a charity to supply cheap food to all. As qlander said it all sounds great but we export two thirds of what we produce, over supply of below cost of production produce is our biggest dilemma, not farmings image that can be fixed with profitability.
    Gottazip
    30/07/2013 11:49:17 AM

    My local pub has had the exact same menu for the last 12years,it all comes out of the freezer and god knows the country of origin.They would have to pay me eat the slop,and the sound of pokies in the back ground its just beautiful.
    ecnerwal
    30/07/2013 11:55:18 AM

    Nice thoughts Sam but a bit light weight for real change in agricultural survival.
    Love the country
    30/07/2013 6:09:08 PM

    How do you switch farmers from neg to pos, it's not rocket science. Pay them the money they deserve,it's that simple. Everyone's making money except the farmer. Everyone is farming the farmer, with great results, wheat goes out of our town at 280$ t and comes back as cereals @8000$ t. Just give farmers a fair go.
    rob
    30/07/2013 6:42:59 PM

    Enjoy your efforts sam but all a bit "nirvana" ish. Put us on an equal subsidy footing to that of our competitors and we can start to accumulate some marketing power globally.
    Bosco
    30/07/2013 6:48:23 PM

    Love The Country, what's your definition of deservedness? The market will not pay you for your effort. It will only pay you for the deserved value of your wheat. So unless your wheat is strikingly different to all the other farmers producing mountains of the same product all around the world, then I'm sorry but you may need to reconsider what you are doing, because like it or not that is the compromise of the business model you are running. The only way to get rid of those compromises is to change what you are doing - which brings another set of comprises. It's called running a business.
    Logic
    31/07/2013 6:07:34 AM

    Wait for the buggers to get hungry. Then they will pay.
    Cocky
    31/07/2013 7:10:24 AM

    Your spot on bosco, that explains why the next gen of farmers is off to town to get a job that pays. Doing exactly what their parents have encouraged them to do. The consumer will pay up when they get hungry enough, we just have to keep waiting.
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    Get MuddyTo think clearly in farming and about farming, you need to get muddy - commit, roll up your sleeves and get involved. SAM TRETHEWEY gets stuck into some of the issues facing those on the land.

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