Buying In-Season & Local Produce

Maybe it’s just me but I recall a time when I didn’t think twice about reaching for that shiny avocado at any time of year, tempting me with its rich green hue and the unspoken promise of its silky, luxurious texture.

However, since there has been a shift towards supporting local growers and producers, particularly in Ireland, naturally I’ve begun to think twice before reaching for fruit and vegetables which are readily available on supermarket shelves all year round.

Of course, our ability to grow practically every variety of fruit and vegetable at any time of year is a gift that our ancestors would no doubt have appreciated greatly. We want for nothing. I can go to my local supermarket or corner store and pick up a pineapple or a bunch of bananas which have been grown at the other side of the world and are available to me for a ludicrously cheap price, despite the sheer distance which they have travelled to reach my shopping bag.

However, such convenience and endless choice comes at another price. A price which was previously invisible but is now coming to light, as we begin to realise and understand our impact on the earth.

Questions such as why are we choosing to buy fruit and vegetables shipped from foreign lands, when we produce our own beautiful, in-season produce? Such produce does not need to travel far to reach our plates – it is a simple change to make.

Now, I am not suggesting that you completely stop buying exotic produce. I love a slice of watermelon and I am impartial to a side of guacamole. All I am asking is that you reduce your reliance on imported produce.

Local foods can be found at farmers markets (Tramore Farmers Market), in artisan food stores (Ardkeen Quality Food Stores in Waterford are a great retailer supporting local growers) and even on the shelves of large retailers. I found Irish, seasonal apples for sale in Tesco recently! A quick label check for the country of origin when buying packaged fruit and vegetables in supermarkets will inform you of where your food has come from.

In terms of cost, many people think that local food is expensive and unaffordable, compared to the low prices we pay in the likes of Lidl and Aldi. However, this is not the case. As the produce is seasonal and often organic, farmers need to move their product quickly when they harvest an entire crop and in order to do so, they sell them at affordable prices. You are also more likely to buy only what you need when you shop for local produce, as the number of choices isn’t overwhelmingly large, unlike in supermarkets. You are presented with what is in season which results in a simpler, more mindful shopping experience.

If you are ever in doubt about what is in season in Ireland, Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board) have all of the information you need and they provide a breakdown for each month.

Progress comes by taking small steps. Maybe in November you could swap those oranges for some Bramley apples or reach for a celeriac as opposed to an aubergine.

Take advantage of the seasons. Produce tastes even better when grown in season. Not only will you have a positive impact on the planet but your taste buds will scream with delight.

Amazon Rainforest Deforestation and the Beef Industry

Fire on a farm in the region of Novo Progresso, ParΓ‘, on 25 August.
Photograph: Lucas Landau/The Guardian

A Brief Introduction

60% of the Amazon rainforest lies within Brazil – at least it used to. This figure was once accurate, before the deforestation of the Amazon began to rise at an alarming rate, largely due to the growing interest in cattle ranching. Europe, North America, Central America, China and Russia are the biggest importers of Brazilian beef. This has resulted in a reliance on the importation of Brazilian beef, thus supporting and encouraging widespread deforestation throughout the Amazon Rainforest. These facts lead to an important question and one which needs to be addressed quickly if we are to repair the damage already done: Why are we supporting such unsustainable farming practices and the destruction of one of the most important ecosystems on earth? Read on to find out more and about how to make change as a consumer by voting with how you shop.

THE FACTS – CLEAR AND SIMPLE

Brazil is now the world’s largest exporter of beef. This is something that should warrant celebration. However, there is little to celebrate. The Amazon has lost approximately one-fifth of its forest in the past three decades, according to One Green Planet. As a result of cattle-ranching, trees are being cut down on an exponential scale. Beef farming is responsible for 70 per cent of Amazon deforestation. Such extensive farming is encouraged and supported by the government of Brazil. This support comes in the form of grants and loans worth billions of dollars – it is hardly a surprise that farmers and normal, working people accept these grants in a bid to secure a source of income to provide for their families.

It is clear that education, a reform of government in Brazil and investment in the development of sustainable industry, are required in order to prevent the destruction of the rainforest. The purchasing power of consumers also plays a vital role in protecting the Amazon – by choosing to purchase beef which has originated in your home country, you are making a stand against the unsustainable beef farming methods used in Brazil.

Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, has rejected the fact that the Amazon is burning (a method used to clear the rainforest for cattle ranching). He is intent on claiming that it is a lie. However, a four-month ban on setting fires in the Amazon was announced by the government of Brazil (quite a contradiction of their previous statement), after the country was put under pressure to protect the rainforest.

Such a ban has proved to be a futile effort in protecting the Amazon, after satellite imagery captured in August 2020 showed more than 7,600 fires in Amazones (one of the nine states which forms the Brazilian Amazon).According to an article by Lucus Landao and Tom Philips published by the Guardian, more than 29,307 fires were recorded across the entire Amazon region in August.

A very pessimistic read, I know. But this is a crucial topic which needs to be discussed. If there is to be a world for future generations to live in, issues such as this must be addressed and acted upon now. The rainforests are vital for carbon dioxide absorption. Less trees = higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and a subsequent rise in temperature, ultimately leading to an uninhabitable earth. Not to mention the beautiful species, such as orangutans which we are losing along with the earth’s precious rainforests.

However, consumers have more power than they think. Make a stand with your money. You have purchasing power and you must use it. Buy locally produced beef where possible. If you’re on a budget – reduce your beef consumption or opt for vegetarian alternatives which are very affordable and widely available. Educate yourself on where your meat comes from. In the EU, we are lucky enough to have a great food traceability system in place. You are able to trace the origin of your meat from farm to fork. Do not hesitate in asking your local butcher where your beef has come from. Check the packaging in your local supermarket. Statements such as ‘packaged in Ireland’ probably means that the meat has been imported and has only been packaged in Ireland. If you’re from Ireland, buy Bord Bia quality approved beef where you can – you’ll know it’s Irish beef.

Action is needed immediately in order to save the earth’s rainforests. But change can be made through small steps, taken by ordinary people such as you and I. Educate others on this topic and encourage them to make a stand and fight for the rainforests and every species within them.

Photo by Stuart Jansen on Unsplash