Why seasonal eating is sustainable eating
What times of year do you buy carrots? Yes, that is a real question. I know your answer is probably “all times of the year” but did you know that by doing that, you’re supporting unsustainable farming practices? It’s true. There are some very serious reasons why seasonal produce is just that – seasonal. And if we’re forcing it to be an all year-round food, we’re not doing our part to live more sustainably. Here’s why…
An article by Bill Cotching in The Conversation last year highlighted that producing all-year-round fruits and vegetables can be detrimental to soil quality. Harvesting produce usually requires machinery and most machinery is heavy. If we are harvesting things all year round in all seasons, machinery that isn’t designed for wet, unstable ground can end up degrading the soil, compacting it and changing the structure. This is particularly bad as a 2004 study found that soil degradation can reduce potato and poppy crop yields in Tasmania by up to two thirds. This means that the more frequently we’re harvesting in unideal conditions, the less food we are actually able to produce. Instead of increasing production, we’re reducing it in the long term.
Sustainability starts local. It’s no secret. So, when we’re buying thing all year long, it is likely they had to be imported from other states or countries. According to the Australian Farmer’s Federation, there are approximately 85,681 farms operating commercially in Australia, 99% of which are Australian owned and operated. These farms already produce enough to feed 600 people each day and the majority of it goes overseas! Imported fruit and vegetables are being sold at record low prices, and farmers can’t sustain their businesses with prices that low. We can help those farmers, by buying their seasonal produce and keeping more of it in Australia, reducing our need to import.
When we eat fruit and vegetables imported from the Northern Hemisphere to enjoy them all year long, we are adding enormous pressure to our atmosphere. A couple of examples using the Food Miles calculator include:
When we buy an apple that comes from America, it has travelled roughly 15,500 kilometers to arrive in our hand. That would consume 973kg carbon to reach us.
When we buy a bag of frozen beans from China, it has travelled 9,008 kilometers to arrive in our hand. That would consume 550kg carbon to reach us.
The food miles travelled by our fresh produce adds enormous volumes to our carbon emissions, so buying local means it simply is harvested, popped on a truck and ends up in our local green grocer for sale.
If those aren’t enough reasons to make you consider eating seasonally, then consider this. It’s better for you and it’s cheaper. By eating fruit and vegetables harvested at their prime time, they are more likely to have higher concentrations of the vitamins and minerals that make them extra good for you. And, because they are in-season there is more likely to be an abundance of them available, so the prices aren’t going to be sky high.
Be smart, eat seasonally and the world around us will thank you for it.
Check out our Seasonal Produce Guide by clicking here.