In the past few years I’ve seen an alarming trend around the subject of ‘sustainable’ food. I hear the same alarming word pulled out in most conversations about the next ‘greenwashed grand gesture.’
These conversations always go something like this:
We want to support our farmers but we believe that (insert cause/organisation) needs some help with this and we are coming to you because we know that you have supported other causes like this. We are going to use all of our eight months of being a food activist and concerned citizen to approach our database of Facebook contacts and use your lifetime of learning and experience to pull off this amazing event. We are asking you to be involved but because we have no money, we’d like you to ask your suppliers to donate their products.
There, did you see it? I highlighted it just to be sure: donate. That one little word makes me hugely angry and sad!
I am in no way reluctant to give freely my time and knowledge to ANY worthwhile cause be it for social or environmental good. What upsets me however, is this increasing trend towards ‘supporting’ the little guy (whether it’s a farmer or alternate small scale food producer) by expecting them to give away for free the very thing that we are supposed to be valuing above all else!
The irony of saying that you value something but are then reluctant to see the need to pay a fair price for it is maddening and destructive. That kind of ‘passionate engagement’ will kill a product. Sustainable food production needs to be just that, sustainable, and there is more involved than just healthy soil.
There is always going to be the need for education about the sustainable food movement (for want of a better term) but the momentum has started – it’s now time to make sure that all who actually live these ethical catchphrases are supported by our patronage. The next big challenge is not awareness, it’s to give this stuff good old-fashioned bottom line substance.
So if you’re an events organiser or food activist who really wants to make a difference, start by sorting out your business plan. If you ask me: “Do you know anyone who will be prepared to donate their products?” best make an appointment as I might have a few things to say about your request.