World Environment Day is a time where we examine our connection with the environment. On this day, we have a moment to think about the beings we share the planet with, such as the animals, plants, the water and air we ingest and the toxins we are exposed to in the soil, air, water and the electromagnetic field. But one of the most powerful acts of connection with our environment is what we consume from it. Yes, it’s the food we eat. We can examine the way food is produced that is beneficial to landscapes and climate. We can examine how food that has the most beneficial health effects is produced for human consumption.

Agricultural activity in Australia is increasing. Currently, $67 billion is contributed to our economy, 55% of land is under agricultural or horticultural production, and 25% of our water is used to support these activities. Approximately 8.3% of our local economy in the Adelaide Hills is from agriculture, forestry and horticulture activities. This is ranked 3rd behind construction and home dwelling and ownership. This means the Hills has a significant amount of food production for human consumption. Whilst there are many conventional farming activities, there is an increasing trend for agricultural activities to adopt regenerative farming practices. This includes land management practices that attempt to improve top soil health, increase biodiversity systems, reduced chemical inputs such as herbicides and pesticides, as well as increase profit margins for growers and improving the quality of products produced.

The Adelaide Hills will be facing increasing pressure on our food producing lands as we face urbanization as never before. Our population in Mt Barker alone will grow from 38,523 to 56,710 by 2036. The questions are: where will the food come from to feed our growing population? Do we have a resilient food system? Are our current food producing lands protected? Do we have a local food plan as we move into these changes?

Interestingly, our health picture also needs some reviewing as we face an increasing amount of lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity. These lifestyle diseases are heavily linked to the western diet, demanding we examine what we are eating and the habits we engage in. Australia is one of the highest producers of fruit and vegetables in the world, yet one of their the lowest consumers. Fibre from fruit, vegetables and whole grains is key in improving these lifestyle diseases. The wholefood diet is thus a necessary medicine.

Farmers’ Markets are a great connection between our food production systems and improving our health. A study of farmers’ markets shows how markets can provide consumers direct access to fresh, local and seasonal food sourced directly from the food producer, exposure to a variety of foods and the opportunity to learn about how the food was produced and how to use it. It is the place where we can access a wholefood diet easily.

Farmers’ markets support the environment by attempting to minimize waste and pollution. They support growing activities such as regenerative agriculture and reduce eco miles as local producers are sourced for the markets. Farmers’ markets are key in local economies, as money is spent locally and small businesses have direct access to consumers.

Who would have thought that coming to our local farmers market each Saturday had such a wide and beneficial effect from farm to plate to health!!!!

Words: Kara-Jane Bennet