For a number of years I have supported my sister's harvest festival in Riverton. From humble beginnings it has become an iconic event in the south and is a great celebration of biodiversity. In a province where dairying is continuing to expand at a worrying rate, and supermarkets have a stranglehold on food supply, it is reassuring to know that there is an increasing number of people growing their own food. It is also great to see the growth of an underground (excuse the pun) economy with many trading food, seeds and plants with little money changing hands.
My small part in the festival has been to lead a workshop on urban gardening in Autumn, based on my own experience in our 1/4 acre Invercargill section (the photo above is an example of my own modest harvest the day before). I don't call myself an expert by any means and I find that the general discussions and sharing that occurs between workshop participants are possibly more informative than I can provide (I always learn a lot myself).
My sister has done a remarkable job of tracking down all the old farm orchards around Southland and identifying the huge variety of apples that exist across the region. The Open Orchards Project has manage to identify around fifty different apples and grafting has allowed the varieties to be saved before some of these old orchards are destroyed. We now have new orchards, schools and community groups making sure that apples never seen in supermarkets, like the massive Peasgood's Nonsuch, will continue to be enjoyed by future generations.
Peasgood's Nonsuch dwarfing ordinary sized apples
It would be wonderful to see the grip that supermarkets have on produce sales usurped by a quiet revolution of local growers and farmers markets. Consumers will then have greater choice in the variety of food available. The flavors will also be enhanced by fruit and vegetables being picked ready to eat and not being kept in storage for long periods or transported large distances. Most of our South Island supermarket produce has to be sent to Christchurch first before being redistributed around the island.
Have a look at the variety on display in the images from this year's harvest festival to see what the corporate domination of food supply has done to the choices we normally have. Small scale, enthusiastic growers can produce unique fruit and vegetables that can take advantage of local conditions for the benefit of their communities. Eating local food, that is seasonally available, does not necessarily mean a boring diet - we just haven't properly embraced what is possible.