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Local is lekker, imported is bad for the planet

Spinach seedlings, 'cos growing your own is as green as it gets.
Spinach seedlings, cos growing your own is as green as it gets.

Mark Berger put into words a couple of weeks ago something that I’ve been thinking since being back in South Africa, and that is that South African’s appear to be suffering under “a massive countrywide inferiority complex.” One particular area that I’ve noticed this, and one that Mark didn’t include in his blog post, is in South African products vs. imported products. There is a conception here that imported equals better than local.

Inclined as I am to buy local (I like to keep my carbon footprint as small and neat as possible), this idea that buying imported goods (including food) is somehow better (and a whole lot more expensive too, usually) is just preposterous.

If we want to buy local and eat local, it’s super easy here compared to trying to do the same in England, for example. We are spoilt for choice in Cape Town, a veritable locavore’s paradise. So why are we still buying Kerrygold cheese and butter from Ireland, strawberry juice and calamari from China, New Zealand lamb, prawns from India and Woolies snoek from, wait for it, New Zealand??? There’s no rhyme or reason to this silliness when we have beautiful local (and in many cases free range or organic) meat, fish, vegetables, fruit and dairy products right on our doorsteps.

One way to take charge of the food that you eat is to grow your own, but the truth is that not everyone has the spare time or inclination to do that. There are alternatives. If you live in Cape Town you could join the Slow Food Cape Town CSA (before 30th June 2009). Or order an organic veg box from Abalimi Bezekhaya.

Wondering what a CSA is?

Slow Food Cape Town CSA Winter ‘09 – in a nutshell

A weekly bag containing six vegetables supplied by organic small farmers Erick and Eric
Two jars of surprise preserves made by a community project will be included over the course of the CSA
Farm visits organised to meet the farmers and see the farms
Additional resources include weekly email updates and recipes, and a blog
Collect your bag after 1pm on Tuesdays at: Jaqui Daya Good Food Store in Newlands, Millstone Farm Stall in Pinelands or Deer Park Café in Vredehoek
Runs for eight weeks, from 30 June through 18 August
Costs R462 in total: this must be paid in advance

Some local supermarkets stock a wealth of really local South African produce. This morning at the SuperSpar in Rosmead Avenue, Kenilworth I bought cheese from George, cream from Durbanville and stone ground flour from Heidelberg. It’s worth frequenting supermarkets who bother stocking really local stuff, and you will need to make the effort to look at labels and seek out the food from closest by. It’s an effort worth making in my opinion, not only to lower your carbon footprint, but also to support local producers and ensure food security in your neck of the woods.

Other ways to reduce your consumer carbon footprint is to buy South African household appliances (DEFY), South African made clothing (Woolies stocks some or Mnandi Textiles in Station Road, Observatory to name just two), locally made furniture (one example I can think of is Right (the bloke’s name) at the Montebello Design Centre in Newlands Avenue), and for gifts and treats there’s Montebello again, Neighbourhood Goods Market (at the Biscuit Mill in Woodstock) and the Craft Markets at Kirstenbosch and Rondebosch.

We are truly spoilt for choice, so these are just a few options. If you feel there’s something that should be mentioned here that isn’t, please leave a comment.

I’ve just signed up for the Winter CSA, thanks to Pia’s regular prompting.

Our vegetable garden is coming along nicely, we should have Swiss chard and spinach to eat in about a month or so.