A utopian vision of the world sees us all eating food grown in our own fertile backyards. We’d have dirty hands and clean minds from all the stress-reduction that weeding brings. We’d also be fully cognizant of each and every factor that contributed to that food’s genesis and fruition.
In a near-perfect-but-real-ish world we’d find ourselves dining on organic food that came with some kinda proof of authenticity, and was grown locally by people to whom we had only a few degrees of separation.
And then there’s the big bad world — where most people have forgotten the taste of a truly ripe tomato (that may have come from thousands of kms away), or have no idea of the conditions in which an animal was raised and killed; a world in which glossy packaging and targeted marketing veils the malicious and labyrinthine realities of industrialised production.
For a glimpse behind the glossy, deceptive facade of happy plants, animals and workers take a look at Food Inc. — it’s a great overview of what we’re dealing with in these times.
We started Southern Wild to contribute towards the near-perfect world model. We wanted our products to be delicious and also play an integral part in the wellness of the person consuming it, and the ecosystem from which the ingredients came.
That model has two primary components:
- Proof of authenticity
- Locally sourced
Today, the primary proof of authenticity that a food is organic lies in the form of an organic certification. Businesses that possess a certification get audited and must prove that their production processes and materials are chemical free from beginning to end. It’s a serious thing and it’s existence is entirely justifiable.
Without that certification you’re stuck with having to trust the word of a profit-seeking business at face value. Living in a capitalist ecosystem inevitably generates healthy scepticism towards the promises of any capitalist enterprise, be it large or small. Disparity between the glossy message and the dirty reality is almost a given nowadays.
To tell you the truth, local sourcing of certified organic produce in Tasmania is actually pretty challenging. As a matter of fact we wrote a long-winded article about our difficulties sourcing certified cabbage in what is probably the best cabbage growing climate in Australia.
As both a food business, and domestic consumers, we really want both parts of the whole. But it turns out that in Tasmania you can’t always get what you want; especially when your neighbouring state is 500 clicks across the Bass Straight!
Finding the balance
We’ve been reconciling our desire to meet both criteria in a present day reality that does not always support the two. If we pursue a certification compliant product range we will inevitably be forced to import produce from the mainland when local supplies dwindle. The prospect of being dependent upon supplies from VIC, NSW and QLD is not attractive to us.
Conversely, if we source locally from people whom we trust that are not certified, but we believe grow to organic principles based on what they disclose of their methods, then that leaves us incapable of achieving an organic certification.
Outsourcing an answer for our dilemma
We decided to reach out to all the beautiful people who actually buy from us and see what they had to say. So in January of 2018 we published an open survey that included this question alongside a range of other topics.
We thought that the results would be close to a 50:50 split but did not expect this:
The results of the survey were pretty damn conclusive: 90% of you preferred uncertified but organically grown produce over and above something certified that came from the mainland. We admit that the statistical power is a little low on our survey but it remains open so if you want to offer your two cents we’d love to know what you think.
This information has been invaluable in helping us shape a new trajectory for the business and our sourcing.