A major ingredient in simple living is mindfulness… this means to pay attention, to engage our mind, to be aware, switched-on, to think and deduce. It also means to make informed choices, and sometimes to accept some compromises.
When it comes to eating, we’ve now come to doing it robotically, without thinking. We blindly believe that the manufacturer cares for our health and well-being and we stop being aware. Nineteen century French gastronome Brillat-Savarin once wrote “tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.” How relevant is this now that we buy our food in a pre-packaged form, ready-to-eat, imported, adulterated and fake!
Simple living whilst traveling takes mindfulness to a whole new level. Here we are with my family in a remote place in Jura, a mountainous region in France covered in lush floral pastures, enchanted pine forests, and farmhouses arranged in clusters where little streams gurgle crystal-clear water. Here, they grow fat cows, some pigs, raw-milk cheese and forest honey. Many houses still tend small veggie patches where neat rows of potatoes, onions, salad greens and radishes grow next to avalanches of peonies and lupins, rhubarb, currants and espaliered fruit trees. What a picturesque sight!
There don’t seem to be any market-garden anywhere though. The conditions in those little valleys would make it rather challenging to grow anything effortlessly, with a very short growing season, risks of frosts and ravenous wildlife in the form of rabbits, hare, wild boars, deer, chamois, foxes or lynx. Besides, the lure of working in nearby Switzerland is very tempting – who would want to get dirt under their fingernails and aching backs from double digging?
It is convenience that the locals have gradually chosen, letting go of their ability (and their need) to adapt and grow food anywhere. Isn’t this a pattern we see worldwide? So the local supermarket stocks a nice variety of food, some whole, most are processed… none are local, not even the honey which (please sit down) comes from Latin America!!! This is ludicrous, we are in a honey-rich region! The fresh produce section is a test of mindfulness: red onions from New Zealand, green beans from Kenya, oranges from Morocco and nectarines from Spain. How little different it is for us in Australia where garlic currently comes from Mexico, asparagus from Peru and cherries from the USA, to name just a few.
There aren’t any farmers’ markets either here, no fresh food co-op, no CSA, just the local supermarket with its imported food. But I know we can grow food here – Austrian Farmer Sepp Holzer has been farming annuals and perennial crop together with fruit trees, timber, aquaculture, poultry, cattle… well, the whole permaculture shebang, at over 1,000m altitude in the Austrian Alps, one of the harshest climate with sub-zero conditions, snow covered landscapes and inconvenient slope gradients.
We can grow food, sustainably, anywhere. This is not the limiting factor. So what is missing the presence of which could make a difference? Farmers. We need people who want to keep dirt under their fingernails! We need folks who are passionate about their soils. We need to grow farmers.
See you at one of our courses to learn about designing your permaculture farm or how to grow farmers!