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Food Forest: A Very Public Resource

Perhaps we’re clutching at One-Straw Revolutions, but an interesting thing happened recently that we thought was worth sharing. Sydney Morning Herald writer Rachel Olding emailed us to ask whether they could use the Food Forest as a site to photograph a local chef foraging for his slow food restaurant for a story she was writing. We politely declined:

Dear Rachel,
Thank you for your email.
If Jared were cooking the food for a community event, then yes absolutely, we would be thrilled for him to be photographed in the Food Forest.
As we’re sure you can appreciate, the principles of the Food Forest are to promote public, uncapitalised food. The Forest supplies local residents who might not be able to afford organic food, and the church’s weekly soup kitchen.
We applaud the ethics of The Danks Street Depot, and what Jarred and Melanie are championing, but it still comes down to the Forest being a public resource, that celebrates the free transaction over anything monetary and exclusive.
Best of luck with the shoot, and apologies we were not able to be of help in this instance.
Meg, Patrick and Zephyr — The Artist as Family
Olding’s article is great in terms of promoting the relocalisation of food resources and providing creative ways for getting off a heavily polluting agriculture grid (that’s responsible for around 40-50% greenhouse gas emissions and wholesale deforestation). In this way the Waterloo chef’s ideals and ours are similar. But it’s the privatisation of public food resources we object to.
What Olding’s article doesn’t raise is the problems of privatisation, ecologically and socially, or how this chef’s activity is akin to business taking content from blogs licensed under creative commons and capitalising on the material. Why should a restaurant owner take food from a community garden or public commons (ie foraging for edible weeds in Centennial Park) and then put a price on it?

Jared Ingersoll at the James Street community garden in Redfern.
Photo: Jon Reid, courtesy Sydney Morning Herald

8 comments

  1. Umatji says:

    ooch, bet you wasn't quite expecting that but such a great point and we are all the better for you making it. I think slow can get used for so many things but slow alone doesn't make a revolution. great post. Love to see what she writes back.
    x

  2. Well done – you stick to your guns! i applaud your clarity of mind.

  3. thanks toasted, appreciate it. and thanks umatji, we don't think she'll respond, we're talking fast-text journalism, no time to chew the proverbials and think for a while.

    aaf xx

  4. Lucas says:

    interesting!

    so they shot the photos for the article at the James Street community garden in Redfern instead.

    But the redfern community garden isn't listed as one of the places where Jared Ingersoll is getting free food. All the food they list under the article seems to come from local vendors.

    So, perhaps there was a bit of confusion – it doesn't sound like he wanted to actually steal the food forest produce to sell at his restaurant – they just thought it would be a neat place to have a photo taken. Isn't this a missed opportunity for you guys to get the word out about your forest?

    At any rate, I think it's worth having a discussion about this issue of the 'capitalisation' of food. Certainly, you guys get a lot of your food from 'non-capitalised' sources. But most people don't.

    Don't you reckon the work of this chef is helping to push the transition towards something more like what you're interested in – even if he does it for the money?

    I'm no expert on the social history of money, but I think its emergence in societies all around the world is linked to an increase in social diversity and cultural complexity.

    And until carbon emissions reductions "make sense" financially (ie are economically rational), aren't we going to struggle to achieve them?

    Just some thoughts – as I'm curious and interested in the "participate or not in mainstream economics" question…

  5. thanks lucas.

    meg and zeph aren't here, so i'll respond from my blog.

    yes, they shot the pic at the James Street community garden in Redfern instead. i can fairly say 'we' don't have an opinion on that.

    i don't think ingersoll is about to list some chanced upon 'laneway' weed or 'empty reserve' herb as a definitive supply site for his menu, not at $70 a head. (from my days as a waiter that's about $200 a couple with wine). we're talking an elite class.

    no, we don't think ingersoll wanted to steal anything, that's a fairly liberal embellishment. as we explained the smh writer asked our permission. anyone who wants to steal doesn't normally write a courteous email first.

    yes, this discussion is most definitely worth having, we want to make it absolutely clear that the garden is for the community, not for surry hills businesses to make money from.

    re your: "Certainly, you guys get a lot of your food from 'non-capitalised' sources. But most people don't."- i wld say most people don't and we have ecological crisis. if most people did… perhaps we wld not. the link between growth capital systems and ecological degradation is fairly uncomplicated.

    in terms of your Q: "Don't you reckon the work of this chef is helping to push the transition towards something more like what you're interested in – even if he does it for the money?" my answer is: absolutely not. we're in a global ecological crisis with no way out except mass restraint, it's not a time to have your cake and eat it to.

    re your: "I'm no expert on the social history of money, but I think its emergence in societies all around the world is linked to an increase in social diversity and cultural complexity." i say: no, my reading of it suggests money has always divided society and has helped to progressively generate more and more anthropogenic waste. society is far worse off because of money. we should be exchanging real currencies, such as nuts and bread and fruit. that way we'd know if we were being unsustainable in an instant.

    there are around 70,000 edible fruits in the world, about twenty show up in supermarkets – this is not social diversity or complexity, this is greed and idiocy. with all our wealth, which is peaking now, all we've managed to do is reduce ecological diversity while appearing socially complex. ingersoll may appear socially complex to some, but when you undress his activities he's just a clever business man riding a freeganist movement in true capitalist spirit. why not champion a community dinner from his foraging and local sourcing – that wld be real transition. where's the learning in rich people tasting a few weeds bc it's currently sexy in the media?

    Re your: "And until carbon emission reductions "make sense" financially (ie are economically rational), aren't we going to struggle to achieve them?" – that's all ahead of us. the world's polluters have already created what will soon become the world's largest commodity market – human complexity at its best – the atmosphere is already being privatised; a market exclusive to polluters.

    to participate in mainstream economics is a really bad idea. we should be transitioning quickly to steady-state economics, or the like, not furthering an economic system that can only perpetuate ongoing crises.

    i don't think career chefs, nor indeed career artists, are the answer to ecological crisis, and i can speak for 'us' here and say we're very proud to have said no.

    i look forward to reading your conclusions from your audit.

  6. diego says:

    This is good guys, bloody good.
    I agree on Patrick rejecting capitalisation on trends, yet i also agree with Lucas, that the end game is to shift towards a different, locavore society.
    For that porpouse, even the high-end restaurants would have to shift towards locally sourced ingredients,.. and the smaller ones, the families and everyone else consuming.
    each at his own pace, each in its own terms.
    Surely a post-consumerist society is the best thing we can aspire to, but i fear that is not gonna happen fast, i envision slow increments instead.
    I commend your assertiveness in dealing with this request AAF, and i truly think -slowly but surely- more and more responses as such will be norm.
    In the mean time lets foster in whichever way we can any movement towards the (more or less) right direction.

    I somewhat believe is not gonna be us (any of) changing the world, but rather is gonna be the world changing itself, in all of its complex and variegated social realities.

    uhmm, hopefully it makes sense.
    Truly enjoy this topic/discussion, well done.

  7. Meg says:

    As we wrote in the letter to the journo, we applaud the food ethics of the Danks Street Depot. What they are doing is fantastic.

    But the thing I keep coming back to is why Ingersoll wanted to be photographed in a community garden.

    Why not have the photo shoot in the garden of one of his producers?

    The only difference that I can see is that a community garden produces uncapitalised food, where a producer turns a buck.

    By wanting to be photographed in a community garden, Ingersoll wants what such a garden represents to also represent him.

    But whereas a community garden represents local organic food, (just as Ingersoll's producers do,) it also represents organic food for those who can't afford to eat in pricey restaurants, which is not what Ingersoll is about.

  8. Lucas says:

    that's interesting meg. i think you're getting to the heart of it.

    for ingersoll to be associated with "community involvement" makes good business sense!

    just like large companies involve themselves with charities to generate an image of themselves as good corporate citizens.

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