“And while demand for organic produce is still increasing – even some fast-food chains use it these days – the new badge of authenticity seems to be ‘local’.” – Andrew Masterson, The Age

Photo credit: Simon O’Dwyer

At the Daylesford Farmers’ Market a couple of weeks back, fruit and vegetable grower Florian Hofinger stood behind a trestle table laden with his produce and thought about the question. The bloke from the adjacent stall, a garlic grower from Creswick, listened in.

“Local is the big thing at the moment, no question,” said Hofinger. “When new restaurants want to buy my stuff, they are usually much more concerned with whether it’s local than whether it’s organic. Provenance is what’s important to them first. Then quality.”

There was, however, one exemption to the 100km rule made right at the start: coffee. Coffee is essential. Adequate supplies of coffee are a necessary prerequisite to civilised behaviour. Coffee was reclassified from beverage to medication.

It wasn’t always that way. A few years back, when Hofinger, a former chef, started Mt Franklin Organics on a small plot on the lower slope of an extinct volcano 10 kilometres from Daylesford, he was tapping into a global fashion for food grown without industrial fertilisers or pesticides.

And while demand for organic produce is still increasing – even some fast-food chains use it these days – the new badge of authenticity seems to be ‘local’. Charting a watershed moment, in January this year the American supermarket trade magazine FoodNavigator reported that “consumer desire for ‘local’ products is increasing and the claim could quickly replace organic as the most desirable qualification by many consumers”.

Definitions of “local” are fluid, but generally involve stipulating a produce catchment area with a particular kitchen or store at its centre. Beneath the claims and critiques of this ‘locavore’ movement, as it’s called, a central question remains: is it actually possible?

We decided to find out.

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