In our Lifting the Veil series, originally shared in summer 2024, we’ve been talking honestly about the realities that we and other similar, small-scale farmers and community organisations are faced with when trying to lead food system change.

We think it’s really important our community knows the challenges we face so they can understand how to best support us make this place thrive, and to make our work advocating for food system change more effective and wide reaching.

In sharing more about our local food stories and the behind the scenes of nature-friendly farming – we hope it’s providing something to feel positive about, and inspiration to engage with local solutions like us.

Welcome to Part 4 (series finale): Changing the Food System

Perhaps the most significant factor impinging on our success is that we’re forced to operate within a wider system that doesn’t accommodate us. 

Our current food system creates an operating environment where growth, scale and convenience are king! If you don’t operate in this way (and FYI we wouldn’t want to, as these approaches often cause environmental degradation, waste, and inequity) – then finding ways to trade and enough customers to operate efficiently and effectively is fraught with challenges.

Not only do we have to be farmers, but we have to excel in sales and marketing to find our audience. In an increasingly busy, attention saturated society this is much easier said than done. That is, without a big advertising and marketing budget – which of course none of us small farms / organisations have. 

Additionally, we often have to take the extra step to educate and inspire people to step away from the supermarket model, to try eating more seasonally and cooking more from scratch. 

It’s A LOT to do on top of the (almost) all-consuming primary task of growing the food.

A wonderful resource we look to for helping everyone better understand the food system issues is Emily King’s book: Re-food. 

The book does an excellent job of explaining the problems we’re facing with the food system as it is now. Here’s an important excerpt from an interview Emily did with RNZ:

“An irony for our country is that we export top quality, high-earning food, yet 15-20% of New Zealanders are moderately to severely food insecure at any one time. In the basket of living expenses, food is the first to be cut as it’s something people can (to a point) go without in order to pay their other bills like housing, transport and energy…

We can refocus or redesign our food system so these anomalies are ironed out and the system works better for people. It’s never been expressly designed, well, not by citizens or governments. It’s mostly been led by global big food companies that push their products and food services (such as takeaways) into our communities. They want to make big profits, rather than ensure people are well-fed…

If we created our food system with a noble goal like feeding people healthy affordable food that’s made and grown well, we would shift the system.”

Eat New Zealand (and others) have also been advocating for a National Food System. They’ve proposed a model which would emphasise support for small, local producers, helping this become more of the norm. 

It’s really heartening to see more recognition and understanding of what needs to be done to fix the food system issues which impact us all! 

The appetite for change exists…many people, businesses and organisations nationwide are working hard on this. So please do what you can to support them. They will be our future food system, and Kelmarna, like many others, needs more community backing to bring local food out from the dusty corners into the mainstream!

The benefits truly are there for everyone when we design a food system that cares for people and planet. Food can bring us so much joy, nourishment and connection. Seasonal, fresh and regenerative even more so! 

So let’s continue to work on this – building step by step a better food future which can tip the balance for small producers, enable everyone to connect with food and farming in a meaningful way, and bring more equitable access for those who need it.