By now, we’re all familiar with the concept of wild animals being driven to extinction… but what about foods? Whilst the ‘Pig’s Snout’ apple may not pluck at the heartstrings in the same way the White Rhino does, for us the prospect is equally alarming. If we’re not careful, our children will inherit a world where flavour is made in factories and provenance is a thing of the past.
The global food system is guilty of narrowing gene pools for commercial gain, from livestock breeds to seeds. When producing food & drink on an industrial scale, inputs must be homogenous & uniform to create a consistent product that satisfies the buying requirements of big retailers. Yield trumps flavour and consistency is king.
When you produce food & drink in this way, you lose the virtues of variety, and variety is the basis of improvement. We dread to think about the world of flavours, textures and complexity that society is missing out on in the name of efficiency & profitability. Not only this, but it’s diversity that provides much needed resilience to disease, climate fluctuations and genetic defects. For example, 99% of the roughly 9 million Holstein dairy cows in the US can be traced back to two bulls in the 1960s. Any biology student worth their salt will tell you that this kind of genetic homogeneity isn’t sustainable. It significantly reduces the ability of a population to evolve in the face of a changing environment. In this case, there will be no more improvement in milk production, no improvement in fertility and if a new disease comes along (which we all now know is possible), huge swaths of the cow population would be susceptible as they all share the same genes. Just think about this phenomenon multiplying across everything we now consume.
We recently planted an orchard on our farm. Forty trees, forty different heritage varieties, all with a reverence to East Devon.
In many ways, this represents our approach to food, which has always been variety over volume. At Darts Farm, our community of farmers, growers & makers champion diversity, whether it’s seeds, breeds or apple trees. It’s this diversity that gives the consumer greater freedom of choice, connects us with our landscape, our history, and enables us to leave the next generation with the same opportunities that we inherited.
As the old saying goes… if you want a rare breed to survive, you have to eat it!
Blog written by George Dart
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