<a href="http://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/richard#">Life in the Slow Food Lane</a>

Life in the Slow Food Lane

A look at the eco side of eating, with Richard Cornish

Peasant aspirations

farmer

Credit: iStockphoto

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I met a bloke yesterday on his little farm in the hills outside the city. I had driven in past his place then turned around, attracted by the signs that read 'Eggs for Sale. Ducks, Geese. Chickens'.

His name was Peter and he was sitting under the shade of his verandah, sipping a glass of slightly chilled red wine. "You must try some," he said. "I made it myself."

While it would have never won a medal in a show, it was very enjoyable. Quite feral, tannins all over the place and obvious yeast. And it was slightly sparkling. Not something normally one looks for in a Cabernet.

"No bloody chemicals," he said. "No chemicals anywhere" Peter was born in the former Yugoslavia and had a hatred of any technology developed post WWII.

Peter was surrounded by his means of survival and his livelihood: his animals and his garden. Ducks nibbled the grass and chickens flapped their wings in their out door runs.

"This is where I get my fertiliser from," he said. "These birds feed my garden. From the garden I get my vegetables. The weeds and clippings I feed the birds. I sell their eggs and the vegetables we don't need. With the cash I buy wheat from a neighbour so I can feed the birds. I am happy," he said, taking another sip of his wine from a chipped glass mug.

Here was a man who had migrated from a rural village of the former Yugoslavia as a young man to escape the communist regime only to live the later part of his life virtually as a peasant. A capitalist peasant. But a peasant.

To call Peter a peasant is not a derogatory term. It is a compliment. Let me explain.

There is a rural idyll that sits behind a lot of the green idealism: back to basics; the past was better; live simply from the land - those sort of ideas.

Those who follow those ideas need to understand that there is a lifetime of education needed to live like that.

Taking Peter for example, he spent his childhood to early adult hood learning how to grow food and manage pests without fertilisers, how to care for animals without veterinary medicines and how to preserve meats without refrigeration.

It would take double the amount of time in our education system to learn those skills. The word peasant (only later it had negative connotations) originally meant someone of the land, someone who knew their country.

It means the people who have a raft of skills and knowledge on how to live from the land.

We should all aim to be peasants.