15-17 November 2024
Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre

Living in a country full of well-stocked shelves, it’s easy to think that Australia, like most other countries, seems to be on to a winning formula with its food.

What the shelves don’t show you is probably something that not even our farmers have thought too much about – their lettuce and tomato fields immediately after harvest, as well as their cash-crops of wheat, barely and rapeseed – and coffee.

I remember driving through regional Victoria after the harvesters had been through – where only brown barren soil with the dead stalks were visible.
If you dug into the rust-coloured soil up to a few inches, chances are you’d be struggling to find a single worm or beetle that would usually make healthy soil their home.
Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides – as well as chemical fixing agents, fertilisers and tilling methods are allowing our well stocked shelves to come at a morbid cost.

While working extremely well in the short term for growing consistent crops year after year, they’re steadily making those crops more dependent on these chemical agents as the soil itself loses crucial nutrients and fungal networks.

The world’s arable topsoil – the soil that supplies us with the nutrients necessary to grow food is under siege, and we’ve only just begun to realise it.
According to the United Nations, we have maybe twenty years before our only layer of topsoil is completely nutrient deficient.

The following scenario is bleak. This would mean that the world’s current food supply would be in crisis, and the lack of moisture retained in the soil would kick-start a process called desertification on much of the previously fertile land.
In short: much of Australia’s farmland could become dust within a couple of generations.

Incidences like this have happened a few times in recent history. The famous Dust Bowl of the 1930’s in America blanketed entire cities like New York in ‘black blizzards’ – dust from Oklahoma that had been kicked up by harsh winds, after years of farming killed off the grasslands crucial for retaining moisture in the soil.

We might think that modern industrial farming is entirely to blame for these mishaps, but evidence going back as far as ancient Syria and Egypt points to evidence of desertification via agriculture.

Suddenly, human farming seems a lot less of a sure bet.

As always though, there are solutions.

We’re one of many coffee companies that only buy organic beans, and our mushrooms are also organically produced.

Organic farming – especially when certified by an agency like Australian Certified Organic (ACO) will mean that no synthetically chemical methods are used to grow produce that can harm the soil, or its inhabitants.

The health benefits of buying organic produce are also plain to see, if you know where to look.

For example, crops grown in organic conditions have significantly more nutrient density – almost 90% more by some estimates.
Despite looking round and plump in many grocery stores, modern farming has meant that your standard apples have only around 10% of the beneficial nutrients that the similar apples had at the beginning of the 20th Century.

The reasoning behind this is often left to guesswork – but the lack of fungal networks around the roots of many crops may mean that plants can’t absorb nearly as many useful compounds from the soil.

A next step forward for agriculture is organic and regenerative farming methods. This is a way to make sure that the soil regains any nutrients lost in the farming process, and if done correctly means that sprays and harsh chemicals aren’t required.

Many organic farms might already consider this part of their existing workflow, and it’s been famously represented by popular shows like ‘The Biggest Little Farm’ and ‘Kiss the Ground.’

So if you’re looking for your next coffee, go with your gut and go organic.