The Italian Kiwi Fruit Incident

Kiwi Fruit on Plate

Ever since reading Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and writing this post I’ve been making a concerted effort to eat more locally, especially when it comes to fresh produce. We’ve been deliberately steering clear of imported fruit and veggies, that come with a huge carbon footprint, and have been opting for Australian grown (and locally grown wherever possible). Reuben and I are lucky enough to live in a country that is capable of producing vast quantities of fresh produce, so from a sustainability point of view, it just doesn’t make sense for us to buy fruit and vegetables grown overseas. I absolutely love blueberries but have even managed to refrain from buying the pretty little punnets of New Zealand berries in the shops.

All that said, today Reubs and I were picking up some groceries and I was in a bit of a rush to get home. I hadn’t had any lunch so was starving and, as supermarkets are pretty much the worst place to be when you’re hungry, I was keen to get out of there as quickly as possible. In my haste I spied packages of kiwi fruit for just $2. I really, really hate when supermarkets pack fruit and vegetables in excessive plastic so I did hesitate for a moment before I put them in my trolley, but the idea of lovely, fresh kiwi fruit for such a great price was so nice, I couldn’t resist them. It wasn’t until after I got home and was unpacking everything until I noticed this:

Product of Italy

That little plastic package of kiwi fruit had travelled all the way from Italy to land in my fridge. When I realised this I wondered exactly how far the distance between Australia and Italy was, so I googled it, and apparently it’s about 14, 400 km. That equates to a lot fossil fuel burned, just so I could eat kiwi fruit out of season! Then when I considered that the package of fruit had cost me just $2, and thought about all the money that must have been spent on transporting and storing them and making a profit for all the parties involved, I couldn’t help but wonder how much the poor farmer who grew them must have received. Suddenly, those sad little kiwi fruits really didn’t look so appealing.

Two years ago, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed where my fruit came from, let alone worried about it. And though I’ll never be able to buy everything I need or want locally, I understand now that every little bit counts. Every purchase I make sends a message. Silly as it might sound, those Italian kiwi fruits were a good reminder that we are on the right path. Together Reuben and I are learning and making positive changes to our lifestyle every single day. It’s the little, seemingly insignifcant, incidents like this one that show us how far we’ve come. And equally, how far we have to go.

Katie x

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Katie

About Katie

Katie is a tea drinking, jewellery making, op-shopping daydreamer. Katie likes vintage dresses, Pictionary, doilies and colourful tights.

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33 Responses to “The Italian Kiwi Fruit Incident”

  1. larissa March 15, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    This always bothers me , EVERYTHING comes to Canada from China.
    I often wonder if our bodies are suppose to eat certain foods that come from different climates. Like since I come from a wet cold climate should i eat pineapples or other tropical fruits?

    • Aubrey March 15, 2013 at 3:33 am #

      I used to wonder that too but since I’ve been looking at living off the grid I came across, a while back, Earthship houses. Earthship houses are self contained and their greenhouse is attached to the front of the house. They are beautiful and what my husband and I plan on purchasing. People who have had them have been able to grow everything under the sun in there. I mean they are growing coconut trees, banana trees, mangos in their house. I love that because we want to live off of our own food and Earthships prove that you can do that and that things can be done naturally but also that you can grow anything no matter the climate.

    • Katie
      Katie March 15, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

      At least in Canada there is a little more of an excuse for it, maybe? The climate there must be tougher for growing stuff than it is here. Here in Australia we grow so much fresh fruit that some of it is literally left to rot on the trees while we import other fruit from overseas. It is absolutely absurd! :(

  2. Elle Mental March 15, 2013 at 4:47 am #

    I congratulate you for being mindful of your carbon footprint and for helping others to take note as well! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Rita@thissortaoldlife March 15, 2013 at 4:48 am #

    I have been having such thoughts about clothing for some time, and this post helps me realize I need to start thinking this way about food, too. Yes, our “bargains” mean that someone else is subsidizing our life with their own. It’s pretty hard to enjoy a treat (be it cute shoes or kiwi) when you think of it that way. Dang it.

    • Katie
      Katie March 15, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

      Yes, I’ve been thinking a lot about the clothing issue too. I think that’ll be another post for another day! x

  4. sophie March 15, 2013 at 5:54 am #

    well said, I’ve never thought about it that way before, but my family don’t really buy supermarket fruit since we grow our own, but now that I think about it, none of us really realize it. Thanks for opening my mind to things… You go girl!

  5. Surely Sarah March 15, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    Italiam kiwi fruit. How utterly horrifying. This story has motivated me to check where my fruit & veg is coming from!

    • Katie
      Katie March 15, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

      It IS horrifying isn’t it?! I felt really, really bad when I realised what I’d bought. Lessoned learned!

  6. Michael from Suburban Digs March 15, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Hi Katie, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now but haven’t commented until today. I feel strongly about this issue, and would you believe it, but the first time I came to consider food miles was when I worked in a supermarket as a teenager and found myself stacking trays of kiwifruit from France! It’s just madness!

    Food pricing can be a funny thing, and it is my thoughts that when the price for a food item seems too cheap – it may well be because it is subsidized, one way or another – financially by a government, the exploitation of cheap labour, lax environmental practices, or bottom of the barrel production methods (e.g. battery farmed chickens). It’s an honourable thing to produce food cheaply and offer it widely, but it comes at the most concerning of consequences.

    On a recent trip to Griffith I stayed with an orange farmer who was leaving the fruit rot on the trees. It was claimed that because the prices of oranges are set at the global level, and that because Australia’s dollar was sitting so high, there was no market for his oranges at all, and to pick them would have cost more than he could achieve by selling them. It was sad, because they were among the most beautiful oranges I had ever tasted.

    And then there are issues around the carbon footprint caused by moving this food from country to country, and other things like the popularity of quinoa depriving Bolivian farmers from eating their traditional diet.

    It’s an absolute minefield and the best way forward that I’ve arrived at is to relocalise your food bowl. Grow it in the backyard if you can, or source it from a local producer at a farmers market. Keep the money in your local economy, support those who are proud of their product, and do the food justice by minimising waste. Finally, eat more veggies and less meat.

    I’ve found it doesn’t cost more to do this – often seasonal eating means that the food is at its best and cheapest – but it does mean that mangoes in winter are out.

    Take care, Michael.

    • Katie
      Katie March 15, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

      I love and agree with everything you said Michael! And yes, listening to ABC radio I’ve heard a few stories of farmers leaving fruit on their trees to rot too. It’s awful. And it IS a minefield! We’ve been buying as much as we can from local farmers’ markets, and, up until my slip with the kiwi fruit, have only been buying Australian grown at the supermarket. I can’t wait to get our veggie garden up and running next spring. It’s really just a matter of approaching our food more mindfully and adjusting our habits to match :)

  7. Monica March 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    Such an important issue, and those little kiwi fruits drive home the point! It reminded me of a time last month when I picked up a fresh baguette at coles, and the label said it was baked that same day, yet “product of Austria”! When I questioned an employee, he admitted is was probably a typo since their bread was baked in-store. It gave me a laugh, but sadly most imported produce is not a typo, just a shocking use of food miles.

  8. Lynda @HomeleaLass March 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    When you start thinking about the food supply chain and how much each party is getting it starts to get a bit scary. As a primary producer I know how hard farmers work, and how little they get paid for the blood, sweat and tears.

    Farming is hard – you’re at the mercy of the weather and there are so many uncertainties to deal with. Then if you’re lucky enough to live in a resource rich area there’s the added issues of dealing with resource companies.

    As consumers we can support the farmers by using our shopping power. It might seem like a small thing, but if you don’t buy heavily discounted milk it means a lot more dairy farmers can stay in operation, and make a profit. And if you buy a local in season fruit rather than the imported fruit.

    Thanks for bringing attention to this issue and for supporting Aussie farmers.

    • Katie
      Katie March 15, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

      I so admire you Lynda. I actually grew up on a (drought stricken) farm so I do understand, farming is seriously tough. I know at the moment, here in Victoria, dairy farmers aren’t even earning enough income to cover their costs let alone make a profit. And that is so sad. We have to start considering the REAL value of our food! Thank you for doing what you do. x

  9. Joolzmac March 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    I have found Italian kiwi fruit in Woolworths too. I then asked a kiwi blogger who actually grows kiwi fruit commercially, how come kiwi’s are grown in Italy. They are actually grown in Italy by New Zealand kiwi producers so that they can supply kiwi fruit nearly all year round.
    I too refused to buy the Italian ones thinking it was just ridiculous when kiwi’s come from NZ. I buy NZ ones as I don’t think any are grown here in Aus.

    Have you seen the new Kiwi-berries?

  10. Joyce March 15, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    I am so lucky to live where there is a wholesale fruit and veg market. Anything imported has signs and the rest is local. We also have farmers markets every week and roadside stalls everywhere

  11. Alicia March 15, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    It’s just madness isn’t it? I make it my mission to buy as much as I can local, organic and Australian, all 3 would be great. We grow as much as we can, and I think that’s a good starting point. I refuse $2 milk, seeking out independent producers, and don’t buy heaps of meat, but good quality ethically sourced meat when I do. It is getting easier I think, we’re coming full circle, back to where we started. Hopefully we’ll all be much healthier for it!

    • Katie
      Katie March 15, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

      Madness indeed! We’ve given up the $2 milk and are vegetarian, so meat isn’t an issue for us, but there is obviously room for improvement when it comes to me remembering to check where any non farmers’ market produce is grown. I refuse to have another Italian Kiwi Fruit situation! And I’m SURE we’re all be healthier for making these changes! x

  12. The Life of Clare March 15, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    It’s such a horrible thought isn’t it. We’re trying to buy everything from the local farmers market that we don’t grow. It pbviously means that we don’t have as much option but everything is fresh and local.

  13. Marcelle March 15, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    You are so right.
    Still, bying local fuit and vegetables isn’t always the same as being thoughtful to natures reserves.
    Here in Holland we have enough apples of all sorts to get us trough the winter, we really don’t need banana’s from africa. Of vegetables though, there is not so much variation during this season, I can get real tired of beans or coles again..
    Sometimes the temptation to buy some tomatoes is huge.
    And yes, they are local, so what is stopping me? They are grown in large greenhouses that use up an enormous (!) amount of energy to make the tomatoes grow.

    So even if it’s local food, you still have to think about where it was grown.

    • Katie
      Katie March 16, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      That’s a very, very good point Marcelle! Thank you! Even in sunny Australia most of the tomatoes in the supermarkets are grown in giant greehouses. I’d like to try only eating things when they in season and I can grow them or buy them at the farmers market, but I LOVE tomatoes and think by midwinter I’d be struggling to say no to them at the supermarket. It’s really hard isnit it?! But I suppose all of any of us can do is our best. And just being aware of the ethical issues attached to our food and being mindful or what we eat is a good place to start :)

      • Marcelle March 18, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

        I’m groing my own tomatoes now. They seem to like the kitchen-central-heating :-) It’s on anyway because it’s still freezing outside, so I’m going to try to grow more stuff inside.

        Hopefully, in a few weeks, I’ll have a kitchenwindow filled with tomatoes :-) (can’t wait!)

        • Marcelle March 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

          Oh, and something wonderful is happening: The city is going to make a large fruit- and vegetable garden IN the city! All will be grown organic, and you can pick your fruit yourself. You can pick what you need. And it’s free! I love that..

  14. helsbells March 16, 2013 at 12:03 am #

    It’s so brilliant how much fruit you can buy locally in Aus. I am in the UK, so local fruit pretty much ends with apples and plums, EVERYTHING else is imported. So I try to buy from Europe or make sure it is shipped not air freighted. This can be so hard in the supermarket and it’s so easy to just pick things up and put them in the trolly. Luckily I have an organic food co-op near me where I can get all organic fruit and veg which is local or shipped not freighted.
    I am definately going to get a copy of animal vegetable miracle. You are the second person who has recommended it.

    • Katie
      Katie March 16, 2013 at 10:53 am #

      Yes, I can understand buying imported stuff in the UK where you have little choice, but in Australia we are lucky enough to be able to grow a huge variety of fruit and veggies all year round, so there is just no need to import. Your organic food co-op sounds amazing though! And do read Animal Vegetable Miracle! It’s life changing :)

  15. Lynet Witty March 16, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    that is such food for thought! unfortunately my farmer’s market is like 20 miles away! I hate that!

    • Katie
      Katie March 16, 2013 at 10:58 am #

      I know just how you feel! The farmers’ markets around us are only on once a month. I so wish they were weekly!

  16. Hanna March 16, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    Hi there,
    I’m a longtime lover of your blog, first time commenter.
    This is a subject I am super passionate about, and though I now go without a lot of things…I REFUSE to support the two major grocery retailers Woolworths and Coles (and all of their other owned business….you’d be surprised how many pubs are owned by the same owners as Woolworths!)
    I refuse to support these businesses for many many reasons, but particularly in this case, because they so often OVER PACKAGE, and always UNDERPAY their suppliers.
    I urge you to shop at locally owned fruit/veg shops, local butchers, and whole food stores.
    Every dollar we don’t spend at Safeway is a dollar we put in the pockets of people who care!!!!

    • Katie
      Katie March 16, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

      Yes, I could’t agree more! I have a lot of issues with Coles and Woolies too. And though I admit we still get a few odds and ends there, in the last 6 months or so we have managed to reduce the amount of stuff we buy from the big supermarkets dramatically. We buy lots from our local fruit and veg shop now! :)

  17. Kristin March 16, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    What drives me crazy is when I see Italian Kiwifruit in *our* (new zealand) supermarkets! I don’t buy imported fruit/veg anyway but living just a few Kms from the major Kiwifruit producing town in NZ and seeing the imported stuff, when there are miles of orchards just down the road…?! Well its a bit nuts really.

  18. JessB March 16, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    Oh no, Katie, what a pain! Don’t forget to tell the supermarket what you think as well – if they hear it from enough people, it will have an impact, eventually.

    Never mind, it’s great that you are aware and trying your best! That’s all any of us can do.

  19. Chloe Moon March 17, 2013 at 1:18 am #

    I’ve made a push to shop locally whenever I can before hitting up a big chain. I didn’t know there were imported Kiwis…wow yeah that’s a lil incredible that they were only $2. Someone is not getting what they deserve in the long run…

    I never read that Kingsolver tittle! I’ll have to look for it!

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