Creative in the Countryside: Will Work For Food
Today's Creatives in the Countryside are Honey and Karen from Will Work For Food, a creative partnership working to elevate the importance of sustainability, ethically produced food for a healthy, happy life.
Nicola: Will Work For Food is such a unique concept. Tell us where the idea came from. And how you use your creativity to support farmers and homesteaders?
Karen: Honey and I had been working together for several years on commercial projects. And we both shared a personal passion for sustainable agriculture. As well as small scale farming and food in general.
We started visiting a few farmers, talking to, and photographing them in their element. We were blown away by how passionate, determined and hard working they were. We knew we had to work in this area in some way. We both had grand dreams of becoming farmers ourselves. But the more time we spent with them, the more we realized neither of us was cut out for it! Instead we decided to use our creative skills to work with farmers who farm in a sustainable and ethical way, in the hope of contributing to their success.
We began to notice a common element amongst the farmers. While they were incredible at growing food, they had little knowledge on how to market what they did. We knew the majority of farmers wouldn't have the money to pay for our services. So we came up with the idea of working for food, or at least taking part payment for our services in food, to make it more affordable. And so Will Work For Food was born.
It's grown and changed quite a bit since those early days. And we’re even more focused on contributing to the success of many small-scale farmers.
We do this by photographing them. Sharing their story with a large audience. Helping to promote them. And teaching them how to promote themselves to the right audience.
What do you love most about the work that you do?
We both come alive when we’re visiting with these farmers, it gives us such a high.
There’s not much else we’d rather be doing. We feel privileged that these people welcome us into their lives and share their stories with us. We learn so much by spending a day with them.
We both feel strongly that our food system in this country is broken. In the words of Dan Barber, ‘in the rush to industrialise farming, we’ve lost the understanding, implicit since the beginning of agriculture, that food is a process, a web of relationships, not an individual ingredient or commodity’. We want our work to contribute to helping people care about where their food comes from and how it is grown. If we can do that, we feel like our contribution was valuable.
Even before starting Will Work For Food you were both living a simpler, more conscious life. Can you tell me how these journeys have changed your lives?
For me the catalyst was a combination of having young children and my own health issues. It's the same for a lot of people. Before that I was on the treadmill of life. Finishing school. Working hard at University. Travelling. Getting a good job. Working crazy, long hours. Buying an expensive house and the best of everything. Then one day I 'woke up' and realised none of that mattered.
We are both concerned about the kind of world our children are going to inherit. It doesn't take a genius to know that the future our children face is going to be full of immense challenges. A rapidly growing population. Rising sea levels. Depleted natural resources. And corporations and governments willing to sacrifice the health of the people and the planet, just to increase their bottom line.
We both joke that living a conscious life is like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole. The more you learn, the more you, well, learn. And the more you learn, the more you care.
It's why sharing stories is a powerful way to inspire change. Once you know something, you can’t not know it. The majority of people do care. But they’ve fallen into a place of apathy. And a bit of laziness too. Sure, it’s a lot easier to buy your vegetables from the supermarket. But what impact is your action having on the world?
How many chemical fertilisers were used to grow that food? How much of these were washed into waterways, killing marine and plant life? How much soil was destroyed and can never be used again? And how much pollution was produced delivering these vegetables to the supermarket?
You both have children, so I’d love to know how you are guiding them to live a ‘free-range’ life.
This is one of the most important things to us. We want to raise our children to be future earth warriors and change makers. We want to ensure that they have every opportunity to learn about how to make the world a better place. That they’re aware of how their actions impact other people, animals and the earth. And we want them to be resilient. To know how to be self-sufficient, and to have the best possible chance at a healthy, happy life.
Sharing the message of sustainability and ethically produced food is the core of the work you do. For people who are unsure where to start on a similar journey, what is one thing you would suggest?
The most important and powerful thing anyone can do is to educate themselves. And to take responsibility for the food on their plate, and that of their children.
Ask questions. Don’t believe the marketing hype. Find out who grew your food and how it was grown. It’s not just about whether your food choices contribute to the destruction of the environment. But also about eating food with a high, nutritional content. If the soil your food is grown in is full of chemicals, pesticides and depleted nutrients, how dense are the nutrients in your food going to be?
People seem to have forgotten that healthy earth = healthy people. One cannot survive without the other. And we cannot continue to go through life without a care for the impact of our lives on this planet.
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