How Your Grocery Shop Can Help Struggling Aussie Farmers

Small choices at the checkout really can make a big difference.

Aussie farmers are doing it tough.

The seemingly never-ending drought is now forcing farmers, particularly in New South Wales, to watch on, helpless, as their crops and livestock wither and die.

Many are having to sell -- or worse, slaughter -- their sheep or cattle, and give up the homes and farms that have been in their families for generations.

A crippling drought is right on Sydney's doorstep. Image: Emma Brancatisano

Even though the majority of Australia's population aren’t exposed to the day-to-day harsh reality of drought, it's still possible to help farmers doing it tough.

The problems is it's often a bit daunting to know where to start.

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Two worthy options are donating to relief funds and petitioning government to do more to support farmers.

But another way to make a difference is how you shop at the supermarket.

Aussie shoppers' impact comes down to which products they choose to put in their trolley, and which to leave on the shelf.

Here’s how to make farmer-friendly choices at the checkout.

Buy Australian

As much as possible.

“Shoppers wanting to support farmers managing drought can do so by continuing to buy products grown in Australia,” Tony Mahar, CEO of the National Farmers Federation told ten daily.

"Farmers highly value the support of all Australian consumers, especially during tough times."

That's not to say you have to put back your fave block of Belgian-made chocolate.

But doing something as painless as picking up Aussie-grown apples over imported ones will help.

Farmer Lynette Keanelly urges Aussies to be aware of what goes into making their food. Image: Emma Brancatisano

Lynette Keneally, who runs an apple orchard and Christmas tree farm in Oakdale, NSW, told ten daily, its about putting money where it's needed.

“If you are buying Australian, you are supporting farming families in Australia and the money is going where it needs to be going,” she said.

Look for labels

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission introduced new Country of Origin labeling laws on July 1.

Most shoppers are familiar with the triangle with the green and gold kangaroo which identifies products that are grown or produced in Australia, but now there's an added gold bar to indicate just how much of the product is Australian made.

Looking out for both the kangaroo triangle and the fullest bar is the best way to make sure you're making the best choice possible.

Image: ACCC.
Think regionally

It’s easy to lump all farms in together, but there are many different types throughout the country that produce different products like lamb, wheat, dairy or beef.

Former Big Brother contestant, Farmer Dave Graham, who runs Farmer Dave's Dog Training has a family farm in Goondiwindi, told ten daily that he wants shoppers to keep that in mind when they're deciding on what to have for dinner.

Buying Aussie-grown chickpeas and hummous, he said, helps wheat farmers who have had to diversify outside of bread or pasta, though it's still vital that you buy those too. If shoppers need oil, buy Canola oil as it’s another widely-grown seed crop in Australia.

Many Aussies would be happy to get behind Graham's other request: “Drink Aussie beer -- it’s made from barley, which is another crop wheat farmers are growing.”

Dig deep

Shoppers shouldn't be deterred by the higher price of Aussie-grown meat such as lamb and beef, because that extra few bucks makes all the difference to farmers.

“Yes, it’s expensive," Graham told ten daily, "but it’s because the sheep are so thin -- you simply need to buy Aussie meat to keep the farms going."

Sheep on the Jerry family farm 'Marlborough', 40 km outside Coonabarabran, NSW. Image: Getty.
Shop seasonally

Try to buy fresh produce that's in season. A good rule of thumb is to think about the weather. If it's the middle of winter, a summery fruit like a mango or pineapple is not going to be in season.

That means that it was likely grown under expensive and resource-heavy circumstances, such as a heated greenhouse, which is not only bad for the environment, but it also costs the farmer.

When shoppers buy mangoes mid-winter it creates a demand for more mid-winter mangoes, meaning the negative cycle continues.

It's better to stick to buying summer fruits and veggies in summer, and winter ones in winter.

Imperfect picks

Apple farmer Lynette Keneally thinks it’s time for everyone to stop judging books -- and food -- by their cover.

"People need to understand where their food comes from and what it takes to get it onto a plate. If it doesn't look perfect, it doesn’t matter. It’s still food," she explained to ten daily.

It might not look perfect but it tastes just as good. Image: Getty.

Just like shopping out of season, snobby shopping habits mean farmers find it increasingly hard to sell their odd-looking but still entirely edible produce to suppliers.

READ MORE: How Banks And Politicians Are Helping Drought-Stricken Farmers

READ MORE: How You Can Help Drought-Stricken Farmers

Instead it often rots in the field which is a huge waste of time, resources and money.

Doing our bit is as easy as not being so precious about our fruit and veggies. If one of the carrots in a bunch has a small blemish, don't opt for another just cut out the bad spot at home. Easy.

If you want to help Australian farmers in need, you can donate to a registered charity. Donate online to Rural Aid's Buy a Bale, Drought Angels, Aussie Helpers or Lions' Need for Feed. You can also support farmers by buying Australian grown produce at your local supermarket.