Wholefoods Dealer Talia Smith On How To Make Your Diet More Sustainable

by: Lucy Jones | 5 months ago | Features

Talia Smith manning The Locals Market. All images via @thelocalsmarket

If you've ever caught the lift up to the rooftop of Paramount House on a Saturday morning, then you will have met Talia Smith. Every weekend, the wholefoods dealer can be found here surrounded by bags of greens and seasonal local produce. After working as a cook for ten years, Smith decided that she wanted to use her expertise to help others eat (and live) more sustainably. And so, The Locals Market was born. Smith sells fresh local produce in the heart of Sydney's Surry Hills every week. Her market helps educate the community about the importance of buying local and avoid the plastics and pesticides of supermarket fruit and veg. Smith believes everyone will shop locally in the future and we really hope so too. We caught up with the pioneer of local produce to chat about eating simply and what the word 'organic' really means.

Lucy Jones: Who are you and what do you 'do'?
Talia Smith: I am Talia Smith and I am a local wholefoods dealer. 

What is The Locals Market and how did it come about?
The Locals Market was created five years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter Luna. I wanted to create something sustainably useful, positive and unique while I waited for her to be born. Having worked as a cook for almost ten years, I was immensely excited about this project and really wanted to showcase, and learn more about, local produce around Sydney. Making it simple for households to access [local produce], utilising disused space, and reducing mindless shopping at supermarkets and ordering delivery were my main motivations. It evolved into a meeting place for like-minded people who enjoy cooking fresh produce with no packaging and the delightful rituals Paramount House has to offer: coffee, delicious food, a rooftop garden and space to unwind.

The majority of my weekly market offerings are all grown within a few hours of Sydney's CBD. I strive to connect people with produce that inspires kitchen confidence, knowing that what is on their plate hasn't travelled a great distance. It tastes ridiculously amazing and is still jam-packed with nutrients and goodness — it’s positive food! You don’t need to do much to fresh produce. I want to help people understand what eating seasonally is, and to realise how much better it is to eat local and support our farmers who truly struggle to keep their farms running.

Why is running a project like this important to you?
The food we eat is an extension of our personalities and lifeline — we are what we eat. To have founded a project that helps others make positive food choices is truly rewarding and makes a difference every single meal.

Have you always loved fresh produce and food?
I have always had an affinity with eating good food and making it myself. My approach to cooking has evolved significantly since I first started cooking almost 20 years ago for family and friends. To me now, the perfect meal is a nourishing salad or a broth-based soup. I prefer to eat simply and like my food to stay as close to its original form as possible. I choose to eat in a way that is balanced, nourishing and respectful to the produce I am using, as well as to myself.  The Locals Market embodies an approach to life that also matches my own personal lifestyle and one that makes me happy, healthy and strong. I want to share that and help others to do that too. Eating well in conjunction with daily exercise (I love hot yoga), self-care and mindful lifestyle choices is what suits me best.

Do you have any amazing recipes under your belt?
I don’t use recipes very often and my cupboards and fridge are mostly spacious! I prefer to eat what I have in the house before purchasing anything new. I have a phobia of jars and condiments sitting in fridges and overcrowded pantries. Hummus, Tahini, fresh unsalted peanuts, sesame oil, miso, Sriracha and apple cider vinegar are constants and I always prefer the best quality. Recipes are useful for inspiration and teaching yourself how to cook but I am happy eating the same thing for dinner on rotation, I’m easily pleased.

I volunteer at the market and for me it's a really nice opportunity to connect with strangers. Do you see it as something that can bring people together in this way?
The Locals Market brings people together every week who have a common love of good produce and good food. Often new friends are made through recipes exchanged and stories about the produce shared, this is what makes it the essence of a village in our modern world. I personally adore talking to people and over the years have grown close to so many families and made lifelong friends, motivating each other in challenging times and congratulating in the good. 

Why is it important for people to buy locally grown food?
The further something travels the less fresh it is. Generally produce from other states is picked before it is ready then refrigerated so it is able to travel further and last longer. This can be seen in a lot of fruit and veg you buy at the supermarket, an apple might look like an apple but the taste is bland, powdery and not juicy at all. This fruit is purchased cheaply from farmers who pick the apples when they're slightly unripe, treat them with a chemical called 1-methylcyclopropene, wax them, box them, stack them on pallets, and keep them in cold storage warehouses for an average of 9-12 months. So gross.

Nutrients only last so long after something has been picked and separated from its life source — tree or earth. So if it hasn't travelled very far from its source or been refrigerated it will undoubtedly have more nutrients and flavour. On a bigger scale we need to protect our close food supply, decrease transportation and fuel consumption, use less plastic packaging and keep cash in our local communities.

How does growing your own food or buying locally from markets help you reduce waste?
This is the future model of consumerism. The way we are currently living is not sustainable. Support the local economy, eat seasonally, eat less meat and remember your food is only as organic as the distance it's travelled. We should be consuming the majority of what we eat from as close as possible; it stays fresher longer. Thinking about need versus want is also so important — we actually need very little to stay healthy. I always try to simplify the recipes I post online. I am not fond of long-winded recipes with a massive list of ingredients. The focus should always be on the vegetables! 

Do you think it’s important to buy ethical and sustainable clothing too?
I am a minimalist by nature. I don’t own a lot of clothes but I choose to invest in pieces from only a few Australian made brands that last a long time. I have these on high rotation and everything I own goes together. Consuming less is always on my mind but I must admit my needs versus wants are constantly in battle with each other. 

Is environmental conservation important to you?
Raising a child has definitely sharpened my consciousness. No doubt my daughter’s generation will be more astutely schooled than I was growing up in the 80s, thank goodness. Recycling, repurposing and consuming less are common themes in our household.

Do you think community interest in sustainability has grown over the past few years?
I think more people are aware of what sustainability means and that it’s the best thing for the planet but are perhaps still unsure of how exactly to live a sustainable lifestyle. I definitely have a lot more people asking me if my produce is ‘organic’ but when I say it’s spray-free and locally grown they then ask if it’s seasonal! Organic is such a buzzword and it’s short-sighted to think that it’s definitive of good food. If food is grown locally then it’s definitely seasonal.

What is one thing you'd like to see humans achieve in your lifetime?
Plastic and Polystyrene banned from production.

What's your life motto?
Always do your best.

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