We first meet Melodie Tyrer in her cosy Leyton home; all vintage furnishings, white, rustic wooden floors, and lush green plants dotted about the living space. The whole place has a homely, earthy feel to it. As she cooks up a vegan breakfast- a medley of scrambled tofu, grilled aubergine, avocado, and a dollop of delicious homemade carrot chutney (which we later procure a jar of)- we have a nose around. It’s definitely the home of someone who is environmentally conscious. From the alkaline water filter with mineral stones, and separate bins for food waste and recycling. To the vegetable patch in the garden, and the adopted street cat wandering in and out of the kitchen.
We sit at her dining table as the morning sun beams in through a sash window. “So often these days people go to a supermarket and don’t really think about what goes into [their food]” the softly spoken Aussie sighs. “[They don’t think about] what goes back to the farmer and, you know, what’s fair and just with it all.” Wanting to change how people view their food and be more aware of how it’s produced, Melodie, together with her cohort Georgia Sheil who’s based in Australia, set up Farm To Face. “I guess it’s like a food blog,” Melodie explains. “We write about things in agriculture…what’s happening in farming….innovations that people have come up with.” There’s also a recipe hub on the blog that focuses on local, seasonal, and ethical food.
Last year, Melodie and Georgia travelled to Italy to film a six-part TV series. “To me, [Italy] feels like the birthplace of food. Or maybe it’s just ‘cause I love pizza,” she says with a giggle. People have a “perception that they still grow their own food and make their own pasta, and do everything organically”. Italy have been at the forefront of changing how we perceive our produce by introducing traceability. Traceability does exactly what it says on the tin. Each and every single product you buy in the country can be traced all the way back to the farm it originates from. Even down to which fisherman caught your fish.
But Farm To Face also want to help people waste less. According to lovefoodhatewaste.com, in the UK alone we throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year from each household. That amounts to a cost of £12.5bn a year. Quite a scary thought when, according to stats from Oxfam, 1 in 5 people in the UK live below the poverty line. One country that the Farm To Face co-founder feels is leading the way for change in reducing waste, sits just a slip across the English Channel- France. They started something called the ugly fruit and veg campaign. In supermarkets, all the fruit and veg that are sold have to be to a certain standard- the perfect shape, perfect colour etc. “Anyone who’s grown food or been shopping at a farmer’s market knows that not all [vegetables] are a standard size,” Melodie says. “What France did was take all the stuff that was going to end up in landfill and sell it….for a cheaper price….and people did buy it…..they sold out.” [Update- France just became the first country to ban all plastic cups and plates.]
Being less wasteful with fruit and veg seems to have finally caught on back on British soil, as, after a campaign from TV chef Jamie Oliver and his farming friend Jimmy Doherty, Asda now sell the Wonky Veg Box at their stores. So aside from supporting campaigns like this, what else can we do to become less wasteful? Particularly in a city that is as fast paced London. “I know London is stretched for space, but [some] people do have backyards and windowsills and stuff. It’s so easy to grow your own and there’s zero waster involved.” What if you don’t have the space, or indeed the time, to grow your own? Produce from organic shops and farmer’s markets carry a hefty price tag, right? Melodie disagrees telling us that “they’re not going to be anymore expensive than a supermarket”, plus, there’s the added bonus of less waste- no humongous bags of spinach that go off the next day as “you buy [what] you need”, and, of course, less packaging.
Hailing from the land down under, there’s a perception that Aussies lead a healthier, more organic, more sustainable lifestyle. This is the case, somewhat, and, Melodie tells us, “you’d never get an Australian child thinking a chicken came from just a supermarket”- referring to an incident on Jamie Oliver’s School Dinner’s programme a few years back. “To a certain extent,” she continues, “we’re still out of touch because there’s [lots of] big cities [in Australia], and big cities aren’t close to farms so…it’s still pretty much the same worldwide.”
Most recently, Farm To Face have been working with Sustainable Table, an Australian based company that’s campaigning and aiming to raise awareness of waste around food. They want us to use less plastic and eat less meat, for the sake of our carbon footprint. Sharing such a similar ethos as Melodie and Georgia, Farm To Face have been appointed as ambassadors for their Give A Fork! campaign. “There’s this idea that if you’re a ‘greeny’ you’re a hippy wearing a jumper woven out of your own pubes,” Melodie laughs. “You can be an average, everyday person and give a crap about the environment……because [you] care about where you live and the legacy you leave.” The Give A Fork! campaign, or ‘grexy’ as it’s also known (green x sexy), involves ambassadors taking on various challenges. For Melodie, it was the Drop Dead Grexy- no meat during the week and keeping, or at least attempting to keep, all your plastic waste in a jar. That’s going to be one hell of a jar if our waste is anything to go by. “It gives you an idea of how much landfill you’re [creating].”
Next on the agenda for Farm To Face is to make part two of their TV series. Where do they have in their sights? South America. Tyrer explains that “there’s a lot going on there ecologically…they use a lot of fertilisers and it leaches into the ocean. It’s causing algea blooms which [in turn]is suffocating the phyto-plankton which is the thing that produces oxygen”. Melodie will also be hosting a supper club in Finsbury Square on November 12th with the charity Hand In Hand, which supports Syrian refugees and will feature a Syrian menu. “So [just keeping on] getting out that message to people to learn to….live more naturally. Keep exploring, keep meeting farmers and seeing what’s going on in the world.”
Melodie’s top tips for living a more sustainable lifestyle.
We asked the Farm To Face co-creator how we can all make small changes and help save our planet.
- Get rid of plastic. The top four most polluted plastics, as they never break down. All the plastic we’ve ever made is still on this earth: straws, plastic bags, coffee cups and water bottles.
- Carry a metal drinking bottle. Plastic bottles are not only wasteful, but also breed bacteria.
- Use a calico bag. A lot of plastic bags end up in the ocean and turtles try to eat them mistaking them for jellyfish.
- Buy a reusable coffee cup. Even though they look like they’re made of paper, normal takeaway coffee cups are lined with plastic and cannot be recycled.
- No straws! This is a hard one as it’s so easy to forget to ask for no straw. But as straws are so small they get into all kinds of trouble once they reach the ocean, even getting caught all the way up turtles noses (believe me the video isn’t pretty).
- Eat less meat. And buy what meat you do eat from a reputable butcher. Factory and intensively farmed meat isn’t great for the animals or for the planet. It leaches toxins from the waste into our waterways and creates sick animals who are living and eating things they aren’t born to. Instead head to your local butcher where the meat is wrapped in paper and ask about where your meat came from and what kind of life it had (happy animals generally make for healthy meat).
- Buy local. Support your local community by choosing to buy a local veg box instead of veg from your supermarket. Buying local means less miles the food has had to travel, and means your food is seasonal and fresher, so it contains more nutrients for you! More nutrients means your body is satisfied with what you’re fuelling it with, potentially feeling fuller for longer. There are some great local veg box deliveries in hackney including growing communities, hackney city farm and growing communities.
- Reduce, reuse recycle. Try to save as much from going in your bins as possible, remember that it all has to end up somewhere and even the stuff that you recycle can only be used so much- for example any product which CAN use recycled plastic (which isn’t many things) can only use 10% of recycled plastic before its integrity is compromised.
- Grow your own. If you have a back yard then start to compost and grow a few of your own veges or herbs, this might seem like it will take an age and so much care but truly there are some vegetables and a LOT of herbs that you can pretty much leave to their own devices- tomatoes even being one of them!
- Consume less. Do you really need another £5 top or the newest upgrade when your old device works perfectly? These things aren’t easy to recycle.
Written by Jennifer Wallis
Melodie portrait by Jennifer Wallis
Additional photography courtesy Farm To Face