Subject: National Food Strategy: Update from Conference
Board of Canada Consultation
Farmers’ Market Community,
At the end of January I attended the Halifax consultation of Conference Board of Canada’s National Food Strategy.
Along with the consultations, the Conference Board of Canada created an online survey available for anyone to complete. The original deadline to fill out of the survey was January 31st. Thanks to many in the room at the Halifax consultation, the survey deadline was extended to Feb 28. You can complete the survey here: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/cfic/foodstrategy.aspx.
Regarding the integrity of the Conference Board of Canada’s National Food Strategy, I will share the words of a number of respected experts in the field –
. from Food Secure Canada : http://foodsecurecanada.org/conference-board-canadas-food-strategy
. from Steffanie Scott, director of the local economic development program at the University of Waterloo. She is also vice-president of the Canadian Association for Food Studies and was founding co-chair of the Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable : http://www.therecord.com/opinion/columns/article/674510–more-voices-needed-on-national-food-strategy
It has been suggested that the best thing to do is offer our thoughts and, if appropriate, our dissent and concern. After attending the Halifax consultation, I am very concerned.
Comments: first, a quick summary: a grassroots effort involving many people is followed up by a corporate initiative which essentially continues the over-centralising, profit-obsessed trends evident in most so-called ‘industries’ these days, following which some people are complaining and seemingly requesting that they be included in this process which is otherwise unfair or unbalanced or otherwise inappropriate.
My feeling is that, although the above is reasonable, in fact there is little point in working with these large, dominant corporate ‘special interests’. Rather, the emphasis should be on the grass roots style organisations using Common Law norms (Notices etc. ) to establish certain basic rights or practices. For example, I believe it might be possible to establish that if food is being purchased in X county of Y Province (i.e. where the Notice is published and later filed) the undersigned hereby establishes the right to grow or purchase any food or drink product that he/she desires unless it can be proven in a court of law that such activity endangers the life of anyone involved in such intercourse. Or something like that.
In other words, more effort has to go into creating more understanding about the role and effect of promoting local culture, including local business, including local food production and services, thus especially the role of Farmers Markets in the local community context. We need more research with data, but also less looking to government and big business, which are essentially the enemy on several levels. Wasting time petitioning the government, waiting for their largesse, lobbying them to change rules etc., though well intentioned, even correct, won’t work.
Why? Because large corporations, with practically unlimited amounts of money to throw at legislators and legislative systems, will undermine any changes you/we manage to effect. Look what they are doing with ‘organic’. In a few more years it will be more or less meaningless with many of the products so labelled. Is hydroponic lettuce using ‘organic’ liquid fertiliser meaningfully ‘organic’? Is organic lettuce grown in California really necessary in Nova Scotia, or rather is it all that significant that it is organic if it comes from California?
Further, I think it is time for more people to learn how to grow their own food. That in itself will put great pressure on the Loblaws of this world to raise their quality and lower their prices. And to do that, guess what? They will have to promote and then contract with more local producers. Locally grown lettuce, picked the day before it is presented on the supermarket shelves when it is ripe with the ideal sugar content will beat long distance stuff picked early and then chemically treated any day. More sophisticated winter greenhouse operations within Canada, but especially Nova Scotia, and in particular for the author of this blog, Cape Breton Island, will be far more nutritious and delicious than anything either Sobeys or Superstore are offering by the Big Bear Farms in Texas.
Yes, ideally our local Farmers’ Market could get the ball rolling in this direction, but the reality is that only supermarkets supply a meaningful variety of produce and other goods and it is very difficult for a small scale, usually amateur, producer to offer a sufficiently broad product line since so few people from the town come to the market. And of course one could argue that so few come because there is not enough offered and so on ad infinitum.
But still, somehow we have to find a way to grow and consume locally grown and/or processed foods. That’s the bottom line.
So when you go shopping for stuff to eat, please consider taking this seriously, whether you are buying meat, fish, cheese, eggs, bread or vegetables. As much as possible, buy the local offerings and as much as possible/reasonable, cut back on commercial processed or transported foods. Within reason of course.
But if you do start choosing local over global, so to speak, you will find there is more variety than you might think, and also you might find yourself developing a taste for basics and buying those rather than packaged foods, i.e. vegetables, spices, grains, nuts, fruits and veggies especially during the cold season, and so forth.
The more we support good food by not buying junk food, the more these corporations will have to work harder to supply good food and not junk food. But if we keep buying the junk, they will keep trying to push it further, because of course one of the main reasons junk food has been pushed in the first place is that it is the most convenient money-maker for corporate food industry players.
Stop buying their junk!!!
P.S. An example of why the label ‘organic’ is increasingly meaningless. Look at how one manufacturer (for that is what it is) of ‘organic spinach’ is having this product recalled in over thirty States in the U.S. And for salmonella, which, I think, comes from manure. I very much doubt this manure comes from animals that are grazing on the same property as the farm, probably it is shipped in, and probably this brand of spinach is being grown in many different farms, or greenhouses, or hydroponic units. I don’t know, but I very much doubt that true organic production is taking place in such large volumes. I do buy such stuff from time to time because I prefer to give money to organic producers, but I hold my nose a little every time I do, and meanwhile am taking steps to grow all my own produce, including winter production which hopefully will take place next year.