Why we’re in trouble

April 30, 2008

Interesting update from Corky Evans, who will be in Powell River on Sunday June 1 to talk at the Open Air Market. Corky is currently touring the province talking to farmers and getting lots of information on the effects of the new regulatory regime, especially the meat inspection regulations, which are causing a lot of our local farmers to fear for the future of farming in this region. Corky:

Dear Friends,

I have been traveling BC for a few months talking to farmers about farming. I have heard a huge number of excellent ideas for support systems to regenerate the business of farming that are not subsidies. None of these ideas, though, will work as long as BC is content to be LAST in Canada in support for food production and farming.

The enclosed graph was sent to me yesterday by a person who I met on the tour. It is the best representation of the overall situation in BC, now and historically, I have ever seen. Please give it a look. In fact, please give it a considerable amount of study.

The graph is pretty easy to understand. It starts in the 1980’s and runs up to last year. It shows that under the Socreds, the NDP and, now, the Liberals, British Columbia has failed farmers and farming. The top line is the average (not the best, the average) of support by Canadian Provinces. The bottom line is BC. As long as this condition continues to exist no Minister, no Cabinet and no Premier will be able to turn things around for the farmer. Essentially, we are the least competitive jurisdiction for this particular form of business in Canada.

If the graph interests you, send it to your friends. Maybe broad public knowledge of this embarrassment will convince society and societies Leaders to want to fix what is broken. I am working on the Party I support to understand the issue. Maybe you could work on yours.

Corky Evans
Agriculture Critic/ Official Opposition

In case you missed it, here‘s that graph again. It tells a pretty sad story indeed. But the question is: what are we supposed to do about it?

Come on out on June 1 to hear Corky Evans speak in Powell River. Guaranteed to get you fired up!


Powell River Food Security Newsletter #11

April 29, 2008

Hello and welcome to the 11th issue of the Powell River Food Security Newsletter!!
Wow, time flies. Things here in Powell River are pretty busy these days, as we head into the growing season. Since the last newsletter (February 1, 2008), the Powell River Farmers’ Institute had a very successful third annual Seedy Saturday; the demonstration garden has been mostly constructed; Kale Force has met three more times and looks like something that might continue and prosper; the community garden behind the Seventh Day Adventist Church has found two coordinators and is getting started for the 2008 season; and generally things are picking up speed all over.
One thing that the local folks reading this could do, and that is to let me know of any workshops that you would to see organized this spring and summer. I have some ideas for more workshops, but could always use more ideas. If you would be willing to lead a workshop, or you know someone with special skills or experience who might be a good workshop leader, let me know that as well. Thanks!!
One other thing that I want to let people know is that I am starting to think seriously about ways of increasing local food production. It’s great to see that so many people are interested in growing their own food, but we need to start building larger solutions at the community level. I’m interested in researching the feasibility of a cooperative which would work to covert arable urban land to food production (using something like the SPIN farming model), with memberships available to anyone in the community and revenue coming from sales of produce to members and elsewhere. I see this as a good way of putting control over our food supply in local hands, and making it easier for people to get high-quality local food. It could also provide some good jobs for local folks who want to learn some useful skills. I’ll be working on this in the next few months, and hopefully will have some progress to report.

Local News & Upcoming Events

1. Kale Force

We continue to meet on the second Wednesday of every month at 5:00 PM at the Community Resource Centre (4752 Joyce Ave., Powell River). It’s a very casual meeting, starting off with a potluck, so bring food if you can, but there is always plenty to go around. It’s a good opportunity to meet some of the other folks in the area who are keen to get more food growing and help others grow more food, learn about food preservation and food storage, and any other aspects of regional food security. Next meeting: Wednesday May 14.

2. Demonstration garden

The demonstration garden is coming along great: there are fences, beds, fruit trees, a herb spiral, and some planting is underway. It’s still very much a work in progress, but it’s a genuine community project. If you’re interested in helping out, drop by the garden any Friday afternoon. A bunch of us usually gather for lunch and then spend some time in the garden working on whatever needs doing. There’s always room for more hands!! Come join us behind the Community Resource Centre (4752 Joyce Ave., Powell River). If you’re interested in working in the demonstration garden, especially if you have experience growing food, please let me know. We can use more willing hands!!

3. Open Air Market opening on Saturday April 26

What more needs to be said? We’re back into another season of local food, so come on out and support your local farmers and craftspeople, up at the fairgrounds on McLeod Rd. just off Padgett Rd. on the way from Powell River out past the airport. Saturdays 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM; Sundays 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM. If you grow food, or bake or cook or make specialty foods with local ingredients, and you’re interested in selling your goods at the Open Air Market, please contact the coordinator of the Open Air Market, Julie Bellian, at (604) 483-4923.

4. Seventh Day Adventist Church Community Garden

The community garden behind the Seventh Day Adventist Church is getting going for another season. If you’re interested in getting an allotment of your own, as an individual or as a family or other group, please contact one of the coordinators and they’ll do our best. You can reach David Counsell at dcounsell@shaw.ca, or Sharon Deane at kingfisherbooks@shawbiz.ca. There is usually one of them at the garden on Tuesdays and Thursday around noon to one p.m., so you can drop by and connect with one of them.

5. Gardening and food growing on JUMP FM

Powell River’s very own Carol Engram has a weekly radio show on JUMP FM, where she talks about gardening and growing food, and offers hints and ideas on how to make your garden more productive. Tune in every Thursday at 12:30 PM to 1:00 PM at 90.1 FM. Or you can listen over the internet at http://jumpradio.ca/.

6. 50-mile diet challenge

This summer we’ll be celebrating the third annual Eat Local challenge. So get ready, start your garden soon, talk to your local farmers, and spread the word. Eating locally is the future! If you’re interested is helping organize the 50-mile diet challenge, let me know. We can always use help.

7. Fruit Tree Project

Also, we’re getting closer to the time of year when the fruit ripens, and the bears go crazy. Anne Michaels is going to be coordinating the Fruit Tree Project, which works to organize teams of volunteers willing to go out into the community to pick fruit so that it won’t go to waste. Usually, the fruit is shared among the owner of the trees, the pickers, and charitable organizations in the region. Anne also has some ambitious ideas about pressing cider, drying fruit, making jams and jellies, and so on. But all of those projects will require some more volunteer help; so if you’re interested in working with her, please contact her at prfruittreeproject@shaw.ca.

8. Good Food Box

Every second Wednesday of the month, at the United Church kitty-corner to the library at Duncan & Michigan, from a little after 9:00 until a little after noon, a bunch of volunteers get together to help pack up the hundred or so Good Food Boxes that go out every month. I regularly attend, because it’s a worthy cause to give some time to, and also because it’s a nice social occasion. There is a pretty regular crew of people who help out, and afterwards there is always a good homemade lunch cooked by volunteers while other volunteers are bagging, counting, carrying, boxing, and generally running around. So come on out if you’re interested!

In case you didn’t know, the Good Food Box is a program open to anyone. Participants pay $12 each month for a box of produce worth somewhat more than $12, since the produce is bought in quantity. Anyone interested can sign up for a Good Food Box through the Family Place in the Town Centre Mall (485-2706), or through the PREP Society (485-2004). Or you can contact the organizer, Kimberley Murphy-Heggeler at (604) 483-3045 or prgoodfoodbox@shaw.ca.

9. Corky Evans coming to Powell River on June 1

The provincial NDP’s agriculture critic Corky Evans will be in Powell River on June 1 as part of a cross-province tour to raise awareness of the growing threats to small farming, particularly the BC government’s imposition of strict new meat inspection regulations. June 1 is a Sunday, so Corky will be speaking at the Open Air Market in Powell River, tentatively from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM, but stayed tuned for updates. If you want to get an idea of what Corky will be talking about, tune in to this recent episode of Deconstructing Dinner.

News, Opinion, etc.

Of course, the huge story that is all over the news lately is the growing global food crisis. Food prices, particularly the prices of staples such as wheat, corn, rice and soybeans, are rising rapidly, causing even more hunger and unrest in the poorer parts of the planet. If you want to read something pretty exhaustive on this subject, this post from the excellent blog The Automatic Earth is a good place to start. The reasons they give for the food crisis are:

  1. The world population is growing constantly, while the amount of arable land is declining.
    Climate change is causing a loss of agricultural land, irreversible in some cases, as a result of droughts, floods, storms and erosion.
  2. Because of changing eating habits, more and more arable land and virgin forests are being turned into pasture for livestock. The yield per acre in calories of land given over to pasture is substantially lower than that of arable land.
  3. The World Bank wants developing countries to introduce market reforms, including the abolition of protective tariffs, a move that often causes massive damage to local agriculture.
  4. Speculators are driving up the prices of raw materials. The resulting high oil price leads to “energy crops” being cultivated instead of grain for food or animal feed.
  5. Millions of people displaced by civil wars need food, and yet they themselves are no longer capable of producing food.

This is a terrible systemic failure, and it’s hard to know how we as individuals are supposed to respond. One good idea would be to eat less energy-intensive factory-farmed meat coming from far away. Support your local farmers; lord knows they can use your support.

a. Michael Pollan on the value of individual actions (such as growing your own food)

“Let’s say I do bother, big time. I turn my life upside-down, start biking to work, plant a big garden, turn down the thermostat so low I need the Jimmy Carter signature cardigan, forsake the clothes dryer for a laundry line across the yard, trade in the station wagon for a hybrid, get off the beef, go completely local. I could theoretically do all that, but what would be the point when I know full well that halfway around the world there lives my evil twin, some carbon-footprint doppelgänger in Shanghai or Chongqing who has just bought his first car (Chinese car ownership is where ours was back in 1918), is eager to swallow every bite of meat I forswear and who’s positively itching to replace every last pound of CO2 I’m struggling no longer to emit. So what exactly would I have to show for all my trouble?”
Michael Pollan on Democracy Now: http://www.democracynow.org/2008/2/13/in_defense_of_food_author_journalist
Transcript of an interview with Michael Pollan: http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/77330/?page=entire

b. Genetic modification reduces crop productivity

“The study – carried out over the past three years at the University of Kansas in the US grain belt – has found that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting assertions by advocates of the technology that it increases yields.”

c. 40 Ways to Encourage More Local Food Production

(From Guy Dauncey and Carolyn Herriot of Earth Future in Victoria, BC)

d. Parksville-Qualicum resident Kathryn Gemmell starts a SPIN farming operation

“‘We need to start educating people about getting back to growing food on our properties and making viable use of the land,’ she said. ‘Over the next 10 years, with the price of oil increasing, we won’t be able to bring food in cost-effectively from elsewhere in the world, so we need to work on our local infrastructure. Urban farming is one way to do that, making use of people’s properties to grow food.’ Gemmell, a Parksville resident, said the initiative would see participants either rent the property for part of the year or provide fresh food from the yard to the owner, with the rest distributed in the community or sold at the local farmer’s market for wholesale prices.”

e. A cooperative in the UK gets a whole town growing its own food

“Of the 164 families who live in Martin, 101 have signed up as members of Future Farms for an annual £2 fee, although the produce can be sold to anyone who wants to buy it. The “community allotment” sells 45 types of vegetables and 100 chickens a week, and is run by a committee which includes a radiologist, a computer programmer and a former probation officer.”

That’s it for now — see you at the Open Air Market!

David Parkinson
Program Coordinator
Powell River Food Security Project
(604) 485-2004