Opinion

Getting word out about local food

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“The American cowboy: An endangered species.”

It’s the headline on a poster in the window of a pottery shop in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“Every month 10,000 ranches go out of production. It’s the home security issue nobody talks about.”

Karla watches me copy the lines on the back of her card. She says America can’t afford to lose arable land. “But, it’s happening everywhere. Ranches and farms are being sold for housing and malls. People don’t realize where our food comes from.”

“In B.C.,” I tell her, “there’s a battle between those who want Walmarts on farmland, and those fighting to preserve it for food production.”

“You Canadians are smarter,” says Karla.

“We depend on produce from California’s Central Valley through the winter,” I reply. “But more folks are talking about saving farmland for sustainable agriculture. Where I live – Maple Ridge – we have a vibrant farmer’s market, and community gardens.”

Back home, I witness another positive step, the public announcement of a logo to identify locally grown foods and businesses that support them. The brand, called True North Fraser, is a colorful image of farmer’s fields with a mountainous background. It’s a collaborative effort by Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge and Mission.

Several local food producers displayed the icon at the logo’s official launch.

Dr. Kent Mullinex of Kwantlen Polytechnic University was there. He called the symbol a big step towards local food sustainability, and an investment that could add billions to the local economy.

“We have an opportunity to create a regional food system sector that captures a significant portion of the $5.5 billion Lower Mainland market,” said Mullinex, “creates jobs, provides opportunity for small business development, and contributes to the social vitality of our communities.”

Emma Davison, of Golden Ears Cheesecrafters, agrees. This fledgling family business has already distinguished itself as a finalist – Brie and havarti – in the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix, which will rate 250 producers nationwide this year.

“That was a real surprise for us,” says Davison. “We were up against huge cheese makers.”

Davison says the True North Fraser Brand will help people associate with local products. But, “the logo won’t do it by itself.” Davison hopes local Tourism B.C. offices will help businesses and the community get the word out.

“It’s a team effort,” she says.

Getting the word out about local food production and the people behind it is the focus of Cheers for the Planet, the CEED Centre’s fundraiser (tickets 604-463-2229) at Meadowridge School, April 27.  The event will showcase regional farmers, restaurants, small breweries, and several award-winning cottage wineries in the Lower Mainland. CEED’s past-president Janet Amsden recently toured the wineries. “The vintners put great care into their vineyards and farms. Many use organic, natural and sustainable practices. We want to tell their story at Cheers.”

Big Feast Restaurant owner-chef Mike Mulcahy hasn’t decided what he’ll prepare for Cheers, but “it will be something meat-based, and something vegan.”

As much as possible, says Mike, what goes into the food samples from Big Feast will be “local, artisan – from small batch producers – or organic,” a focus that lines up with the Mulcahy philosophy.

“We want to support the local economy, to make sure the local food movement is stronger. The amount of farming that’s around us here is a hidden gem.”

Karla, from Scottsdale, would be impressed. Food security is a major concern for her, especially as the Colorado River – the major source of water for agriculture, dries up. Mead Lake, the reservoir at the head of the system is dropping. In four years, the water in Hoover Dam won’t be sufficient to generate electricity for the slots in Las Vegas. California, another victim, is taking farms out of production – no water. A crisis looms.

In Canada last year, inflation was two per cent, but the cost of fruit and vegetables rose 28 per cent. That makes growing some of your own a timely idea.

That’s one goal of the local Senior’s Network as it prepares an “intergenerational garden” on a municipal lot on Edge Street. The project is funded by United Way to promote health and well-being in seniors.

“We want to bring seniors and students – Eric Langton and St. Patrick’s schools – together as garden friends,” says coordinator, Heather Treleaven.

Bed construction is this weekend. To volunteer, call Sue at 604-873-8915.

“We’ve come a long way,” notes Eileen Dwillies, of the Farmer’s Market.

Look for Eileen’s True North Fraser poster at Cheers, and her gazpacho soup made with local onions and peppers.

“We’re in a very good place in history,” concludes agriculture committee member, Craig Speirs.

“A lot of people have created a framework for food security here. We’re connecting the dots, and the dots are willing to be connected.”

Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.

 

 

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