Food sovereignty – what’s it all about?

Castlegar is the starting point for an upcoming five community tour designed to help explain the concept

  • Mar. 16, 2012 11:00 a.m.
Colleen Ross of the National Farmers Union arrived in Castlegar Friday

Colleen Ross of the National Farmers Union arrived in Castlegar Friday

If you’ve ever shared a fridge with people you didn’t know very well, you’ve got a fairly good grasp of part of what food sovereignty is all about.

A special guest of NDP MP Alex Atamanenko has arrived in the West Kootenays and will share her considerable knowledge on the food sovereignty topic with interested residents of Nelson, Grand Forks, then onto Oliver, Cawston and Princeton.

There are five presentations in five nights for Colleen Ross, Vice President of Policy with the National Farmers Union. Ross also works closely with a global movement called Via Campesina, “fighting to advance the concept of food sovereignty and sustainable food systems.”

There are few other topics, if any, that pertain to as many people as food-related topics do. There’s growing concern among a growing number of people in regard to food: where it comes from; how much it costs; how long it will be available, etc. Another key consideration involves local people who produce some of the food we depend on, and issues relating to competition they face from producers from any number of countries. It’s a complicated subject, but one eagerly taken on by Ross who touched down at Castlegar Airport with Atamanenko on Friday.

Agriculture is an important activity right across the country, and while some regions may have a higher profile in terms of output, the BC Southern Interior MP pointed out that this region has important agricultural components of its own.”There’s certainly a movement here,” he said, “whether in the Slocan Valley… in Pass Creek and other areas… Grand Forks – where they’re to revitalize and get land back into production.”We’re just really fortunate that we found out Colleen wanted to come out to British Columbia. So we set up this tour.”

The five forums which run from March 18-22 will look at food sovereignty – what it’s about; why it’s needed; when we lost it and how it can be regained.”As we drove into Castlegar,” related the first time Kootenay visitor, Ross,” I was asking, ‘where do you get your food? Where are the farmers, what are your choices for local food?'”

What was once commonplace has, in many cases, gone by the wayside over the years as production and marketing techniques have evolved. Commerce has evolved as well and certain producers have been squeezed out along the way.

“We’ve become a globalized economy here,” Ross continued, “a lot of farmers have gotten out of farming, they just can’t compete with cheap imports. We need to start looking at our food security and food sovereignty in this country. That means making space for farmers, and supporting those farmers so they can be viable.”

There are a lot of factors involved in the food sovereignty discussion, and it promises to be interesting and enlightening at each of the upcoming sessions which all start at 7 p.m. The first two are relatively accessible to those in this area with an interest to attend: Sunday, March 18 at the Nelson United Church, 621 Silica St. Monday, March 19 the location will be the Grand Forks Seniors Hall, 571 71st Ave.