IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The need to grow food and produce locally

How many items were actually grown locally, in B.C. or even Canada? You may be surprised if you take the time to analyze this topic.

Did you eat today?  Did you think to thank a farmer for the food that appeared on your table?

What does a typical Canadian family dinner look like? How many items were actually grown locally, in B.C. or even Canada? You may be surprised if you take the time to analyze this topic.

The perception is that we are self-sufficient Canadians when it comes to food production – well think again!

Canada imports more than 53 per cent of its fruit and vegetables to meet consumer demand. Over a 40-year period food imports have risen over 160 per cent, while the total population has gone up only 15 per cent.

Import of red meat is up over 600 per cent. Alberta imports $170 million worth of fresh vegetables while it only exports $400,000 in product. What is considered the breadbasket of Ontario, with prime farmlands, imports are a staggering $4 million. We may think that only exotic fruits and vegetables are being brought into the country but items such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are among those items.

Where did we lose the incentive to grow these products locally?

Did you know that for every apple exported by Canada, it imports five?

Every pear that leaves is replaced by 700! These items come to us from places such as California, Mexico, Chile and China.

They must travel thousands of miles and take days to reach the store shelves.  What happens to the nutritional value of the items?  When a product is locally picked it reaches the consumer within hours thus keeping all the nutritional values from being lost.

The product is thus picked for ripeness and flavours rather then its ability to withstand travel.

How much longer can we expect this practice to continue before it has an adverse effect on our own ability to produce food?  The effect will be felt on the economy, on the environment and on neighbourhoods. The small family farm is struggling to survive as we speak and the price of inferior imports is making it uneconomical for the farmer to continue operations.

Some provinces have legislation in place to protect farmland from disappearing into housing and industry but this too is weakening as the demands increase on the need for expansion.

If you are concerned that we may lose the ability to feed ourselves and have to rely on other countries to feed us, it is not too late to make changes. Help your Canadian farmers by making a conscious effort to buy B.C. or better still, buy local when it is available.

Locally, we have the farmer’s market operating two days per week at Gyro Park with lots of locally-produced, nutrition-packed fruits and vegetables.

There is an abundance of freshly picked greenhouse items such as peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers in the region as well.

Strawberries are coming into season. Asparagus is nearing the end of the season, but items such as peas, carrots, spinach and beets will soon take their place on the shelves.  Several producers have just processed their first batches of meat chickens and these are available as well. There is nothing like a free-range, naturally -grown chicken for taste. Turkey, beef, pork, eggs, rabbit, lamb and goat are among other products, which can be obtained locally. Check it out; you will be surprised that it is possible to eat locally.

If we get the fertile lands of the Boundary into production once more, we may see the invasive plague of weeds disappear. Buy local! Demand local!

– Irene Perepolkin is Area D director for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB)

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