I don’t know why I didn’t put up my hand.
I don’t know why I didn’t ask the question filling my brain the entire time she was talking.
I’ve rarely been one to shy from asking questions.
I’ve got journalism in my blood for goodness sake; I should have asked the question.
This week I attended the latest installment of the UBC Reads Sustainability series, a program that brings well-known authors to campus to discuss issues of sustainability. It was the first I’d heard of the program, and was intrigued for a few reasons:
1) The speaker, Simran Sethi, is a journalist (see blood above) and her book is called Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love. For those of you who’ve been long-time readers, you already know, but for those of you new to the PoP ways, chocolate might as well BE my blood.
2) I am currently taking a Land, Food, Systems course, which is a year-long prerequisite for the dietetics program all about sustainability, systems-thinking, multifunctionalism, etc., which is, without a doubt, my favourite course. The lecturer is super engaging, and my extensive experience as a newspaper journalist in one of the major farming communities of the province gives me a solid base for the content.
Ms. Sethi’s book is an exploration of the changing lands of agriculture through those beloved foods, and the devastating impact of the homogenization of our food that’s been taking over since the industrial revolution.
She talked about how one third of our soils have been eroded.
You can’t grow good food in eroded soils, she said.
She talked about the global trend towards sameness, about how our crops have become a saturated monoculture, one breed of cow for all dairy and meat products, one type of corn, a handful of apple crops versus thousands that used to be grown.
If disaster strikes, we are potentially at risk, she said.
Diversification ensures we have a back-up plan, she said.
We are losing diversification.
She said we need to change things, that we need to invest in our collections, make sure we have a seed vault containing all our seed systems just in case “dooms day” comes; that we need to preserve our wild growth; and support our small farmers.
But she didn’t say how.
I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say the approximate 50 or so people in that room were interested and invested in making agriculture more sustainable, steering our farms away from the monoculture of the industrial revolution, committed to supporting our local farmers and farmers’ markets. She was already preaching to the choir.
But, in this case, we are the 1%.
What about the vast majority of the population who is so ingrained in shopping at supermarkets, buying the cheapest product available, either because they can’t afford to do otherwise, or because it’s what they’ve always done. How do we get those people on board?
In order to enact change, in order to stop the small farmers from going under, in order to have a country with food options, a world with biodiversity, it is those people we need to educate and support. Until then, I remain cynical and question whether real change will be made.
I mentioned in my last post that I have been working with the Royal City Farmers’ Market since last January to bring about more education on the value (nutrient and monetary) of farmers’ markets. Last spring, I embarked on a $40 challenge where I spend $40 every market on market-fresh product and outline how long it lasts, the tastes, the meals we get out of it, etc.. For our family, both the taste and monetary savings to our vegetable budget has been a huge eye opener.
When the market went on break for a month between the summer market and winter market, I was so disappointed with every salad I ate in that time. The flavour was just not there.
You can read the posts via the 10th to the Fraser online magazine at www.tenthtothefraser.ca/category/eats-and-drinks/
Katie – I’m sure you are aware of Svalbard Global Seed Vault….did you know the vault was used for the fist time to provide seeds to the Syrian people of Apello where crops had been destroyed by war? And in Canada, we have the Plant Germplasm System which stores living plant tissue from which new plants can be grown….I agree with you, education is critical! I know people who don’t realize potatoes grow in the ground, not on vines!!!!
I think supermarkets can be a valuable tool in the education platform as well. There’s a few supermarkets in Alberta that have started selling “misfit” local produce at lower the cost which has a three-fold benefit: supporting local farmers, reducing food waste, and speaking to the ever tightening purse strings. Hopefully it will catch on elsewhere.