Newsletter – October 2013

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As a person, and through Seniors 101, I have tried to promote Island Farmers and Farmers markets for many years, both verbally and in writing, as several of my newsletters will attest.  Trish, my wife, and I were a part of the back to the earth movement of the 70’s and 80’s, raising our own meat, milk and vegetables. We also processed poultry and cut & wrapped meat for small producers. Trish and I continue to support island farmer by buying  as much local product as we can

We know the important role that family farm has in maintaining a healthy and vibrant community.  Yet despite overwhelming support by the public the constant pressure imposed on the Agricultural Land Reserve by urban encroachment continues. Canada grew into what it is today on the backs of its family farmers.

The article below written as an editorial by the Times/Colonist  is very simple and easy to understand for all of us, except it seems, by provincial politicians.

Roy Summerhayes.

Editorial: Save Island’s Small Farmers

October 2013 Newsletter for Seniors on Vancouver Island

Times Colonist
October 17, 2013 04:19 PM

There’s an endangered species on Vancouver Island — and elsewhere — that is well worth preserving. It’s the small farmer. Agriculture is subsidized in Canada to the tune of about $7 billion a year, the bulk of which goes to large operations. But this isn’t about passing more of that taxpayer-funded largesse on to small farmers, it’s about removing some of the obstacles, especially at the provincial level, that make it difficult to keep a family farm going. It’s about recognizing that while produce from small farmers might cost more, it brings with it added value.

An example of challenges faced by small producers is B.C.’s meat-inspection system, toughened with new regulations in 2007. That was one of the factors in reducing the number of slaughterhouses on the Island. A local meat industry is nearly impossible without local abattoirs — transporting animals a long distance to be butchered just doesn’t work economically. The provincial government has been improving regulations to ease the way for abattoirs and small meat producers, and should continue on that path.

Vancouver Island is endowed with dedicated growers of fruit, vegetables and meat, many of whom struggle just to break even or who hold down other jobs to support their farming habit.

A couple of generations ago, Island farmers produced the majority of the food consumed here; now, only about 10 per cent is locally grown.

Family farms have been displaced by massive farming and feedlot operations that can produce food more cheaply than it can be grown locally, in most cases. The economies of scale mean that we in North America enjoy relatively low food prices, and those large operations are likely to be around for a long time — we’re addicted to the low prices.

But the value of small farming operations goes beyond their market share. While they might lag behind the giants in profits, they lead in many other ways.

The organic movement started small; now it’s big business. Most small farmers are keenly aware of their environmental footprint; large producers are increasingly being forced to pay more attention to environmental issues.

It is on small farms that heritage species and breeds are being preserved. While this is an issue with a nostalgic feel to it, it isn’t merely about sentiment.

Plant and animal species have been bred for maximum yield, but in the process, the number of species has dwindled.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization considers the loss of genetic diversity in food crops one of today’s most serious environmental concerns. If a disease threatens one variety of wheat, for example, resistance to the disease may be found in another variety. In breeding hardier plants, scientists often turn to heritage species in search of traits that can resist drought, insects and disease.

Those who operate small farms help establish a relationship between consumers and the land.

“We think of that as a strong thing,” says Tom Henry, Metchosin-area farmer and founding editor of Small Farm Canada. “Our customers are only one step away from the source of their food.”

Small farms won’t eliminate supermarkets, nor should they — the big stores are a key part in the amazing array of food available to us. Local producers widen that choice.

Family-owned small farms are part of the Island’s rich history. They should also be part of a healthy future.

© Copyright 2013