Editor’s Note: Happy Saturday! This morning Gayle Bates is on site with a look at the importance of sourcing out local food. Here she is:
The 2010 Comox Valley 30-Day Local Food Challenge is on! We have before us a July filled with opportunities to celebrate our local food producers and vendors. It is fantastic for your taste buds and beneficial for the planet. Just how fantastic and beneficial? Let’s have a look.
When you buy your food from local producers, you know who grew it. There are no giant conglomerates here, as these are people that you have met face-to-face or have seen in the local newspaper. You can look up their phone number in the local book and call them if you want to place an order or ask a question.
The chances are very good that your local produce is not genetically modified. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are created for characteristics such as hardier texture (which they need if they’re travelling trans-globally from where they are grown to your kitchen), faster growth (to meet shipping deadlines) and rot resistance (spoilage in transit is costly). GMOs are also created to resist disease and eliminate the need for pesticides. About 60% of our processed foods contain some genetic modifications.
Here in the Comox Valley, you are more likely to be able to purchase plants and vegetables grown from the seeds saved from last year’s crops, fruit grown in small scale orchards and varieties that are cross pollinated to naturally develop resistance to local threats.
You know where your food was grown. We share their source, our valley, with its clean air and fresh unpolluted water. We know that these producers are subject to municipal, provincial and federal legislation that restrict the application of certain harmful chemicals (such as pesticides), and impose guidelines and inspections to protect the consumer.
When produce is grown here it doesn’t have to travel very far, so it can be harvested ripe – grown to its best potential. The taste is amazing when compared to produce that was picked green and then spent half of its maturing period packed in a plastic box, within a cardboard box on planes, trains and trucks.
Educators have coined the phrase “Nature Deficit Disorder” to address the fact that many students have either a limited or nonexistent relationship with the natural world. For example, when questioned, many children have no idea where their food comes from beyond the grocery store.
A famous experiment, often repeated, had elementary and middle school students shown pictures of raw foods, such as vegetables. They were able to correctly identify very few of them. When the same students were shown famous corporate food logos, they correctly identified every one.
When our children are able to meet food producers and experience a farm or a garden visit, they can begin to understand the importance and enjoyment of locally sourced food.
Buying locally also reduces packaging waste. Plastic clam shell containers, Styrofoam trays and plastic over wrap are big contributors to our local landfill. Some of the clam shell containers can be recycled, but most commercial packaging is just garbage. Before its trashy end all of that packaging was manufactured, with the majority from petroleum products.
The recent oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico highlights the environmental impact of fossil fuel collection and dependency. Once the crude oil is collected it is processed. It takes a great deal of energy and chemical processes to turn crude oil into a pretty, transparent strawberry container. Then add some sticky labelling and ship the containers across the globe, from where they were manufactured to where the strawberries are grown.
Many local producers use more environmentally friendly packaging, or let you use your own. Reusable produce and bulk food bags are welcome almost everywhere.
When we support local food producers and vendors we are purchasing fresh, minimally processed foods full of flavor, vitamins and nutrients.
When we support local food producers and vendors, we are supporting our own community. These are people actively developing environmentally sustainable employment in the Comox Valley. At a time when many small communities struggle to develop employment opportunities to retain or attract young families, without sacrificing some aspect of their environment and quality of life, the Comox Valley’s food producing industry continues to grow.
These are also the people who contribute to our children’s events and teams, who may belong to the same organizations or enjoy the same leisure activities that we do. They shop at our businesses and they are our neighbors.
Many organizations and experts have estimated that if Vancouver Island gets cut off from its regular food supplies from the Lower Mainland, there is enough food on the Island to supply its residents for about four days – only four days. If we regularly support local food producers they can increase production, which will increase our food security and our independence.
We are very fortunate to be able to make food choices that are fantastic for ourselves, for our families and for the health of the planet.
Photo courtesy of B. Clempson.