On occasion a situation crosses my path that I simply cannot ignore, especially when it hits this close to home.
I placed an ad in a local paper to sell off some excess eggs that our wee chickens flock was producing. Since taking possession of our farm years ago, we have taken pride in trying to maintaining it in the sustaining, healthy and independent ways of our parents and grandparents. Having said that, our “pet” chickens are spoiled rotten. They get the best rolled mixed grain, organic alfalfa pellets and all the vegetable scrapes our kitchen produces. So the calls start to come in. “How much are your eggs?” And I answered. They never asked how were the chickens raised? Only how much was a dozen? By weeks end, these same folks were trying to convince me I was asking too much. Is $3.25 too much? $2.50 was more in line with what they were willing to pay. That was the price for free range, healthy raised chicken eggs bought at farm gates 20 years ago!
Are you kidding me? It cost me $4.00 a day to feed them. Where is the cost for labor to clean them and some heat to keep them warm, bedding and maintaining the building and the large fence enclosure where they roam?
And so I watch from Sunday to Saturday (24/7) as an endless trail of vehicles head off to the bright lights of the city. It is ok for people to pay for gas to travel an hour or so just to shop several times a week. It is ok that we pay $120 for a pair of good jeans. It is ok that we pay $1.20 for a calorie injected chocolate bar or $4.99 for a bag of Frito Lays Taco chips. It is ok that we pay from $20 to $30 for just one fancy meal. It is ok that we pay a small fortune to watch a hockey game in person. But heaven forbid that we pay too much for a whole dozen of eggs that took 12 chickens one day to lay?!
With the government shoving their noses further and further into the goings on of day to day activity of regular small farmers, all in the name of protecting US…they have forbidden the small farmer from selling almost everything from the farm gate. Especially no milk, cream and certainly no meat. Raw milk must be sold to a milk processor. If you buy an animal at the farm gate it must be either transported to another farm, a feedlot or abattoir (facility of slaughter). No raw meat from the farm gate please. If you want to process through your farm, you have to invest in a slaughtering facility (inundated by meat inspectors) amounting from $100,000 to $200,000. If you choose to process milk products, the facility you build must also meet present standards. The cost of these facilities are not only out of reach for most small hobby farmers, but for a few cows does this make sense?
The irony of this all? Just over 50 years ago, thousands of farmers were allowed to sell directly to the public. I cannot recall a single report of individuals experiencing food poisoning from the purchase of such products. Today large corporations and companies are processing our (?) raw food. Never like in the last 40 years have we been inundated with reports of so many individuals being either poisoned and having died from consuming federal inspected food. All done under the canopy of “protecting” us from food!
However, if you are consuming your own farm or garden generated products as a resident family, all is well. Officials do not mind if you harm yourself. No one watches us. There are too few of us to be a threat. They are more interested in safe guarding large company interests. You can feed yourself whatever you want, so long as it is not drug related. The drug companies and drug lords do not want any competition.
Folks love convenience. A “one stop shop drop” place. A place where EVERYTHING exists, so they do not have to travel anywhere else! Aren’t the choices terrific? (…didn’t see any) Even our outdoor Farmer Markets are depleting. At one time we saw twice the numbers that exist now. Folks wanting to sell their farm produce need either to expand their selection to attract folks to their gate or travel fair milage to the remaining markets to get to the people. This requires a lot of pre-planning and intensive timed labor (and trucking equipment) to cater to “jp” public.
So what does this tell us? It is very evident that the “Manitoba” consumer cares less where their food comes from. All they want is “cheap food” at any cost. And they are getting it.
So where is it coming from? A few years ago a video, was put out by Hellmann’s called “Where does your Food come from Canada?” They state that over 90% of our fresh produce is coming from outside our borders. It also said that very productive and expensive farm land is being “gobbled up” by expanding building progress faster than you can blink your eyes. Judging from the labels that I have read on numerous packages while grocery shopping: Blueberries from Chili, Pickles from India (how’s their water?) Strawberries & Bananas from Mexico, frozen Edamame and fresh Sugar Snap peas from China etc. (don’t get me going here…) Do you the consumer know anything about this product and what are the standards in these countries? Ironic, yet very interesting. I consider this video very debatable. Not because of what they say BUT whom is saying it. Hellmann is owned by Unilever, one of the largest food and consumer product companies in the world. Therefore it is a co-conspirator of the current food crisis,that it says it detests! What a web the spiders weave!
Another fine video, called “The Story of Food”, put out by USC Canada also gives us some insight into our food plight. You can see it at: usc-canada.org/storyoffood/
Now for some homework. Go to the Super Market and see the tons of people there. Doesn’t matter when you go…it is always full. (Don’t you just love fighting for elbow room?) While you are there take the time to READ the labels yourself! A tip? When it says “Imported by Loblaws of Canada”…and no country is listed…they did not get it from a Canadian farmer. BUT where did it come from? Why isn’t listed? According to law, all distributing/import companies are to explicitly list which country the product came from. Do a total grocery list. Beside every item you buy, on your list write down the country it originated. Then go home and think about the WHOLE picture. Think about your choices.
Before I delve further, let me ask you a question? If I was to spend more money than I earn, what would happen to me? My spending would produce a financial vacuum quickly disintegrating my customary lifestyle. Simply put, I would go bankrupt. Having said that, for what we know, Canada ships out raw material and imports “finished” products. “Other” countries have developed the technology to finish our raw products (allowing their countrymen to be exploited by the super wealthy) and turn around, sell it back to us…because it is cheaper to do so. So now 2 countries are being taken advantage of, where the product is being made and where the product is being sold…neither of whom is gaining anything. Canada’s food dollar in comparison to the whole country’s economical picture is a huge piece of the pie. At the rate of our “out of the country” spending @ 90%, we are going broke!
So why is this so ironic? Canada is a huge piece of land. Our population is so low per hectare, in comparison to the likes of Europe, China and other countries from whom we are purchasing. We have it all. We have the space. We have the technology to grow vegetables and many fruits. We have the water. We have the fresh air. And we have the customers. So why is this being allowed?!
In a recent forum, regarding the issue of our food, these were some of the comments being made:
“I live in Canada & I preserve the summer bounty that grows around me, garden in my back yard, sprout and grow herbs and lettuces indoors for the winter and I just bought 20 kg of apples that were grown 15 km from my home. They were fresh, tasty and preserved free and it’s the middle of February.” This was her choice of alternatives…sounds great to me. “I don’t own a home and have debt, but that doesn’t stop me from eating the amazing free or local food that grows everywhere in Canada and preserving it or just eating it while in season”
Then there was this person:
“Well bully for you! I do not have the luxury of growing my own or owning my home, hence do not have the added “luxury” of storing things for extended periods of time. The vast majority of the Canadian population is in a similar boat. I cannot even buy dry goods for more than a couple of weeks at a time. The suggestions are not very feasible for the average Canadian and therefore we have no choice but to BUY food that is shipped in!” This one concerned me greatly. It reminded me of the grasshopper story….
“How freaking stupid can you people get?? Canada is a country that boasts 5 to 6 months of winter every year. Of the remaining 6 to 7 months, at least half of that is not growing weather. How the heck do you suppose that we eat “Canadian”?? Where the **** are we supposed to get fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, pears and oranges in the middle of winter? How dumb are you guys?” What a sad situation…
And something you may never have realized. Before MAN became so complicated and needy, they traveled the earth in search of food, where it was available and in season. For those who do not know…just like the body gets used to taking the same drug all the time, so does it also get used to eating the same foods all the time. As time passes it needs more and more drugs for the same effect. And so it is the same with eating the same foods, eventually the body does not filter the maximum nutrition properly. In plain English, it gets lazy. What needs to happen is change! YOU need to change the foods it is regularly exposed to, like the seasons of the year! (And I am not talking about changing a different food every day…I mean a certain group of foods for a couple of months!) This then stimulates excitement within and causes the body to become an efficient machine for your health benefit. This is what it was designed to do!
How has this so called “cheap food” really impacted our environment? How many miles/kilometers did this food have to travel? How many ships, how many trains, how many trucks did it take to get it to you? How much petroleum did ALL these machines burn (not counting the forklifts, the storage facilities, the man power, the paper trails, the phone calls, the plastic wraps, the containers, the crating, the shelving units, the hydro, the heating, the cooling, the freezing, etc.) during each trip? How much pollution resulted? How congested have the ship ports and airplane fields become? What has happened to the condition of our highways now impacted with long haul trucks increasing to 400%? Have vehicle accidents with large trucks increased substantially? This ALL costs money, lots of it and you are paying for it indirectly, in more ways than you could imagine.
And finally…how old is it by the time it reaches us? A naturopath told me that vegetables more than 3 days old have essentially lost most of their nutritional benefits. Can you imagine how old the vegetables and fruits are that finally reach you? Try possibly a week or more. (my garden vegetables in my crisper will last a good week or more before deterioration shows and they have been harvested only hours ago…) Some like carrots, peppers, beets and parsnips can last longer. Most of what I have purchased from grocers usually decay within days. So much for those rock hard tasteless tomatoes and apples they have bred for travel and who knows what else…
As one gentleman put it: “Just because something is cheaper in the short term does not make it substantially better for society or the economy in the long run. If importing food reduces the nutritional content, under cuts domestic agricultural jobs and business is more dependent on petroleum (for transport and fertilizer)…Then eventually the real net disadvantages are going to make whatever price advantages redundant.”
Imported food is only good for one agenda only: Making huge monetary profits for multinational corporations so that they can wallow in it at your expense. 150 years of “economic progress” has seen the gap between rich and poor expand exponentially. Only local stable healthy economies can shrink that gap. And every person, by the very implementation of good sense and choice can have a powerful hand in bringing it about. This is serious!
In closing: Buying local is easy. Seasonal ads, “you-pick farms” and word of mouth have a way of reaching everyone who (is looking) is ready and willing to change. Finally your supplier has a face AND they know who you are. Not only will you finally see where the food comes from, but know how it has been grown. You both will eliminate hordes of middlemen (nameless creatures) who were artificially inflating your bread (your produce) without one extra cent going to the producer. Your concerns will be heard. Your input will have value. Finally your food will (last…) smell fresh, look fresh and taste amazing! It will be worth every dollar you spent on it. Supporting your neighbor, your market gardener & your small farmer will keep the wealth from food dollars circulating within the confines of your community, giving everyone involved added strength, health, financial stability and endurance.