BY HAYLEY ATKINS
A documentary called Island on the Edge imagines that a winter storm has struck Vancouver Island, damaging ferry docks in Swartz Bay and Departure Bay. With the ferries out of commission, there are only enough fresh fruits and vegetables to last us four to six days until there is no food left. Panic buying will ensue; people will consume everything in sight resulting in a food crisis for the Island. Though this scenario may seem far-fetched and over-dramatic to some, this may become a reality.
Vancouver Island could face serious food supply problems and we need to take our local food security on the Island more seriously by producing more locally grown food. In the midst of rapid climate change, we need to develop our local food industry and supply in order to combat global dependence, strengthen our local economy and avoid rising food prices.
California agriculture supplies 70 per cent of our imported fruits and vegetables every year. With rising global temperatures, poor growing conditions are decreasing the amount of food available for export, meaning higher food prices. Huge monocrop farms are viewed as the most economical way of producing food for the masses. Most of our food on the Island comes from the global transport chain, dependant on oil for transport and fertilizers impacting our climate, soils and our water.
Developing the local economy is a benefit of eating locally. Only five per cent of the food produced on Vancouver Island is consumed by the local people. Industrial agriculture and increased food import affects the success of small, local farms unable to keep up with growing food demands. These farms go out of business, increasing the need for imported food, fuelling the vicious cycle. It is time we give the chance to these small farms to prosper and deliver healthy, local food to the Island.
Canadians spend 10 per cent of their income on food, favouring cheaper food rather than splurging on local produce. When local farmers have to sell their food for lower than the price of production just to stay in business, it is a rip-off to the entire local food economy.
Local food production is losing the race in the agricultural industry in Canada to the cheap, global food alternatives. Hopefully it is not too late for a reversal. Regulations need to be modified from large-scale agricultural standards to small-scale local farms often following a completely different protocol for operation. Government legislation needs to establish safe, secure and profitable local food rights for local farmers and consumers in order to protect our food security.
Without food in our bellies, we will have no need for the money in our pockets. We need to start feeding into our local food system.
Hayley Atkins is a biology student at the University of Victoria.