Can we produce more food locally?

  • Jan. 7, 2011 12:00 p.m.

Submitted by Lynda Dixon-The Misty Isles Economic Development Society is working on an Agriculture Strategy for Haida Gwaii. The purpose of the strategy is to determine what we can do to produce more food on the islands, where we can grow it and how to support people who want to grow it. The Agriculture Strategy team has visited five communities and has met with over fifty people at public meetings. Feedback indicates there is a near consensus that people believe oil prices will go up and climate change will affect food availability and affordability in the future. Many have indicated they want to grow food, but don’t have the knowledge or access to land to do so. Lots of creative ideas such as community gardens, community farms, and experimental plots and teaching centres have been suggested. These are exciting times as we exit the resource extraction period of our history and enter a more self-reliant, ecosystem-friendly era of producing more of our own food and developing a more sustainable local economy. Whether out of choice, or absolute necessity, we believe islanders will see the wisdom of planning together for the future.At one of the Agriculture Strategy public meetings held by MIEDS, Adolf Bitterlich shared these poignant words: “I have known hunger.” Adolf grew up in war-torn Germany during the World War II. He also said there were thousands of children who cried themselves to sleep every night because of a lack of food. Insights like Adolf’s really bring home the importance of food planning for Haida Gwaii as we prepare for global changes that may affect food prices and accessibility.Starvation on Haida Gwaii seems like a far-fetched, even paranoid, idea in these times of plenty where if anything, people are suffering from the diseases of over-consumption of food such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It may be difficult to imagine hard times right now but it would be prudent to plan for them as the prospects of cheap oil seem to be diminishing, as indicated by the billions of dollars that being are spent on the tar sands development and the continuation of expensive wars in the oil-rich Middle East.The last thing that Sara Eaton said to me was, “Write something controversial in the paper to make people think.” Sara had become a local food icon and she helped to galvanize the hearts and minds of over 200 people who became part of the Islands Food (IF) movement. Her honesty, clarity and sheer energy was an inspiration to all who knew her. She will be missed, but her efforts not lost on us.There will be two more public meetings in early January, one in Old Massett and one in Skidegate, to provide opportunity for these two communities to get more directly involved. The time and place will be announced, so there is still plenty of opportunity to provide your input on the Agriculture Strategy discussion document. The discussion document is available at village offices, at the MIEDS office and on the MIEDS website at www.mieds.ca. Islanders’ input will become the recommendations priorized at a day long public Symposium on Food in February. This will be where the ‘shovel-hits-the-dirt’ with an implementation plan to be determined by islanders with follow-through resources identified. The aim of the strategy is to do something real to support local food production. Contact MIEDS at 559-8050 for more info.

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