We need to spread awareness of the good food being grown in BC, of the massive opportunities available to us right now…before it is too late.

Food Insecurity is a reality in BC yet we pretend not to see it

We need to spread awareness of the good food being grown in BC, of the massive opportunities available to us right now…before it is too late.

Samantha McLeod

Over the last few decades our relationship with food has been rapidly changing, we were losing sight of our food in its natural forms; where it comes from, how it is grown, and more importantly, is it safe to eat?

Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and we were forced to face our food-realities. For the first time we understood what it was to be food-rationed, to experience foods disappearing off the shelves. Our easy access to food, we finally realised, was not so easy.

Many were forced to be self-sufficient in the kitchen, and in that act many questions arose, including where is our food coming from, and do we have enough? Really, yes we can hoard food in our pantry and freezers, but for how long, how sustainable would that be? Eventually it will run out. Or a storm will wage havoc, or an unprecedented heatwave will rise up burning through cables and creating blackouts.

The world is heating up, water is drying up, land is burning up, political instability is the normal around the world. Already we are seeing petty embargo and political-retaliation (not often one and the same) around food exportation and importation. To top it all off, we have paid activists targeting our food-growing industries. We rarely question why this is happening.

Is it because these activists (every one of them) truly believe in their “cause”? Is it because a few at the top of this narrow-minded cause are getting paid to incite the masses? But to what end? Is it to grow another industry in another country? What we must ask ourselves is this…who is benefitting from the destruction of our food growing industries?

Recently, I was fortunate enough to work on a food documentary, PAN-demic the covid-19 food revolution, highlighting the need for us, here in BC, to be more food secure. As it stands we do not grow enough food, and a variety of foods at that, to feed ourselves; our heavy reliance on imports from California and Mexico is frightening to say the least. Our monoculture farming practices may be good for the economy but it does not supply a variety of food for us, and the planet, to live healthy lives. Our famed wild salmon may be good enough for the high-end restaurants and for exportation, but are our First Nations getting any of it?  

Food insecurity is a massive reality already for most of the younger population in British Columbia. If it isn’t a problem for the privileged few just yet, believe me all the money in world will not secure their food supply. Based on extensive research, stark reality, and food documentaries, we are being told there will be no food to buy if we do not act right now.

As our farmers fight desperately to preserve farmlands, and to keep and grow our aquaculture industry, to work with people and governments to grow food for all – political leaders claw at each other’s throats while using our food and water supplies as bargaining chips to cement themselves into cushioned political seats. Sometimes I wonder, are they there for the people or for their own comforts?

Interestingly enough, we live in a country that has the land, the water, the technology, and the people willing and able to grow food. We have the infrastructure to move food throughout our country. We have the money to grow our food-industries.

While some activists attempt to decimate out good sustainable food production in BC, the rest of the world is moving forward with smart choices. Is it because we are so spoilt for import-choice, is it sheer ignorance, is it because we are a rich country? These are questions I ask myself every day….why in BC, where we have the water and the land, where we have the money to invest in us? Why are activists targeting our food growing industries?

Now we had an unprecedented heat wave. Climate change is a reality. And we need to focus on growing foods that is good for the environment and good for people. Just look to the headlines on vancouversun.com last week: An unprecedented heat wave created challenges for B.C. farmers this week, as chicken farmers desperately tried to cool barns to prevent birds from dying, dairy cows gave less milk and raspberry growers watched their crops wither on the vine.

Every single participant in our documentary, PAN-demic, the covid-19 food revolution, from all walks of life had the same fear. Below are some excerpts from the documentary.

The restaurant industry

“I mean, no matter what hopefully this pandemic will end, sooner or later. But as chefs, we have to still keep on moving forward. We still have to think about what are we going to do to make customers happy and also think about how are we going to survive if there is another pandemic. You know covid-19, there could be another pandemic. Then this same thing is going to happen. We have to, you know, prepare. We have to do what we have to do. I mean, for me, I have no answer yet. But all we have to do is go forward. We need to support each other locally…like our ingredients and supplies…we should go for the local products like from farmers to wineries to milk and from our dairies, yes that is what we have to do.”

Small farmers in British Columbia

“I mean if you start looking at California, California is drying up, the whole global food industrialisation is…we have seen in the covid pandemic the cracks in the foundation of that. Yeah it just highlighted for me the importance of the work I do and the work that local farmers need to be doing to supplying local food. Because if all of a sudden the ships stops coming and the food stops coming from all over the world then all of a sudden we are going to feed a lot of the people here locally and they don’t have a lot of infrastructure or the knowledge on how to do that. So it is really important for me to be growing more food and to be supporting local farmers to get going”.

A Community Garden Feeding 300 seniors

“It was really interesting as the pandemic, the first lockdown was in March, mid-March, so the garden was just getting started up…we immediately were declared an essential service by the city and the province so we started our small gardening group sessions, four plus a lead…there’s two leads that are walking around the garden right now…to plant and to grow.

“One of the adaptations we have to make because of climate change…we do have drip irrigation so all the hoses. Most of the garden, as I say, is around a demonstration. We want to demonstrate water conservation, and we have a very extensive compost system over here so it is a four part composting.”

“Broadly, technology is valuable just pretty much everywhere, our ability to drive the efficiencies anywhere is dependent on the digitalisation of industry. We are super thankful that we live in Canada where there are tons of programs to support small businesses like us that are doing you know innovative things.”

“As I am in the trucking field, trucking is very important for food security in north America or in the world. The reason is because everything that moves to a and fro from the farmers’ fields or the sea farms to the grocery stores, everywhere, it has to move by truck. People say we have planes, trains and boats…but it has to move to and from.”

A self-described “privileged millennial”
“I do think that hopefully we will be more prepared but like I said I think it ties back to the food insecurity question. There is so much more we can do and hopefully we have learnt from this and it is something we can work on.”

I look at all the industries growing food in British Columbia, from produce farmers, to dairy farmers, to fish and seafood farmers…and It is undeniable that fish farming is the most sustainable farming at the moment in British Columbia. They should be held up as a model for sustainability and not painted a villain by activists.

The rules for sustainable food production for about 10 billion people around the globe …should use no additional land, safeguard existing biodiversity, reduce consumptive water use and manage water responsibly, substantially reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, produce zero carbon dioxide emissions, and cause no further increase in methane and nitrous oxide emissions.”

A carbon footprint measures the total greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by the production of a product. Carbon footprint is measured in kg of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per kg edible protein of the product. B.C. salmon farms emit only 2.2 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of edible fish produced, not including the hot air by the anti-fish farm activists who want to shut them down. That is less than half of any animal raised on land, including 5.1 kilograms of CO2 per kilogram of chicken, 6.4 kilograms for pork, and 37.2 kilograms for beef.

Life would be pretty good if we could invest in more biodynamic farms, which is an integrated, whole, living organism made up of interdependent elements: fields, forests, plants, animals, soils, compost, people, and the spirit of the place. Biodynamic farmers work to nurture and harmonize these elements.

Fish and seafood farmed in our waters follow almost the same rules.

“Farming salmon in the oceans has almost no carbon footprint…almost all of the energy used, apart from packaging the food, is provided by the natural force of the ocean” – Mark Kurlansky, the New York Times bestselling author of “Salmon

We need more fish and seafood farms, that is a fact.

We need more land farms, many, many more farms that are biodynamic. We need thousands of little ecosystems spread across the land.

We need to raise awareness of the good food being grown in BC, of the massive opportunities available to us right now…before it is too late.