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44


Growers deserve our love Someone, somewhere, works to let us eat


Strolling through a local shopping


centre, I spied a youngster trying on sunglasses. After first checking with his mom, I remarked, “Those look really good on you.” Nodding his head, he solemnly


Wannabe Farmer


by LINDA WEGNER


replied, “My hair is short now.” I grinned and agreed with him. As we ended a bit of a conversation, he extended his hand and announced: “I’m ___ and I’m four years old.” I extended my hand and said, “I’m Linda and I’m 75.” After a few seconds of silence, he quietly added, “You’re almost old.” “You’re right,” I said to him. Then to


myself, I added, “Almost old, but don’t underestimate that almost. There’s still a lot of fire in these old bones.” Over these past few weeks and months,


I’ve been thinking a lot about farming and my personal buying habits as a consumer. As a result, the topic of the distribution and purchase of food and food products from across our province, country and around the world has become even more important to me. In trying to summarize and put into print those thoughts, I’ve sorted them under the labels of more encouraging in some ways and in others, more challenging. First the encouraging part: of all the retail outlets where groceries can be purchased in our small city, it is my understanding that each one carries at least some locally raised or produced foodstuffs. There’s a sense of celebration over that.


Slightly countering that justifiable


excitement, however, is the reality that fruits and vegetables, in particular, are only available locally during certain times of the year, yet there are people who choose apples, for instance, from halfway around the world rather than those grown a couple miles out of town. As any of my readers know, I’m an outsider when it comes to the particulars involved in this, but I do know that retail product availability is and must be intrinsically linked with food security. Another major obstacle involves working through all the channels required to obtain that endorsement. Many small farm operations can’t or won’t tackle that maze and prefer to serve the public through farmgate sales.


On the other hand, it would be impossible for large farming operations across our province to survive without those established agreements that translate into exporting their goods out of province and, I assume, around the world. Each time we sit down to eat a meal or enjoy a snack, perhaps we should remember to silently demonstrate our pride in the fact that our labels – Made in BC and Grown in BC – enhance the life of someone else somewhere else. I realize this column is a bit different in tone and content but I determined that this month I would add my thank-you message for each individual who doesn’t let time, weather, international blustering, disappointment or whatever else you can name to diminish your dedication to the noble task of feeding us and the world. You are not only almost but altogether heroes in my eyes. Happy Valentines Day and I hope you


can take the time to enjoy some chocolate – wherever it was made.


ACTION plan


committee and action teams formed at the forum. An action plan is still in its


infancy but a team has begun gathering baseline data to track progress. An agri- tourism insert showcasing local producers and processors for inclusion in the 2019 Tourism Vernon brochure has been discussed and NOFSI is working with the Okanagan Farmers Cooperative to support development of a regional food hub.


More possibilities Other ideas include


supporting food processors with business development training, and exploring collaborative marketing opportunities, ways to better navigate regulations, formation of a regional food processors’ network, and increasing financially viable food processing infrastructure in the region. “We have a general sense of what the groups will address … and plan to convene meetings in the new year,” Blakeway says. “The order in which the groups choose to address priority actions and how they do the work will be up to them.” The BC Ministry of


Agriculture is hosting two related events: an introduction to food processing geared to mid- sized and small-scale producers wanting to start processing and new food processing entrepreneurs just starting out, and a two-day business planning workshop for existing processors focused on helping them grow their food business and work on business plan gaps. NOFSI follows up with a forum on March 2, Growing


COUNTRY LIFE IN BC • FEBRUARY 2019 nfrom page 43


Local Connections Between Food and the Environment, and in 2020, a Growing Access to Healthy Food forum is planned. Stockdale says NOFSI has the potential to produce important results. These include giving farmers – especially young ones – access to land; thriving regional farms and food system enterprises; increased local food sales; an environmentally sustainable and climate change-resilient food system; minimal waste and increased reintegration at every step; and widespread access to local, healthy food. Kwantlen Polytechnic


University’s Okanagan Bioregion Institutional Procurement Study explored the gap in institutional food purchasing that leaves most local producers and processors out of the loop and found some glimmers of opportunity. Study co-author Annelise


Grube-Cavers says allowing public institutions to use regionally and provincially inspected meat rather than federally inspected product would be an ideal way to make the system more flexible. Grube-Cavers says


provincial legislation around local food is a good start and the Interior Health Authority’s involvement in Nourish, a national program with a mandate that includes strategic communications to reinforce the connection between food systems and health, is another encouraging sign. “There is a lot of


opportunity to create change but the willingness to do so has to be there,” Grube-Cavers says.


CONDITIONS


Designed for HEAVY


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