I’m fascinated by farms and farmers, maybe because I come from farmers on both sides on my family — French-Canadian and Ukrainian from different parts of Saskatchewan. (I’ve always treasured the story about how my Uncle Peter (Ukrainian side) made my cousin’s future wife come and pick rocks out of the field in Dysart, so he could see if she met the family standards.)
So this time, I followed back to the land a couple of people who run stands that I’ve bought at in various farmers’ market forays to try to figure out if this urban-farming stuff is some passing yuppie trend or what.
My story in Vancouver magazine is here, where my journeys led me to not just farms, but various people studying B.C. agriculture. The picture I came away with was very different than the one I’d had before, thanks to all these people who love and study farming.
B.C., this incredibly rich growing province, actually exports a huge amount of what it grows and then imports back a whole bunch of other things from various parts of the globe. The diversity of our crops is narrowing, not growing. And it has whacks of unused farmland. I didn’t get to include it in the story, but a recent study of Surrey showed that there is huge potential there for more farming because about a third of its considerable farmland isn’t being used for agriculture.
Mostly what I discovered is that no one has the complete answer yet how to balance growing food locally and taking advantage of the wealth of food available around the globe. But at least there’s a discussion going on, although what impact that discussion will have on corporate food-production systems is still not clear. For all the talk about people wanting local and organic, there’s still an awful lot in distribution centres and supermarkets that isn’t — because shoppers are still buying it.