Filed for publication with the Mirror
Dear Morgan Ostler,
I very much applaud your efforts on behalf of the Agriculture Plan Steering Committee.
Your comments on the fact that the communities on Vancouver Island are so disproportionately reliant on ‘just on time’ deliveries of food basics hits a chord that is very dear to my heart.
We are perilously dependent on agricultural resources from hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles away. This does not make us notably different from all other communities in this age we live in but the difference is, as you advocated, we do not have to remain this dependent!
I believe, as you appear to also, that Campbell River residents have been virtually brain-washed over the decades into believing that our particular area is practically devoid of the kinds of soil conditions that could greatly reduce this dependency. We have become so complacent in our reliance on supermarkets as our main source of food supply that the majority have lost complete touch with some of the realities that I fear will soon face all of us.
For instance, my sister in Calgary told me the other week that she watched a news program that was discussing the effects of the flooding in our ‘bread basket’ provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. According to this newscast, upwards of two million acres have not been planted in Manitoba and 6-8 million acres have not been planted in Saskatchewan due to the weather this year. To try to put this into some perspective, if we take the combined minimum of eight million acres, this equates to 12,500 square miles of unplanted, productive farmland. Or, to visualize it another way, the total area of Vancouver Island is 12,407 square miles.
I believe that we need to establish some movement to propel people back to the basics of sustainable food supply with the kinds of vegetables that you and I grew up with. Potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions, beans and such. I can remember as a child growing up in Saskatchewan, the absolute delight when lettuce became available again in late spring.
One area that I believe is overlooked in the quest for arable land (but which is gaining popularity in many places now) resides well within reach of each and every one of us and comes at no cost whatsoever to city council or the taxpayers. It consists of acres and acres of useable soil right within eyesight. I’m speaking, of course, of those virtually useless, well-watered and fertilized front lawns. Almost everyone has one and almost no one actually uses them for anything except to try to maintain a societal decorum of ‘neat and tidy’ with a few flower beds and bushes thrown in to look nice. Last year we rototilled a portion of our front yard and grew potatoes. This year, we added another plot to our front yard for more potatoes, beans, peas and corn (which isn’t doing very bloody well considering the weather we’ve had). We have two greenhouses in the back chock full of tomato plants and a few other veggies.
Can you imagine the quantity of food that could be produced in one city block if everyone planted their front yards? To take it one step further, rather than having everyone plant a little of this and that, what if we could encourage people to be selective? It takes less time and energy to manage one type of crop than a variety. For example, if one city block consisted of 10 houses on each side for a total of 20 potential front yard gardens, what if 10 yards were set aside for potatoes, three yards for tomatoes, two yards for carrots and one yard each for turnips, peas, onions, beans, beets – can you imagine the food that could be produced and shared between these families? It would be virtually impossible, of course, to bring whole city blocks on board with this idea but perhaps it could be started by simply gathering people together of like-mind in this area and starting the ball rolling. With some education and willingness to discuss the project with others, I would like to hope that the idea would then start to take on a life of it’s own.
Could not Campbell River set itself apart from the crowd and become known as a city of people who are determined to become more food sufficient and more compassionate towards each other?