Growing Urgent

It’s interesting that, just as the U.S. is pondering whether to honour the Paris Climate Change agreement, Clean Technica is drawing attention to research with alarming implications for the future of food security by 2050:

“Global production of the 4 most important staple crops in the world — maize/corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans — will be reduced by around 23% by the 2050s as a result of worsening anthropogenic climate change, according to new research published in the journal Economics of Disasters and Climate Change.

Notably, even by the 2030s — not that long from now — production of the staple crops mentioned above are expected to fall by ~9%, owing to rising temperatures (both rising minimums and maximums), increasingly extreme weather, and drought.

It should be noted that the findings don’t take into account rising soil depletion/erosion problems, the possibility of synthetic fertilizer shortages, or the possibility of large-scale wars or social breakdown. In other words, things could get notably worse than the figures above, which are already quite extreme.”  Continue reading

Food for Thought

A while back I mentioned a report that suggested more than half of the province’s $20 billion of food imports could be replaced with locally sourced products. (Of Bubbles and Bushels). Replacing just 10% of fruit and vegetable imports was projected to add $242 million to provincial GDP and add up to 3,400 FTE [full time equivalent] jobs.

Since then we’ve had a glimpse of how unstable things could become economically, and politically as well as environmentally, in the coming years. A political storm could outweigh climate change as our biggest threat. It would make sense to give this food security proposal some serious consideration.

The report, Dollars and Sense, suggested increasing some production, diverting a portion of exports and redistributing this fruit and vegetable surplus to Ontario regions where supply is lacking. This would achieve the goal of reducing transportation ‘food miles’, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also suggested increasing processing and storage of more products for winter consumption.

“A 10% reduction in imports of the top 10 imported vegetables does not necessarily call for additional local production to make up the difference. In some cases, such as tomatoes, peppers, carrots and sweet corn, it may involve diverting some exports to offset the import reduction. In others — for example, cabbage, lettuce and green beans — increased production may be needed. These different situations have somewhat different economic and environmental impacts.”

Our region, included in ‘The Outer Greater Golden Horseshoe’ accounts for “at least $2.4 billion worth of farm products” but has a “deficit position” for most fruits and vegetables. Carrots, onions, sweet corn and potatoes are the exception.  Continue reading

Putting Our Food Charter in the Zone

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a big fan of the Transition movement, which advocates for greater local self-sufficiency to build resilience against environmental and economic shocks. Transition is not intended as a policy guide for governments but rather an action guide for ordinary citizens. But I’m going to spend some time looking at how this underlying philosophy could influence planning activities in Innisfil, such as Our Place and other routine civic governance.

Actively supporting Transition would require that we focus on greater self-sufficiency in our basic needs – food; energy; transportation; housing and employment. Let’s start with food. The County of Simcoe formally adopted a Food Charter in 2013 developed by 12 “organizing partners” including Barrie and Orillia working together as the Food Partners Alliance of Simcoe County. The Food Charter itself is an inspiring document full of noble intentions. Here are some quotes:

  • “For farming to remain a vital part of our economy for generations to come, and to ensure regional food security, agricultural lands as a natural resource will need to be protected.”
  • “Made up of the people, places, and processes involved in the production of food, our local food system includes such functions as the growing, harvesting, marketing, processing, packaging, storing and distribution of food …”
  • “Working together to remove the physical and financial barriers to food access, promote healthy eating, and increase access to places where people can buy, grow or otherwise obtain healthy foods, is an important step towards eliminating hunger.”
  • “Enhancing opportunities for local food and agriculture-related businesses or producers (both large and small scale) to produce, store, package, promote, sell, and deliver their products locally and elsewhere is important for a sustainable food system and long-term economic growth.”
  • “The people of Simcoe County should seek new opportunities for increasing food production in both rural and urban areas, advocate for the protection of farmland, and support increased educational opportunities in agriculture (for both large- and small-scale farming)”

How’s that working for us so far? Well, if you visit the Food Partners Alliance web site, the focus seems to be solely on individuals and organizations assuming responsibility for implementing this ‘vision’. Let’s look at the practical aspects of land use planning in Innisfil as if the Food Charter mattered.

Continue reading

This Blueprint for Local Food Is Essential Reading

Numerous reports are published every year. The internet makes it easy to access many of them but it’s also easy for some to get lost in the digital ocean as well. I was fortunate enough to find one, prepared by researchers here in Ontario, that describes a remarkably clear and sensible plan for developing local food resources. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the topic. The report is called Continue reading

You Can Help Develop Food Charter for Simcoe County

Representatives from local government and policy groups gathered for a one-day conference at the Lakehead University Orillia campus to plan for the development of a Food Charter for Simcoe County. Participants sought to “build community and political support to generate a sustainable food system that grows on the county’s traditional agricultural strengths.” Organizers expect the Charter to emerge from “extensive community consultation and participation over the next few years.”  (County promoting a local food revolution, Innisfil Scope, April 20, 2011)

“The objective of the charter is to   Continue reading