Farms under pressure

Crisp, sweet, healthy and freaking delicious. Though it’s not the Delicious I’m referring to, but the Ambrosia, my apple of preference.

Crisp, sweet, healthy and freaking delicious.

Though it’s not the Delicious I’m referring to, but the Ambrosia, my apple of preference.

These made-in-B.C. beauties arrived late this season, but they were worth the wait.

Though we’re by no means 100 Mile dieters, my wife and I do buy B.C. when we can, especially when it comes to dairy, bread and produce, and particularly when it comes to apples. As a Salmon Arm resident, there’s almost a moral obligation to buy local apples when you can. While you can.

It’s no secret that agricultural practices in the area have undergone significant change over the years, from technological upgrades, to the downsizing of farmed lands necessitated by challenging market conditions. Salmon Arm orchards, for example, have diminished from 1,700 acres in 1950 to 454 acres in 2001. That’s a figure taken from the city’s Agricultural Area Plan, completed and shelved in 2004 by the council of the day. And there’s another challenge – the priority local governments place on agricultural land.

As local retired farmer John McLeod puts it, the human population continues to grow (we just reached seven billion), but “we’re not making any more dirt.” And this should be a concern, especially as we continue to import what we should be producing at home.

Last week, the topic of food security – assuring access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food – hit home with the release of Climate Change and Food Security in British Columbia. The report, by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, warns we should not take for granted the easy access to foreign food supplies we currently enjoy; that with climate change, population growth and other pressures, we would be wise to embrace greater self-sufficiency.

As an example, Dr. Aleck Ostry, the paper’s lead author, notes California is currently our main source of fruit and vegetables. Growing pressures on water and land use there, however, make this an unsustainable practice.

“Self-sufficiency will be a key issue for our food security,” says Ostry. He adds expansion of local fruit and vegetable capacity is not only good policy, but also “serves as a hedge, particularly for poor and less healthy British Columbians, against higher future produce prices.”

The report makes several recommendations, the promotion of local agriculture being among them. And that means weighing carefully the words of longtime local agricultural producers – some of the wisest and politically savvy folks around, when they suggest we can’t afford to lose any more viable agricultural land.

Next time you’re at Askew’s or Hannas or DeMille’s or wherever, grab yourself an Ambrosia apple, buy it and take a bite. Feel the texture, savour the flavour. And then try telling yourself this isn’t something worth supporting

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