Kelly and I decided to make yesterday a professional development day. We were happy to have been invited to a seminar that was hosted by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. The focus for this event was to research the possibilities of improvingAlberta’s local food system.
We have been involved in selling, buying and eating locally grown food for years. Both of our families enjoy sitting down to a meal that was completely grown in our yard, something that happens frequently enough that we sometimes take it for granted.
When I announce to my family, “just so you guys know, everything on your plate was grown in this yard”, they like to challenge me with comments like “Oh really Mom? What about the salt? What about the barbeque sauce?”
I have enjoyed that challenge, and have now learned to make a great barbeque sauce from our own tomatoes. However, that salt thing is a challenge that I’m not quite up for. Neither is soy sauce, or coffee, or bananas. I have heard that roasted dandelion roots can be boiled into something that ‘tastes just like coffee’…but as someone who doesn’t even like to stray from my particular coffee brand….I won’t be drying dandelion roots any time soon. I would be happy to try it if someone delivers it to my door one morning, but that’s probably the only way I’ll test the dandelion root theory.
So there’s the rub. No one should ever expect to be perfect, not in any thing, and that includes eating locally. My feeling is that if you are just considering where your food comes from, that’s a step in the right direction. See where it takes you. If you start to compare the stickers on apples in your grocery store and go for the ones grown near you, that’s another step in the right direction. If you ask your butcher where your meat was grown, and you want to choose the meat grown near you, fantastic! You will create change by voting with your grocery dollars. If people continue to buy more locally grown food, the grocery store will continue to stock more locally grown food. This reminds me of the rule of price and demand….something I learned in my University economics class….possibly the only thing that I learned in my University economics class.
Sometimes you will spend more money if you buy an apple that was grown in your area compared with buying an apple that was grown in Mexico. It’s strange when this happens, but here are a few explanations.
The first reason is that people will work for less money in Mexico. That means that most of your money went to the oil company who sold the fuel to drive your apple to you. Think about that the next time we experience high gas prices…..we’re paying high fuel prices again in the grocery store when we buy food that had to be trucked to us from long distances. These fuel prices are disguised as food costs.
Another reason that our local food can sometimes be more costly is because of the fact that our inputs are higher – our fuel costs are higher, our fertilizer costs are higher, our infrastructure costs and taxes are higher than those in some of the other countries that are exporting their food to us.
Here’s a reason to buy local food. It’s fresher. This is not exactly shocking when you consider the bumps and bruises and various temperature changes suffered by raspberries travelling to you from across several countries as compared to raspberries travelling to you from down the road.
Here’s an economic reason to buy local food. The money you spend stays in your community. If you own a sporting goods store and you buy chickens from the farmer in your area, he will have more money to buy new skates for his kids. That money will come back to you.
If your community is doing well financially, there are benefits to you personally. Buying locally supports your own local economy. A healthy local economy means good roads, new stores, updated sports centers and interested investors. While the government of Chile thanks us for our support when we buy their cucumbers, I will spend the extra 10 cents and support my own economy. This is especially true in the unbalanced economic times we are experiencing now.
Buying locally is about more than just food. It is about supporting your local farmers, musicians, artists, skilled laborers, chefs, entrepreneurs, photographers, professionals and more. Its fun when you set out to find all that you can access locally, it’s not at all difficult, and you meet some really great people in the process!
So here’s a big congratulations to the Government of Alberta for exploring the possibilities regarding local food. The facilitators – Bill Reynolds and Shari Hanson – did a fantastic job; the Workshop was a success with the sharing of big ideas, and with the great connections that we all made as producers, promoters, government representatives, and eaters.
I even met a lady who can show me how to raise bees!
Now I just have to find someone who can show me how to not be afraid of bees, and I’ll be ready to start growing my own honey! This process is going to be very ‘bloggable’. I think Kelly better get out her video camera and follow me around during my inaugural bee keeping days, it should be good for a laugh!
If you’re interested in learning more about local food, check out these websites that we learned about yesterday.
“You can say this for ready mixes – the next generation isn’t going to have any trouble making pies exactly like mother used to make.” – Earl Wilson