Day 28 – Soil, Seed, and the ALR

I am officially too tired to write anything – but I made this commitment to the 30 day farm blog challenge and given that I have made it all the way to Day 28 without missing a blog entry, by golly I am not going to let a bit of weariness beat me!

SAVE ALR button

Just came back from the big Hands off the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) meeting in Sidney feeling simultaneously optimistic (close to 400 people turned up), disheartened (sometimes it seems like there are just so many fights to fight), and very, very tired (an evening meeting at the end of a long day of farming, writing, and running errands is… taxing).

I’ll write a more complete post on what’s going on with the ALR when I have a bit more time, but what strikes me is that the issues are actually pretty basic.

1. We all need to eat.

White Cheddar

2. To eat, we need farmland.

3. Lots of good farmland is either a) in the path of urban development or b) here in BC, at least, in the way of the oil and gas or mining industries

4. Where money is to be made, people tend not to think of future generations and what makes sense for the long term. Which is why protecting farmland through regulation makes sense, even if our current system could use some tweaking.

Tomatoes!

At first glance, it’s pretty straightforward – protect the farmland so we have something to farm so we can grow more food and improve our food security. However, if farmers cannot make a living on the land, then what good is protecting that farmland through legislation? (the reverse version of this observation is, if farmers were making a good living on the land there would be no need for an Agricultural Land Reserve or an ALC (Agricultural Land Commission) to oversee it.

And this is where the can really starts getting wormy. If we as a society decide we want cheap food more than we want local food, then there is very little political will to support programs that support farmers. Nor is there much concern about insisting on organic practices that build soil and leave farmland in better shape each season than the year before (Atina Diffley’s book does a good job of describing this process).

If people just want cheap, then who cares that the food has travelled a gazillion miles to get here using gas guzzling transportation systems and questionable farming and labour practices? Consumers and all levels of government need to get involved to help establish and maintain local markets strong and large enough to support local farmers. Governments need to be willing to step in when crops fail, markets falter, or infrastructure is required.

Farmers need to be able to take back control of their supply of seed. Seed security and what is going on there is worthy of a whole other blog post (actually, a whole other blog, but I only have one lifetime and this blog is more than enough to deal with). Similar issues are relevant to those of us who are desperately trying to preserve the genetics of traditional livestock breeds (yes, more posts on those issues coming soon, too).

Large Black Hog piglets

Large Black Hog piglets

Meanwhile, here are some ways to connect with the saving our farms for the future movement, if you feel so inclined.

On Facebook: ALR Watch

Farmlands Trust Society

Farmland Defence League of BC

On the Web: Farmland Protection Coalition

8 responses to “Day 28 – Soil, Seed, and the ALR

  1. “If people just want cheap, then who cares that the food has travelled a gazillion miles to get here using gas guzzling transportation systems and questionable farming and labour practices?” “Cheap” is not always measurable by the cost of food at the market. Social concerns have their own costs, and you know more about this than I, but of course include environmental impacts and labor practices.

    Thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving from Iowa, USA.

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  2. Good précis of last night’s meeting. I’m still trying to decipher my scribbles. Rob Galey’s passion will haunt me for a while. And I loved Ryan Windsor’s comment on agriculture being the ultimate renewable resource. vs LNG.

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    • Yes, that was a good point about food vs LNG. When I saw how big the crowd was I knew I didn’t have a hope of figuring out who you were! My apologies if I walked right past you without realizing… We should have planned to both be wearing our John Deere caps backwards, or something…

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      • Yes, I realized that too. Another time. I’m in the big crowd picture in the album on FB, but it would be like spotting Waldo’s dog to find me – I was two over from Alistair Bryson, near the aisle. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you once at a book talk you gave at Bayside School with Karen Brain, but it was years ago. Never mind. Despite the big crowd last night, Peninsula producers are a small bunch, even counting those of us who don’t advertise or go to markets, and we tend to bump into each other at all sorts of events. Grey hair in an untidy bun is my usual trademark :).

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  3. I think all we can ever hope for is a percentage of eaters to take up eating responsibly grown, local food. I priced a hog for someone yesterday and they had to check finances and expressed surprise at the cost of this tasty hog, pushing $1000. They likely can’t afford it and I can’t afford to sell for less. Selling for less would mean taking a second off farm job.

    There was a great piece written by Corky Evans at The Tyee recently, Corky is a former MLA for Kootenay West and Minister of Agriculture among other portfolios. Worth a read. A former NDP government insider’s take on the situation.

    http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2013/11/25/BC-Agricultural-Land-Worth-Saving/

    Keep up the good fight.

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  4. Thanks for the link, Jim – that’s a great article that sums up the history of the ALR and the implications of messing with it very nicely…

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