Food security is the ability to produce, store and process food locally and distribute it equitably to all residents. Food production in a global pandemic and climate crisis must re-localize. It requires protecting forest ecosystems to support watershed capacity. The whole ecosystem must be functioning for people & communities to be healthy.

What does food security look like?

Food producers and local distributors must be able to make a living. Currently these conditions do not exist, partly because for the past 70 years there has been a gradual shift to redesigning systems that favour large, national and international industrial/corporate producers at the expense of smaller, local producers and distributors. 

Creating food security involves all aspects of healthy communities, economies and environments

Growth in our communities

A multitude of thriving small farm communities exist which provide sustainably (like organic) raised produce, meat, eggs and dairy to the population, using green transportation (electric) for on farm vehicles and distribution.

Local, sustainably raised produce is available easily in all grocery stores and restaurants.

Backyard producers grow excess food that they process in community facilities and distribute as needed.

Our communities and residents understand and practice cultivating healthy soils. It is possible to farm intensively for generations to come if we cultivate healthy soil, following organic and/or permaculture principles.

Clean water is a priority

Without a reliable source of clean water we cannot produce food

Water remains a local, public resource, and we are managing our water resources to keep them clean.

Watersheds are protected from logging, mining and other industrial uses.

 

We take care of the land

Wild lands, forests and lakes (habitat) are protected from development and commercial back country access which allows wildlife populations to recover and be hunted/fished responsibly. Wildlife has been a food source for Indigenous people and settlers for hundreds of years and can be a major food source if we reverse the current trends of species loss.

We manage forests and fire mitigation in a way which reduces fuel build up, increases biodiversity (including deciduous trees as they are less fire prone), and improves watershed capacity to retain water

Loss of biodiversity, fire, and reduced watershed capacity are serious threats to the food production capacity we currently have, and they will remain so as we move into a future with more extreme climate variations.

How do we get there?

We have already seen how intense heat and smoke affects germination, pollination & growth, so we will need to rethink growing practices–selection of seed, soil cultivation, watering practice–to cope effectively with the changing climate.

We must manage our public spaces and public resources for the benefit of the health and well being of all people and wildlife, not for corporate profit.

Some of the changes we need are under the jurisdiction of the federal government, some under the provincial government, some are under local government. And some are things that individuals or community groups can do.

 

Community & Business Opportunities

The current playing field is uneven. These steps will need provincial government support for 3-4 years to be sustainable in the long term.

Distribution has been identified many times over as critical to thriving local agriculture, yet it has proven exceptionally difficult to devise a self-sustaining business model due to the current government practices of supporting large corporations with preferential regulation and taxation. This needs to change.

Re-create community owned or co-op greenhouses using annualized geosolar–building on the model of Invermere’s Groundswell Network Society.  

Create closed loop organic fish farms and greenhouses–they provide year round produce and protein.

Create a food hub, a central location for aggregation and sale of local products to retail stores, restaurants, institutions and consumers with different prices for wholesale and individual. This could also be a central organizing spot for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) delivery.

Develop a clean energy, refrigerated transportation service from farms to a central location. 


Local governments can do a lot to support local food security

Community gardens & kitchens are one of the most obvious examples of local government initiatives, and the options are limitless: 

Provide land, water and subsidize a manager’s remuneration

Manage shared procurement of inputs, supplies, exchange of food; match labour to volunteers; teach gardening; allow volunteers to contribute what they want or are able towards an end product 

Support community initiatives like Inveremere’s Groundswell greenhouse in every way possible

Support the creation of a food trading post, a central location that takes excess food, where people can trade or get credits 

Support the creation of a central processing hub such as in Winlaw or Nelson’s harvest rescue for excess produce

Incentivize private landholders such as churches and encourage provincial landholders such as Interior Health to allow garden sharing or community gardens on their property

Lead by example: create a community gardening ambassador
Provide funding for a person to offer education, community engagement opportunities and school gardening coordination. This person would hold workshops and provide resources for those wanting to become better gardeners.

Promote eating locally & seasonally

Change bylaws to allow bee hives in municipalities. Bees are critical to pollination and populations are crashing worldwide due to a variety of factors

Change bylaws to allow backyard chickens

Change bylaws to encourage boulevard gardening rather than requiring applications and fees

Water and waste

Encourage backyard composting with education and bulk purchase of composters that are then sold at a discount 

Participate in regional and municipal composting facilities to capture organic waste. Off set costs by selling the end product back to residents

Change bylaws and processes to promote cisterns, grey water systems and composting toilets

Ban pesticide use with no exemptions for golf courses, hydro rights of way or other commercial or industrial uses

Follow France’s example

In February 2016, France became the first country in the world to prohibit supermarkets from throwing away unused food through unanimously passed legislation. Now, supermarkets of a certain size must donate unused food or face a fine. Other policies require schools to teach students about food sustainability, companies to report food waste statistics in environmental reports, and restaurants to make take-out bags available.  

The provincial government must support local sustainable agriculture

The provincial government has a pivotal role in creating local food security. Steps they can take that would make meaningful change for our local communities and health include:

  • Reinstate a full range of agricultural extension services at no cost to the producers. Provide expertise and education on topics rising in importance because of climate change: choice of crops, types of irrigation, swales to manage water, water testing.
  • Create or move other subsidies and other forms of support from industrial agriculture to smaller organic farms. For example, fencing is often a prohibitive cost for starting up small scale farms.
  • Revisit the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and use evidence based decision making to increase protection, remove unproductive land and include productive land.
  • Revisit meat regulations to allow local farmers to sell at the farmgate again legally
  • Allow unpasteurized dairy sales from local farmers
  • Provide funding to get food hubs operational 
  • Require stores to have a section for “ugly vegetables” (seconds) at a reduced cost 
  • Eliminate individual packaging to go to bulk to reduce waste and costs for local farm sustainability

Transportation & Distribution also fall under provincial jurisdiction

  • Distribution has been identified many times over as critical to thriving local agriculture, yet it has proven exceptionally difficult to devise a self sustaining business model due to the current government practices of supporting large corporations with preferential regulations and taxation. 
  • The provincial government could promote green transportation, transportation reduction and provide incentives for electric delivery vehicles
  • They also need to change the regulations to relax the requirements around refrigerated delivery for short distances. This directly affects small local farmers delivering to restaurants and stores.

Water & Ecosystems: food security is not possible without clean, safe water

The provincial government needs to:

  • Ensure the Columbia River Treaty renegotiations allow adequate water for BC farmers and wildlife.
  • Make habitat management and conservation a priority, completely funded and staffed
  • Forest management and water management are closely connected. The forestry industry must be forced to move away from clear cutting and other current practices that degrade both the landscape and harm water retention capacity.
  • Change building codes and processes to allow and simplify approvals for cisterns, grey water systems and composting toilets. The province can also promote their use.
  • Legislate that public spaces such as parks and school grounds must be pesticide free. 
  • Ban the use of pesticides on golf courses, by hydro companies for right of way clearing and by forestry companies to kill deciduous trees.

We need to rethink old forestry & watershed management practices to support healthy food and water.

The federal government has a role to play, too

Steps they can take to support local farm sustainability include:

  • Eliminate individual packaging
  • Move subsidies from corporate and industrial agriculture to smaller organic farms
  • Bring in legislation to reduce food waste

Learning from Cuba as a case study

In some ways what we need to do mirrors the Cuban experience after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The preferential market treatment that Cuban products received, as well as literally boat loads of industrial agriculture inputs (pesticides and fertilizer) came to an abrupt halt, forcing a switch to highly local organic style farming. Locals changed dairy cattle breeds to those that thrived in local conditions, rather than producing greater quantities with antibiotics. Similarly, they tailored seed selection to local conditions. The government mandated urban gardening in every available green space. Within five years, Cuba pulled itself back from the brink of starvation. Let’s start now, so we don’t experience that kind of crisis.