Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why do we need local food? That's easy. Oil

I've been doing a lot of thinking about local food and gardens lately, and doing a lot in the garden instead of writing anything here.

This morning I picked up the Canadian Organic Growers Fall 2005 journal and came upon an article titled Why do we need local food? That's easy. Oil., written by Bob Wildfong, of Seeds of Diversity Canada (www.seeds.ca). There's no way I could say better what he says and I trust that he will be o.k. with my copying a large section of his article here for all to appreciate. Thanks Bob! Best regards from Why's Woman.

"This generation will face the end of an era of cheap transportation. Life will never be so convenient again. And we, and our children, will eat more locally produced food.

"We will have to reinvent the Canadian agriculture system to employ: more local growers; more diversified farm economies; extended-season production; and Canadian-adapted varieties. Strawberries and pineapples in mid-winter will once again become the luxury items that they were a few generations ago. Culinary choices will tend to follow the seasons again. Passive dependence on southern crops will gradually be replaced by domestic food-independence. The wheels of globalization will turn backwards.

" do you enjoy salads out of season? Better learn to build your own cold frame. But learn also the varieties of salad greens that perform well under glass. May King lettuce, for instance, is a 'forcing' lettuce specifically suited for growing in cold frames in very early spring.

"Canadians have forgotten a lot about growing produce in Canada, outside of the ideal seasons for the most economically-valuable crops. Gardeners of fifty years ago knew how to produce a wide selection of fruits and vegetables from April through November; a feat that would make anyone proud, but which takes diligence, patience, careful planning and years of experience. During recent decades, it has simply been easier and cheaper to grow the crops that give the best return with the least effort and cost. We've been content to import the rest.

"We'll have to relearn the skills and techniques that enabled and fed past generations, and add an array of new techniques yet to be invented. We'll also have to rediscover our Canadian varieties. There has been barely any plant breeding of vegetables in Canada during the past ten years, excepting greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers Nearly all of the 'new' varieties are bred for southern US production from Texas to California.

"Although members of Seeds of Diversity have been collecting, concerning and documenting Canadian plant varieties for over twenty years, we've only really scratched the surface. Of the estimated thousands of Canadian-adapted fruit and vegetables varieties, only 10 or 20 percent are well understood. During the glorious half-century when imports were cheap and exports were the dominant concern of policy-makers, our domestic-bred, tried-and-true Canadian cultivars were systematically ignored. So much has been forgotten.

"But the seeds still exist in collections. That's why collections have been so important. We can still grow our own Canadian varieties, learn again which of them are best for various uses and regions. Considering the many valuable discoveries that have been made in the heritage gene pool during the past ten years, we undoubtedly have plenty more treasures waiting to be discovered. You can help. If you hear or read of an interesting variety that hold promise for Canadian gardens, get some seeds and grow it. Tell your friends. Tell Seeds of Diversity. The more we all experiment, the more we will relearn, and the closer we will come to food self-sufficiency.

"We'll still have bananas for a long time, but they'll become a luxury. Diversity is the key to future food security."
Bob Wildfong, Seeds of Diversity Canada mail@seeds.ca
Box 36, Station Q, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4T 2L7

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