Farming and food in Cowichan are interconnected.
Well, duh, some will respond. But that connection between the farm and the plate is not always as cut and dried as we might think, or even want it to be.
Most of us get much of our food (some even all) from the grocery store, where the food on the shelves is often not local. In fact, signs on produce boast about how it was flown in from Spain, or South America, California or Australia. We are very, very far from the farm when we purchase these foods.
But we’re also lucky in Cowichan to have a big, vibrant farming community that offers everything from kale to pork that is locally grown and raised with love and attention on small acreages.
We can buy milk produced at local dairies, beets and onions straight from the soil, and strawberries and tomatoes that have ripened under the Cowichan sun.
In buying locally, we not only get great taste and truly fresh, we also support sustainable farming and our friends and neighbours who produce this bounty for us. We ignore local food security — having the ability to grow enough to sustain ourselves where we live — at our peril.
Statistics have long shown that over the decades we’ve lost a great deal of our capacity to feed ourselves on Vancouver Island.
Our local farmers face challenges to be sure. Climate change is influencing what and where we can grow, and the water we have to grow it with, as farmers compete with other residents for such resources. There is also the issue of scale: farming is big business worldwide, and small farmers in the Cowichan Valley face pricing challenges in this era of being able to get anything, from anywhere, competing with farms thousands of acres big with rock bottom labour costs.
But there’s a reason that our local chefs rave about Cowichan products and are enthusiastic supporters of the agri-tourism industry in the Valley.
You really can’t beat the taste.