Help local farms thrive by enjoying local food

It’s up to us.

Our local farmers can continue to produce some of the finest in food and wine in the world, but without our support as customers, and politically when it comes to supporting things like the agricultural land reserve, production cannot continue.

And it must continue. On Vancouver Island, and even here in the Cowichan Valley where there is a comparatively robust local food movement, we import a shocking amount of our food.

From tropical fruits, to meat and fish, potatoes to lettuce, our food has often travelled a long distance before it reaches our plates. The perils of this system are starting to show.

This spring and summer the news has been full of the drought happening in California, where there is a great deal of agricultural production.

Our drought in the Cowichan Valley, which has been severe enough to threaten the flow of the Cowichan River and everything that depends on it, has been bad enough, but our farmers aren’t lamenting their crops threatening to turn to dust in the fields for lack of moisture.

As long as we remain so overwhelmingly dependent on importing our food, these types of scenarios, which we have no way to help to solve, and no voice to influence solutions, will continue to put our food supply at risk.

It also puts our pocketbooks at risk as food prices rise.

That is why the agricultural land reserve is so vital to our province.

If we protect our agricultural potential, we can at least continue to feed ourselves if something goes wrong.

We must also begin looking at agriculture in a new (old) way – having more farmers plant on smaller pieces of land.

Small farms producing a diverse array of foods can be extraordinarily productive.

But we must go to our local markets and buy their wares.

We dare you to leave the Duncan Farmer’s Market without a tasty treat or two.

We must go to our local supermarkets and ask for local food to be included on the shelves. Products like Wilberry Orchards hazelnuts or Vancouver Island Salt Co.’s salt are already there.

Or, if you’re looking for an evening out, take a look at Cowichan Valley restaurants that offer cuisine made with local ingredients.

Many of them proudly proclaim where the ingredients in their dishes come from.

Unsworth Vineyard’s Community Supported Restaurant is an idea whose time has come, and we predict great success.

The Cowichan Valley is one of the best places in the world to find local food.

All we have to do to keep it that way is to make sure we enjoy it.