We must reduce our reliance on imported food

Cobble Hill – It was great to read about all the agricultural aspects of what goes on in the Cowichan Valley and to confirm that so many folks are aware of how important a role it plays in our everyday lives. When it comes to climate change and the effects on harvesting both agricultural as well as wild food, I do not talk to many folks about this issue on a daily basis as we seem to be in a collective denial “shield” about this pressing and most serious of looming situations facing us and the generations to come – it’s just too…I don’t know, scary?

We hear about climate change but sort of push it back when we have entertainment to take in, and recreating to indulge ourselves with, but it’s there all the time like a creeping mould coming on to our favourite cheeses stored in the fridge. However, when I give public presentations on native bees and pollination and pesticide use, looming food security issues are always included in my talks.

The United States Department of Agriculture has the state of California as the leading nation’s supplier of many food crops, something we here in Canada, especially on Vancouver Island, are recipients of.

Iowa, Nebraska and Texas are well below what California produces, and British Columbia would come way down the list if she were on this list, producing one fourth what California produces (2011 statistics).

This includes, dairy, grapes, olives, and many kinds of vegetables and other fruits, but does not include seafood production.

Notable Californian food crops are increasing in cash receipts from 30 per cent to 149 per cent (2011 to 2012), mainly because of the costs of growing these valuable crops. One of the main reasons is to do with where the majority of these crops are produced – the Central Valley, a part of the state that historically was a desert. With the aqueducts, pipelines, and canals that capture and divert water coming from the snowcapped Sierra mountains and transporting this vital resource to the growing areas as well as the urban core along the coast, rapid population growth looms to further make an impact on the use of water.

When you look at climate change however, many parts of California are reverting to desiccated lands that they naturally once were. Therefore, the increase in prices for many foods is going to go nowhere but up. Add in the extra costs for fuel to ship these products north and we’re going to see prices sharply rise in our grocery stores here on the Island, which is why we need to become a little less dependent on outside sources for our food and grow more of our own here in B.C. and on Vancouver Island.

When I present at various community gardening groups, natural history societies and other interested organizations, I am reinvigorated by the people I meet, their positive attitude for growing food, and their commitment for doing this as sustainably as humanly possible.

However, when I read stories in the media about assaults on our 40-year institutional agricultural land reserve lands by petroleum-based-thinking governments etc., I really hope average British Columbians will try and think ahead to what could happen to our imported food prices should we bail on our good agricultural growing areas, and go for dismantling the protections to these valuable areas. We need to realize that we will be more and more relying on our ability to feed ourselves here locally and throughout the province – Cowichan Valley is a switched-on community ready to take this head-on.

Gord Hutchings

Cobble Hill

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