Decreases in Local Food Consumption in Nova Scotia
A report released Tuesday by the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and the Ecology Action Centre set out to answer two questions… “How far is our food traveling to get from farms to food retail outlets?” and “What percentage of our food is locally grown?” After compiling the data from various reports and statistics over the past 3 years, it has been suggested that at most, 13% of NS food dollars go back to NS farms. Eleven years ago this number was at 17%. They have also determined that the average distance food items must travel to get to Halifax, NS is 3,976 km.
Just a few factors which have lead to this decline in the purchasing of local foods by Nova Scotians include: larger supermarket chains being able to buy and sell cheaper by volume, the perception that imported food is cheaper, and Canadians spending less money on food in general .
However, there are many economic benefits to purchasing locally produced foods such as increased jobs and fewer tax dollars. In the case of local food, consumers have the option to buy direct from farmers for a reduced price and producers have the option to reclaim some of the margins normally charged by retailers and wholesalers. For example, consuming more local beef would inject an additional $65.5 million into the economy and create about 1,300 jobs, along with additional farm infrastructure, said the report.
Along with these economic benefits, the report has pointed out that there are social and environmental benefits as well. Social benefits include nutritious food, entrepreneurial energy, work ethic, mentorship, mutual reliance, relationship-based economic activity, and maintenance of farming communities. The main environmental benefit buying local is the reduction of carbon emmissions.
Another reason for the 4% decline is that farmers currently struggling to make a living are leaving the industry and young people are not taking their place. The average age of a Nova Scotia farmer is 55, and children who would normally take over the farm are moving away or choosing other jobs.
Along with the release of this report the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture has released a website (www.meetyourfarmer.ca) which profiles various farmers across the province.
The objective of this website is to create and improve the relationship with Nova Scotia Farmers and the consumer. We hope that this website will help to put a face on agriculture in Nova Scotia and establish a tighter connection between the farmer and the consumer.