Our Food System Panel at FoodARC
Written by Meal Exchange Volunteer Coordinator and FoodARC Volunteer, Meredith Bessey
On March 20th, Meal Exchange MSVU, in collaboration with the Mount’s Community Garden Society, hosted the Our Food System Panel. We had a great turn-out and we are excited to share some of the main learning points from the event!
The panel was moderated by Meal Exchange member Landon Brown, and was made-up of six great community members:
- Justin Cantafio, from the Ecology Action Centre and Off the Hook Community Supported Fishery
- Patricia Bishop, from Taproot Farms
- Linda Best, from the FarmWorks Investment Cooperative
- Jamie Tingley, from Off Beet Farms
- Phil Keddy, from Keddy Farms
- Janice Faulkner, director of Food Services for Chartwell’s at MSVU
A lot of great information was shared and a great discussion was had. An interesting point that was made by Jamie Tingley was that farming isn’t often glamourized or looked at as a good career move. Parents aren’t exactly encouraging their children to farm when they grow up. This is unfortunate, as many farmers are aging and there is an important need for young farmers! It was exciting to see a couple of younger farmers on this panel, who are doing really great things in agriculture.
Something that was discussed at length was the hardship of farming. Patricia Bishop spoke of the fact that despite the fact that she and her husband have been farming at Taproot for about a decade, they still can’t really afford to take much time off. Farming is a big job, especially when you’re running a small scale farm with very few staff. You don’t often get to take time off, and you’re getting up early and going to bed late most days. It definitely isn’t a job for the faint of heart. I don’t think that it means that you should cross farming off your list as a potential career, it just means you need to be sure that this is what you want to devote your life to when you get into the business.
The concept of “voting with your fork” was also raised. I think it’s important to acknowledge that we all eat at least 3 times a day, and what we choose to buy and consume can influence what is available. If consumers are demanding local, healthy food, then hopefully the market will respond by providing more of this kind of food! People shouldn’t underestimate the power that their voice and their dollar has. This was something that Phil Keddy talked about – if his sweet potatoes are next to some sweet potatoes from the US in the grocery store, and everyone buys his sweet potatoes, then the grocery store will respond by sourcing more sweet potatoes from him. This is good for his business, on an individual level, and good for the local economy as a whole.
So how can students get involved with this local food movement? For one thing, joining Meal Exchange is a great first step! Our group is working on sourcing more local food on the MSVU campus. We are still a small chapter, so there is great opportunity for growth. Also, networking is super important – if you are interested in a specific issue, reach out to someone who is doing work in that area! The panelists are a great place to start. And as mentioned before, vote with your fork! Buy local as much as you can afford to, and choose to support local business over larger chain stores when possible. Other local groups working on these sorts of issues are:
- Ecology Action Centre’s Food Action Committee: https://www.ecologyaction.ca/issue-area/food-action
- Nova Scotia Food Security Network (soon to be Good Food Nova Scotia): http://nsfoodsecurity.org
Nationally, Food Secure Canada is working on an election campaign and one of their campaign pillars is new farmers, among other important food security issues. There will likely be exciting ways to get involved as the campaign takes shape. Check out their website here: http://foodsecurecanada.org