night for supper, I had pork chops cooked over an open fire with
steamed Swiss chard, peas, and carrots in a butter and savoury sauce
and a side of turnip and onions roasted in maple syrup and fresh
oregano. So, "What does enjoying such a scrumptious meal have to
do with the environment?" you ask. Well, every ingredient, right
down to the butter and maple syrup, came from our garden or from
nearby organic farmers.
A couple years ago, organic produce was
relegated to the realm of health food stores and farmers' markets.
Now, many mainstream supermarkets offer a wide range of certified
organic choices. The retail market for organics in Canada is worth an
estimated $300-750 million and is growing at an average rate of 15% a
year. At first glance, this seems great…until you stop to consider
where that food has come from. Eighty percent of organics in Canada is
imported, while local organic producers are fighting for their market
share. As illustrated in the graph, 49% of organics in Canada are sold
at mass market outlets (such as supermarkets), 48% at specialty
stores, and only 3% at farmers' markets.
Click on picture to enlarge
(Photo: Temma Frecker)
Many people in the organics movement go
by the mantra "Buy Local, Buy Organic." Next time you fill
your grocery bag, consider how far your food has traveled, and
calculate the "Food Miles" accumulated from field to plate.
Then, consider the environmental impact of that journey. How many
non-renewable resources were used and greenhouse gases emitted to
bring that banana from Costa Rica compared to that apple from the
family farm just outside of town? A report by Food Share Toronto,
Fighting Global Warming at the Farmer's Market, (www.organicconsumers.org/)
compares Food Miles for local and imported food. In one example, half
a kilogram of local lamb generated only seven grams of carbon dioxide
through transportation, while the same amount of lamb from New Zealand
produced over eight kilograms of carbon dioxide - over 1000 times the
emissions! Now, here comes the best part about buying local produce:
in addition to reducing your impact on the environment, you can make a
valuable contribution to the economy of your community by supporting
The question of local vs. imported
becomes more complicated when the choice before you is a bag of
organic carrots from California or a bunch of carrots that were grown
locally but are not organic. Ask yourself how the produce got there.
Greenhouse gas emissions per kilometre are highest for air travel,
second only to truck transport. What is the environmental impact of
the 5000 km (or more) drive from California to New Brunswick? What are
the environmental and health impacts of consuming non-organic produce?
Which purchase will make a greater contribution to my community? These
are all questions that I struggle with. While I don't have the answer,
I urge you to make an informed choice and be more aware of the
complexity of the situation. Also, let your supermarket know that you
would like to see more local produce on the shelves, especially
organics. Let your local farmers know that you would be willing to pay
a premium for organic produce. Put your money where your mouth (and
from local producers that I can put on my table?
When we put the words "New
Brunswick" and "Agriculture" together, the first thing
that comes to mind is the glorious spud. However, the bounty of
produce this province has to offer is amazing: fresh fruits and
vegetables, dried beans and herbs, preserves and jams, meat, milk,
eggs, locally roasted coffee, flour and grains, maple syrup…even
seeds and compost to start your own garden! Buying locally cuts down
on greenhouse gas emissions by reducing food miles and supports local
farmers. If you want to go that extra step for your health and the
health of the environment, go organic and buy local. Check out the
Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network website (www.acornorganic.org
) for a listing of organic producers and retailers in Atlantic Canada.
Tourism New Brunswick also has a list of farmers' markets at http://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/.
Oh the bounty: Fresh organic
produce available at your local farmers' market!
(Photo: Andrea Berry)
So here is my
challenge to you: create a meal using all local products!
You can make bread using flour from
Speerville Mills, throw together a salad from your garden, pick up
some veggies and meat from the farmers' market, and head to a U-Pick
berry farm for a sweet after-dinner treat. Join people all over the
world in taking the 100 Mile Challenge, consuming only food grown
within a 100 mile radius from the dinner table. Take the challenge for
a week, and maybe incorporate it into your routine. Taste the
difference, feel the difference, and know that you are reducing your
ecological footprint at the same time. Your body will thank you, the
earth will thank you, and your local farmers will too.
Bentley, Stephen & Ravenna Barker.
Fighting Global Warming at the Farmer's Market: The Role of Local Food
Systems In Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions. A FoodShare Research in
Action Report, Second Edition, Toronto. April 2005. www.organicconsumers.org/environment/ACF230.pdf
Connell, Bev & R. Gary Morton.
Atlantic Canadian Organic Market Study: Transforming Market Potentials
into Market Realities. ACORN. Nova Scotia. January 2003. www.acornorganic.org/marketplace.html