Food News


What we have been warned about for years by environmentalists, scientists, climatologists and the farming community, that world food supplies are at risk from global events beyond our control, is fast becoming our new reality. Ever increasing population growth and demand in India and China, regional and civil unrest in the Middle East and weather catastrophes in fertile areas around the world, to name just a few, are forces negatively affecting global food supplies. We are also told that these events should be a wake-up call for us in the West.

Even here, recent media announcements are alerting us to imminent price increases of up to 5% in Greater Victoria and other Vancouver Island communities that include dairy products, fresh produce, baked goods, fuel and transportation (the last two have projected increases beyond 5%). These price increases again underscore how problematic it is that we depend so much on outside food sources that require transportation to and from the Island.

Given these recent events, I can't help but see an irony, that local governments such as ours in North Saanich, led by a Mayor and Council majority who made local food and agriculture priorities when we were first elected nearly three years ago, have been criticized or even ridiculed in some circles for our focus on agriculture. I have heard us described as "simplistic" in our approach to local land use, that we are attempting to resurrect an industry that has long since seen its heyday (no pun intended). Yes, I have listened to the critics and skeptics, especially those who seem to believe that food security is when the local grocery store stays open past 6:00 p.m.

Well, I strongly disagree with these nay-sayers, especially given recent food and agricultural movements across North America and public sentiment that reflect a growing concern about food security. As I have mentioned before, of Canadians surveyed last year, nearly 82% cited local food security as their greatest concern overall. So I am proud to be part of this Mayor and Council majority's work that continues to lobby for a thriving, secure and local food supply in North Saanich, on the Peninsula and across the region.

Our recipe for success is threefold -- making agriculture economically viable, raising the profile of local growers/producers and creating a supportive environment for farming and marketing -- a complex and daunting task but one that we cannot afford to ignore.

And while the efforts to date of some local and regional governments may sometimes feel like a drop in the bucket to the local farmer or grower, as a member of North Saanich Council, I am particularly proud of what we have achieved so far, including agricultural area planning and development of a cutting edge draft whole agricultural strategy.

Of course none of these initiatives would be possible without community involvement, the dedication and commitment of local volunteers, engagement by farmers and growers, as well as direct support from North Saanich Municipal staff such as CAO Rob Buchan and many others who provide policy expertise and hands-on help when we host local agricultural workshops and events.

I am also grateful to the work of local, Peninsula and regional organizations and groups, all of whom believe, more than ever before, that growing food close to home is more than just an option -- it is becoming a necessity. But we still have a lot to do and while we cannot solve all the problems related to local agriculture in just three years, together with our community, we can establish policy and practices at the municipal level that will continue to support one of the most important values of all -- the ability of communities like ours to eventually feed themselves.

Stay tuned.

Due to illness, I was unable to attend the February 28th Committee of the Whole meeting so I am unable to provide highlights. Please consult the District of North Saanich website for a copy of the meeting minutes which will summarize the Committee of the Whole and Budget meetings for February 28th.