A Growing Idea

Create: 12/01/2015 - 19:41

I love this time of the year. It is the middle of summer and I have a great selection of fruits and vegetables to choose from here in Ontario. It is great to be able to dine on fresh salads with cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, green, red and yellow peppers; onions, broccoli and cauliflower. This is the only time of the year that I have easy access to all this fresh produce grown locally or just a few hours to the south.
I am taking advantage of all the fresh fruit too. I have been enjoying the pears, peaches, cherries, strawberries, blueberries and of course apples. There is a small window where we actually can buy these vegetables and fruits that are more or less local. I notice more and more that farmers markets are thriving in most cities across Canada that I visit. We even have farmers markets up north in Timmins, North Bay, Sudbury and New Liskeard.
There seems to be a trend to produce local fruits, vegetables and even animal products locally. It is getting more expensive to ship goods from other parts of the world or North America. There is less trust in products that are coming from other parts of the world and local farming is becoming popular again. The average consumer seems to want a good fresh product and people are willing to pay a little more for local produce and meats that they can trust.
For most isolated First Nation communities across Canada, access to fresh local produce and meats is very restrictive. All these commodities have to be shipped by air or summer barge and that makes fresh food very expensive. Still, in the summer these remote communities do get better produce shipped to them. Most of the time, the fruits and vegetables are not in great shape by the time they reach the shelves of the store in a remote community. It is difficult to preserve these foods that must travel huge distances over many days from all parts of the world.
My parents and Elders back home in Attawapiskat tell me stories of long ago when the Catholic church actually had a working farm and they produced locally grown vegetables, milk and eggs. Our dependence on produce and foods from all over the world is almost absurd. It is alarming to consider that if something happened to the shipping network for all this produce, most of us would be in a very bad state. In our part of the world here in Northern Ontario, if train, or air or even road travel on Highway 11 was interrupted for a long period of time the supply of food from the south and all over the world would stop. How did we ever forget or get away from the idea that we can grow and produce most of the vegetables, meats, eggs and milk that we need locally? That's how it was long ago and it looks like there is a market for local produce again.
If you travel through the side roads of Northern Ontario, you can see evidence of the early veteran's lots. These were lots that were provided to the First World War veterans who were willing to come to the far north and start farms. Decades ago, northern Ontario had many farms as a result of this program. Today they are overgrown and many of them are abandoned.
Northern communities could start to look at large greenhouse developments that would produce fruits and vegetables for most of the year. Small scale farming could produce the meats, eggs and milk that northerners need. This would cost a lot of money but it would make sure that we were self sustaining and that we had easy access to food that we could trust. It would also produce jobs and help the local economy.
Most of my people in isolated communities still have enough traditional knowledge to hunt and fish, so we would not starve if the food network dried up in the south. However, it would be nice if our governments and leaders would think in a proactive way and start putting some money and effort into producing food locally. If a handful of Catholic missionaries could do this a hundred years ago on the shores of James Bay, I am sure we can figure out how to do it today.www.underthenorthernsky.com