From Earth Common Journal VOL. 3 NO. 1
The Price of Development: The Importance of Preserving Local Agricultural Lands
Unsustainable Disconnect with Producers and our Food
Considering the risks posed by our current food industry as it is, it is a wonder that so many people are still unaware of the importance of making changes to our food industry by supporting local producers as well as protecting and preserving their land from the threat of urban expansion, to ensure they continue operating.
This is important because not only does industrialized agriculture increase the distance our food travels it also decreases our connection to our food by taking it out of our awareness. This leaves many of us oblivious to the dangers we face if our food industry continues as it has been. The Slow Movement (2013), an organization that provides information and opportunities to encourage a sustainable way of life, sheds light on the fact that,
We are losing farmers every year, and rural communities are deteriorating socially and economically. Children are growing up not knowing where their food comes from – not just where it is produced but also how it is produced. Some children are unaware that carrots grow under the ground and tomatoes on plants above ground. They have lost connection to their food (para. 3).
This places focus on the importance of a relationship between community and local agriculture. The Hebert family, owners and operators of Riverbend Gardens, recognize the importance of a need to create a connection between the community and the land.
In an “effort to develop an agricultural relationship with community members” (Riverbend Gardens, 2013, para. 1) they offer a variety of produce at farmer’s markets across the Edmonton area. At their greenhouses they also offer U Pick Saskatoons for those who enjoy harvesting their own food, and for local backyard gardeners they grow a “variety of tomatoes suitable to the Edmonton climate” (Riverbend Gardens, 2013, para.3), as well as providing information and support on how to properly care for a garden. In addition to the local farmer’s markets, Riverbend Gardens delivers fresh seasonal produce through the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. According to CSA member, Elizabeth Bunney Lakoseljac, the program supports an agricultural relationship between Riverbend Gardens and the community, as CSA members “invest in their farm with the promise of receiving a bounty when the crops are ready” (Elizabeth interview, July, 15, 2013). And the benefits of such a relationship is not only one-sided. Elizabeth Bunney-Lakoseljac credits her involvement in the CSA as having improved and expanded her family’s diet. “We have access to fresh vegetables every week and we find that we eat a lot more vegetables because of it. We are also eating things we hadn’t used before, like kohlrabi and fennel. They taste so fresh – everything tastes better than what is at the grocery store” (Elizabeth interview, July, 15, 2013).
But that is not where the community relationship ends. Riverbend Gardens also regularly provide fresh produce to local agencies such as the Mustard Seed church, as well as running fundraisers in support of their operation (Riverbend Gardens, 2013, para 1). The connection between Riverbend Gardens and all levels of the community run deep, and as such, preserving the land and the livelihood of this local producer should be paramount above the needs of urban sprawl.
Without community and government support towards movements for preserving agricultural land, small producers, like Riverbend Gardens, will continue to disappear until only industrialized single crop producers remain. The consequences of this put people and the environment at risk of continued exposure to chemical pesticides, increased food costs, and continued environmental pollution and degradation. Pushing out local farmers in favour of urban sprawl attributes to already rising food costs by reducing, if not almost eliminating people’s choices for locally grown produce. This further contributes to the larger global food crisis by putting us at risk of being “only another US drought, South American drought or big episode in one of the main producers away from another big spike in food prices” (McGuiness, 2013, para. 20).
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