The novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in speculation about our lifestyle when (and if) the pandemic is ever over.
Near the top of the worry list is the fragility of our food supply system.
B.C. has agricultural challenges. We don’t have much farmland to begin with and much of what we do have is developed for other uses (Site C) or owned by foreigners. When the Agricultural Land Reserve was introduced in 1973, B.C. produced 86 per cent of our vegetables and small fruit. Now it’s about 43 per cent.
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According to reports, B.C. produces some $3 billion worth of food each year. We export half of it — meat, dairy, seafoods, grains, etc. We import about $2 billion worth, mostly from California and Mexico. Climate changes and changes in political powers are making imports less reliable and more costly. We need to rely more on ourselves but our society is still in the “economic growth” mode. We take food for granted. Will we wake up in time to change that?
People concerned about food sustainability recommend regional food systems, community-focused agriculture. Williams lake has a good start on this, we have the Food Policy Council, farmer’s market, and community gardens. We also have a plan for community greenhouses. A 2016 study commissioned by the city found that greenhouses located at the north end of town, using energy from Atlantic Power, would be a good idea. Nothing came of it, apparently because of land costs. But where there’s a will there’s a way, so what about having a second look at it? Surely it’s better to prepare for a crisis than to wait until it happens.
Any plan for regional-based sustainable agriculture would need co-operation and partnership with the Cariboo Regional District and neighbouring First Nations, but surely that wouldn’t be a problem.
Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian and book author.