For those of us who are concerned about ingesting trace elements of pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers of mass produced fruits and vegetables, the alternatives are quite limited. As Manitoba has such a brief growing season, and owning land or having access to some is not easily done, we are left with the “organic” option. Organic farming has strict guidelines (depending on the association to which the growers belong), it is only grown on small parcels of land, and has to have a DMZ surrounding it. So the growers may have a good chunk of land but they can’t use it all for produce.
There are very few larger scale organic farms. The economics and politics of production just do not permit it. So we act in good conscience, I believe, and purchase organically grown produce. However, this choice is not open to all. Again, for the most part, this lifestyle choice is limited to those who can afford it. At my local regular grocer, Ambrosia apples sell for 1.89 per pound. The organic equivalent, (at any of the local organic shops) is 4.99 up to 8.99 per pound, depending on what species of apple you choose. Similarly, a head of kale at the normal market was 2.99 this morning. The organic equivalent is 4.99 to 5.99 per head! These are just two examples for illustrative purposes. A comparative list would be extensive and offensive. Organic produce is nasty indeed. I can only afford to purchase one or two organic items per week. It is only a gesture in the direction I’d like to move. The bulk of my groceries are purchased where most folks go to get their food. That is, for me, a painful reality.
I have some suggestions but no real solutions to this multi-faceted problem. Growing one’s own food is a difficult proposition given that backyard garden yields are disproportionate to the labour, materials and resources required. Gardening is costly. Here in the Winnipeg Woodlot, I see more ornamental gardens than utility gardens. Plush vegetable and fruit gardens have their own aesthetic but evidently have less appeal than flowers and shrubs. If you have land, cultivate it. Learn how to grow food. Form a collective in your neighbourhood and sell your produce locally. The land owning classes could viably contribute to the community.
I believe organically grown, small scale production might be the way to go. It may not be a solution to the overall problem but it might get things going in a new direction. Earlier in my working life I spoke to many Canadian growers and learned of a small movement here in the west. Some farms have scaled down production (some out of necessity) and have decided to produce for 25 families only. Now, I am sure these farmers struggle. They battle the seed owners, neighbouring farmers who don’t share these ideals, corporations, distributers, the government, and the market itself. However, these trailblazers need exposure and support. Maybe a combination of organic farming and small scale production could drive prices and our health in the right direction. Producers need money too, but even with today’s inflated organic prices, I am certain they see little return.
Plant a seed, spread the word, take some action and, maybe, this movement will become fruitful.