Now more than ever, supporting locally grown food is important due to climate change and droughts as well as the worldwide increasing costs of healthy foods and risk of food insecurity and foodborne illnesses. We know that supporting local farmers plays a part in supporting food security, but it also keeps money in the province, creates jobs, promotes a strong community and promotes environmental health. “Supporting all NS farmers will help to move everything in a more ecological direction” (Lowe, 2008).
In terms of environmental sustainability and the maintenance of healthy, fertile soil for future generations, local food systems are incredibly important. Smaller scale farmers within the food system generally have a strong connection to their land and use more traditional and sustainable methods to ensure pest and weed control as well as to manage waste and water. Although most Nova Scotian farmers are not certified organic, local farmers are less reliant on chemical inputs than industrial farms due to practices such as hand-hoeing, crop covers, crop rotation and insect cloths, etc. Furthermore, in managing healthy soil, there is less of a risk for chemical run-off which gets into the ground and the water, causing harm to wildlife and aquatic life (Statistics Canada, 2008).
Supporting local food also reduces our reliance on fossil fuels for many reasons. Industrial farms rely heavily on synthetic fertilizers and chemicals for production which are made using natural gas and oil, respectively. Smaller scale farms tend to manage the use of chemical inputs appropriately and a lot of the time, these chemicals are only used when needed, often with the help of a hired agronomist who can pinpoint when and what input should be used. Also, food travel uses a significant amount of fossil fuels and therefore, in supporting local farmers, we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
Finally, supporting local food often drastically reduces the need for packaging; from boxes and styrofoam to saran wrap and plastic bags. Although you can generally purchase local food in a plastic bag, it is often harvested and sold as is.
It is incredibly important that consumers start asking questions related to the food being purchased. Find out where the product comes from and the farming practices used. It is with these questions that we can grow and maintain a thriving food community and we can support our local farmers in order to ensure a reliable, safe, transparent and best of all, sustainable food system for our future generations.
The Ecology Action Centre is one of several wonderful organizations in Nova Scotia who are working toward this positive food future. The EAC has been instrumental in raising the profile of healthy, local, sustainable food. Their annual fundraiser, called “Perfect World,” not only helps to support this kind of work, but is also an opportunity to enjoy fine culinary dishes prepared using local and sustainably sourced ingredients, from some of Nova Scotia’s top chefs. Come and experience the best of local food, and support this great cause at the same time! Information and tickets are available at www.ecologyaction.ca/perfectworld. What a great event to attend on your journey to sustainability.
Eat Well, Halifax
Nicole Marchand, RD