by Anne Jardine
Local Food Security & Kootenay-Columbia Part II
“When I was Mayor of Cranbrook,” Wayne Stetski, NDP Candidate for Kootenay-Columbia, recalls, “I met with Darrell Jones, president of Save-On-Foods. Darrell started his career in Cranbrook as a bagger back in the 1970s in his after-school job at a local grocery. But when I met with him in 2011, he was president of this large grocery chain, and I was Mayor.
“I was looking for ways to connect local growers to reliable markets. I was interested in whether Save-On would carry local produce in the Cranbrook store. I also wanted to capitalize on the fact that Cranbrook is the sunniest city in British Columbia and look at the feasibility of large-scale greenhouse operations,” said Stetski.
“Darrell responded that including local produce in Save-On stores is his preferred way of doing business. He wanted his stores to support local food production. The problem was scale. He needed large growers to make ensuring quality produce more manageable. He provided me with contact information for greenhouse operations on the coast that they work with. We had begun to work together more on this matter, and then I lost the election; it remains an interesting opportunity,” he added.
“I have been following and attending the Growing Forward and Fields Forward conferences launched several years ago in Creston, and one of the main goals of those initiatives is to expand reliable and consistent market opportunities for local food producers. They need temperature-controlled transportation, and they need dedicated point-of-sale outlets to get their produce to the table. They have good ideas and they have made some progress. Expanding awareness of the amazing products they raise and grow will help build those connections even further,” Stetski said.
He further explained how agriculture has long been accused of being a major contributor to climate change, but it is mostly the large, high-intensity agri-business corporations that have been responsible for increased carbon emissions. According to recent research on Agriculture and Climate Change by the National Farmers’ Union of Canada, the adoption of new low-carbon practices and smaller operational models will help food production contribute to the solutions rather than the problems of climate change. There is a strong trend to adopt restorative farming, which builds back soils and their naturally occurring nutrient structures.
Stetski also discussed how for some time, regional farmers’ institutes and other farm advocacy organizations have focused on the national carbon tax issue, and they, along with the larger community of Canadian farmers, were able to win farm exemptions. International trade agreements that bind grocery chains to certain suppliers can also deeply affect our agricultural communities. All these matters and market price fluctuations can make or break small producers.
Stetski asks: “How can governments help farmers and growers create a better climate for climate mitigation in agriculture through strong trade agreements?”
Angus Davis, former Cranbrook City Councillor; Darrel Jones CEO of Save-On-Foods; Wayne Stetski, Cranbrook Mayor in 2011