By Emily Harrison
Right Around the Corner
By: Emily Harrison
Just the word, gives us this image, of a hard working farmer picking his freshly grown potato out of the ground and washing it, with as much care as he took when he planted that, tiny seed. The potato , all natural, goes from farm to table and provides our families with all the nutrients needed, right? I'm sure when I say the word organic most of you don't image packaged items being shipped from other provinces and perhaps other countries, do you?
Well, lets talk about that-because in saying all organic food is the same, we would be wrong.
Welcome to a place for passion a podcast where York universities professional writing students explore the contributions their cities residents have made by making there passion projects comes true.
Hi my name is Emily Harrison and in todays episode of A Place for Passion titled right around the corner we will be discussing the large umbrella that is the organic food industry.
So when I say the word organic, what comes to mind?
Anonymous Survey Answers:
That it doesn’t have GMOs in it.
Free Range Chickens.
The very term organic is meant to make us think that it is healthier. Organic food can be defined as food produced without the use of chemicals such as pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Most organic vendors can gain a certification to prove the integrity of their product, but how valuable is this label?
Our farmers are bringing things that they grew and they grew using organic practices, whether or not they're certified.
That was Cory Oulette, Cory is the general manager for the Soauren Farmers Market in Toronto Ontario. The Soauren farmers market is managed by West End Food Co-op , A non profit organization which started back in 2008.
I was a volunteer during our first year and we are heading into our tenth.
The Co-op founded figures such as Ayal Dinner, Sally Miller as well as John Richmond- together along with many others, developed an idea to have a space to address different food justice issues by providing a community area to help support local organic and sustainable farmers (Westendfood.coop).
Sustainable farmers are farmers that aim to keep the farm land viable for future generations. That means suspending the use of pesticides, cutting down the mass production of crops and giving humane living conditions for livestock. Sustainable farmers in avoiding the use of hazardous pesticides are able to not only make our food more organic, but are able to create safer working conditions for farmers.
A lot of public education necessary to understand, why you wouldn’t want to use these things or why that they do.
The very word Pesticide- means pest killer- cide coming from the Latin word cidium which means to kill. These chemicals are just that, chemicals-historically they have included arsenic and were mainly used for warfare around the 20th century (Arya, pg.89).
Children are especially susceptible to pesticide infections through physical contact or through the accumulation in our food; In 2012 1,960 pesticide incidents were reported the Pest Management Regulatory Agency or PMRA (Health Canada).
Pesticides can also find their way into our residential areas and drinking water. Almost all pesticides contain some level of toxicity within them. These toxins whether in natural pesticides or hazardous pesticides usually live in, water – and therefore can be found in our water systems (npic.orst.edu).
Back in 2014 the global news did a journalistic piece on pesticide usage and the pesticides found in our water system. They quoted "According to Health Canada, “in areas where atrazine is used extensively, it (or its dealkylated metabolites) is one of the most frequently detected pesticides in surface and well water. Atrazine contamination has been reported in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan.”" (Vuchnich and Shochat). Atrazine is a herbicide and one of the most commonly used ones in North America. In 2004 the European Union banned it when they found ground water levels with exceeding limits of contamination. (Vuchnich and Shochat).
Helpful bugs such as ladybugs and honey bees can also be killed off by pesticides. In fact that’s exactly what happened. In 2013 Canada experienced the effect of a pesticide chemically similar to nicotine called "Neonicotinoid" that killed off millions of honey bees. (Sarich, 2014)
Then the answer seems simple right? Buy organic ! Well the process for organic food isn't so simple-
Lets put this into a scene so that we can better understand the outcome. Mary wants to start and organic farm in her local area, first things first she needs to find a small stretch of land in the area that wont be affected by neighboring farms using pesticidal spray. Mary then needs to decide what she's farming, if its livestock she then needs to buy feed from another certified organic farm, if its vegetation she needs to find a way to fend off bugs without the use of chemicals. One bug could potentially wipe out her entire crop. Mary then needs to pay a fee of at least $400 and wait 15 months to transition her farm to meet the organic certification requirements. Without the use of pesticides, due to the several seasonal changes, most of her crop will be lost in cooler months and so she much wait for her prime seasons (mainly summer) to make the money to pay for her large farming needs-be that a renewal of her certification or expensive potentially distant feed for livestock.
You see all organic food, if it is to be sold as such, must have a provincial label that falls under the Canadian food inspection Agency (CFIA) and their regulations on organic productions. Under the branch there are 10 different vendors of these certificates, with different costs and contracts. Mary has chosen to be certified under to OCO or organic council of Ontario, costing her a minimum of $400 (Pro-Cert Organic) and 15 months without selling certified food (Organiccouncil.ca)- Most local farms usually do not have the money or time to spend on a temporary certificate that will need to be renewed-but others do.
You see it turns out you don't need to farm in Ontario or even be a citizen to hold an Ontario certification- these certifications also apply to Europe and the USA-as long as you met the requirements (Pro-Cert Organic).
So what's the problem with this? Well for one thing In other countries our government also has little to no say on wages.
Most local organic farms strive to pay their workers living wages where as in other countries or even on other farms- this is not the case.
So someone might say 'well I want to pay my staff the cost of living wage', which is not typical on a farm, but many sustainable farmers do-they are looking for ways to be paying properly.
A census from just October of this year in 2016 showed that on average farm workers made just $22.77 an hour- which is actually a 1.4% decrease from wages in the previous year (Statistics Canada). In Europe the wages range from one euro to 14 Euros (Argi-info.eu) which translates to about $1.43-$20.01 CAD, even though the cost of living in certain European countries is greater.
So yes, both farms have to meet the requirements- but farms in places like Europe and The USA not only have obvious seasonal advantages, in which their crops could grow for longer periods of time during the year- but also possibly cost effective advantages, given that both the US dollar and the Euro are worth more than that of the Canadian dollar, while still wages are less. This puts our local economy in a stressful position and makes it harder for farmers like Mary to stay afloat, given the outsource of low wage jobs.
This kind of shatters the wholesome idea of farm to table doesn’t it? In a 2009 study in Manitoba Canada it was noted that "Unless food has been grown or produced locally it is usually transported, stored and/or processed before it reaches the consumer." (Trojack, 2) Traveling an average of 1500 to 2000 miles.(Kirschenmann, 2006)
The ideal that your food is already decaying by the time it gets to you, also comes into play.
The 2009 study also noted that in particular vitamin C is especially effected (Jones 2001), with some foods loosing 10% in just 24 hours of storage at 10 degrees Celsius.
The more we do support the smaller, sustainably producing farms then the healthier our planet is and the healthier that we are.
Lets say a pepper was shipped to Canada from California in the USA it would take a few days- in those few days that pepper , although not bad, has already lost some nutritional value. The nutrients in food start to break down after being picked from their vines and roots, then lets say you keep that pepper on your table for another week, more nutrients is lost-Nutrients that are vital to your daily metabolic functions! (Trojack, 2009 & Jones, 2001)
The best solution we have for this- local organic food markets.
Local organic food markets not only contribute to the ideal of farm to table but decrease nutrient loss.
You’re getting something that was generally harvested that morning or the day before-at our market hasn’t traveled longer than, two hours.
Less time in transit means a better result for you! Farmers markets, like Soauren, open up a space for you to learn and have a conversation about your food. -If you have a question about pesticides or pesticidal use or farming methods- maybe even about the soil it was grown in-you can ask. At your local farmers market you can have a new kind of connection with your food- you don't have to wonder about the farm it came from or how long its probably been sitting on that shelf- anything you need to know, you can ask! What's in your food, on your food, grown around your food- Opportunities like this will give you the tools to make that conscience decision and that conscience purchase you know is good for your family.
Its not just something that has been made in a factory and shipped somewhere, you're talking to the people that planted that seed, that grew that carrot, that pulled that carrot, that bundled it, that brought it there...
Local farmers markets create a strong sense of community and help to benefit our local economy. You know exactly who and what your money is going towards.
Its about forming these relationships over healthy food that’s really exciting.
It all starts local, it all starts with you.- it starts by us making the choice to buy locally organic food. It supports our country and our local economy, its benefitting the environment and giving our bodies more accessibility to the nutrients needed. We are not saying you have to buy this all the time, but every little bit you can or do buy helps people you know, in big ways. It helps the farmer, helps the city water supply stay pesticide free, helps the soil for neighboring farms or residential areas and helps your health.
If you are still not convinced and want to see these farms for yourself, guess what? You can ask!-because its right around the corner.
As far as the whole food system becoming sustainable-its like a dream, that I have. It means that when we're supporting a local farmer who's growing, sustainably we're supporting our health system.
Now the only question being, does this have to be a dream?
From Scratch Media Production Outro plays.
Agri-info.eu. “Wages and Labour Costs.” Agri-Info.eu, EFFAT / PECO-Institut E.V. , 2007, http://www.agri-info.eu/english/t_wages.php
Arya, Neil. “Pesticides and Human Health: Why Public Health Officials Should Support a Ban on Non-Essential Residential Use.” Canadian Journal of Public Health / Revue Canadienne De Sante'e Publique, vol. 96, no. 2, 2005, pp. 89–92. www.jstor.org/stable/41994510.
“Certification Bodies Accredited by the CFIA – in Canada.” Canadian Food Inspection Agency,Food Labelling and Claims Directorate, Government of Canada, 31 Mar. 2016, www.inspection.gc.ca/food/organic-products/certification-and-verification/certification-bodies/in-canada/eng/1327861534754/1327861629954.
“Fee Schedules.” Pro-Cert Organic , Pro-Cert Organic Systems Ltd., 2013, pro-cert.org/en/certification/fee-schedule. (used all schedules as reference)
“Goals, Vision, Values.” West End Food Coop, West End Food Co-Op, 2016, westendfood.coop/goals-vision-values.
Health Canada. “2012 Report on Pesticide Incidents.” Health Canada, Government of Canada, 2012, http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_corp-plan/incident_report-2014-rapport_incident/index-eng.php
Jones, A. (2001). Eating Oil: Food Supply in a Changing Climate. Sustain & Elm FarmResearch Centre. Retrieved October 3, 2008 from http://www.sustainweb.org/pdf/ eatoil_sumary.PDF.
Kirschenmann, F. (2006). Farming Food and Health. Gleanings: A Publication of Glynwood Centre, Summer 2006, 1-5 (in conjunction with Leopold Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University).
“Organic - Definition of Organic in English | Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press, 2016, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/organic.
Oulette, Corry, and Emily Harrison. “Right Around the Corner.” 27 Oct. 2016.
Sarich, Christina. "37 Million Bees Found Dead in Canada After Large GMO Crop Planting." Natural Society. Natural Society, 09 Nov. 2014. Web. 03 Nov. 2016. http://naturalsociety.com/37-million-bees-found-dead-canada-large-gmo-crop-planting/
Statistics Canada. “Average Hourly Wages of Employees by Selected Characteristics and Occupation, Unadjusted Data, by Province (Monthly) (Canada).” Statistics Canada, Government of Canada, 2 Dec. 2016, statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/labr69a-eng.htm.
Trojack, Jayne. “Health Impacts of Eating Locally: Nutrition and the 100 Mile Diet.” Food Matters Manitoba , Manitoba Food Charter INC, 2009, www.foodmattersmanitoba.ca/sites/default/files/Nutrition and the 100 Mile Diet Report (2).pdf .
Vuchnich , Allison, and Gil Shochat. “Is There Atrazine in Your Drinking Water?” Global News, Shaw Media, 6 Apr. 2014, http://globalnews.ca/news/1248219/is-there-atrazine-in-your-drinking-water/
Anonymous. “Atrazine.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Nov. 2016, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atrazine.
“What Is a Neonicotinoid? - Insects in the City.” Insects in the City, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/ipm/what-is-a-neonicotinoid/.