There are Necessary Solutions for Our Island’s Food Security Issues

The Gulf filled with ice, the ferry passage was blocked and, as warned, within 48 hours the shelves and bunkers of the grocery stores began to empty.

Bay of Exploits with Ed Riche

The Gulf filled with ice, the ferry passage was blocked and, as warned, within 48 hours the shelves and bunkers of the grocery stores began to empty.

We have a critical food security problem on this island. This at a time when a reimagined future for our rural quarters, economic alternatives to the boom/bust extraction of non-renewable resources, and the role of our atrocious diet in making us the most unwell fatties in Confederation are among pressing concerns. Of less urgency is the limitation of our prospects as a tourism destination when the great majority of what is on offer in our restaurants is overpriced, under-flavoured, and indigestible.

These are all conundrums with a compatible solution; the expansion of agriculture in our province. We don’t have the arable land and degree days to strive for large scale industrial practices but in some camps that’s a good thing. We do have the capacity to take on some modest import replacement.

We are too cold (as of writing) and remote to ever be considerable exporters of agricultural products. But our root crops, grown in this marginal region, have qualitative advantages over those found elsewhere. Honey produced on the island by bees untormented by neonicotinoids (a large scale industrial practice) is now unique in being free of miticide taint, and is as sweet as that in any pot. You will be wowed by pork raised in Point Lemington. Newfoundland lamb has no equal, it betters deservedly famous product from Paulliac, Wales, Washington or Sisteron. The demand for local beef far outstrips supply. (St. John’s is the only seaside town I know that does not have a day boat fishery servicing a seafood market.)

Climate change, drought, and depletion of its aquifer will mean dramatic increases in the cost of produce driven here from the Chia Pet that is California’s Salinas Valley. Shipping never-ripe visual facsimiles of fruit all the way from South America and China is patently absurd. The alternative, growing more of what we eat right here, is greener in every sense of that word.

International agribusiness benefits from the generous hidden subsidies of common water resources, unpriced carbon emissions, and publically funded transportation infrastructure. As a countervail, the province could entertain grants of crown land for perpetual agricultural use, tax credits on farm labour, tax rebates to restaurants serving local products, and increased support for homegrown marketing efforts.

There are well intentioned and considered efforts being made by groups like The Food Security Network and the Newfoundland Federation of Agriculture to tackle the problem, but there is always a risk of such organizations, through no fault of their own, getting bogged down in eternal rounds of consultation. The political courage doesn’t exist to address the dire state of restaurant fare with an independent ratings system. Bold first steps, even if they be baby steps, of some kind, are required to jump-start a remedy.

Food self-sufficiency is a lofty goal but one so delicious we may not be able to resist.

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