Recently, my family and I were reminded of one of things that is sadly going by the wayside in our market-driven, mass-production obsessed society. This past weekend (October 14th and 15th), we attended the UBC Apple Festival, held at the botanical gardens at the University of British Columbia. There, we were able to taste and buy some 60 different varieties of apples grown in orchards throughout the province, many of which are termed heritage varieties, as they are not available in grocery stores. We came home with a dozen of three and four pound bags of delicious apples, with names such as Grimes Golden, Ambrosia, Sonata, Criterion, Honeycrisp, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Northern Spy, Elstar, and Belle de Boskoop. It was truly awe inspiring to see and taste such an array of one type of fruit, each with its own special and slightly unique flavour, crispness, and level of sweetness.
Being exposed to this made me think of how much we are missing out on in the modern-day world, as we come to be more and more reliant on a handful of enormous food producers. And of course, I’m not just talking about apples. I am thinking also of the small number of gigantic super farms churning out the vast majority of the poultry, pork, beef, and dairy products we consume. I am thinking of the three-or-so major suppliers of spinach in North America, and the dangerous consequences that can arise when our food source becomes so narrowly monopolized and susceptible to contamination. Above all, I am thinking of the small, local organic and free-range farmers, like my dear friends Marilyn and Rick in Saskatchewan, who work so hard and conscientiously to produce good quality food for our tables. Unfortunately, many such enterprises are teetering on the verge of extinction, as we rush to big box food retailers in our desperation to fill our mini-vans with ludicrously priced bargains and shave a few dollars off of our family’s food bill.
More and more, we are losing all concept of where our food comes from and the conditions under which it was created. We simply show up at the store and fill our shopping carts with plastic and cardboard containers full of who-knows-what. I would make the claim to everyone who is reading this that now is the time to start doing our individual bit to stem this dangerous tide. We need to start supporting natural food co-ops. We need to demand to know exactly what it is we are feeding our families. We should start doing more of our shopping at farmers’ markets or direct from the farm, wherever possible.
Unless we take some proactive steps to preserve our food supply, we will find our options and choices systematically diminishing.