Editors' Blog

Green Living editors dish on the latest trends and happenings in sustainability.

Summer is in full swing. In the past few weeks I’ve visited numerous farmers’ markets all around the city for the first of the local harvest. Dufferin Grove in the West end, Withrow Market in Greektown and the Friends of Riverdale Market in Cabbagetown, all had freshly picked garlic scapes and baskets overflowing with strawberries that even smelled gorgeous. I don’t think I’m alone in getting fruit fever every summer – I love observing the first wave of strawberries and then raspberries, digging in my pockets for extra cash for plums, biting into the first apples... And what a glorious feeling to be supporting sustainable agriculture in your own region when you buy direct and organic at your nearby market.

For me, purchasing food from certified organic farms in the region I live in unquestionably creates value locally, both in economic and social terms. It's a no brainer. But of course, holes are still picked in the local food movement for all its touting of being a vehicle for positive social change. I simply can’t field the idea that buying beans flown or shipped to me in a steel container is securing anyone’s livelihood in a reasonable way. To think that we’d be “hurting the people who grow coffee beans” if they lost our business is part of the problem. Farmers are our models of resilience and resourcefulness, so they would be the ones who’d adapt to changes in the market (as they always have and do) to find new methods of selling food. It's us who would need to learn superior ways of stimulating our food system and even eating habits (likely starting with simply growing our own food). Surely we can safely say that it’s the system in place (of non-direct trade and middle men, of truly unjust economic imbalances that farmers abroad are facing in their own local region) that is harming them, not individuals choosing to buy cherries from a local fruit stand.

It’s clear we’re in troubled times when it comes to food. Many new documentaries have emerged recently that are presenting alarming images of the food production industry. It feels like we’ve had little glimpses into food production and factories before, but the destruction of foods integrity has never been captured quite like this before. The documentary, Fresh: New Thinking on What We’re Eating compares and contrasts small scale farming with larger industrial scale farming practices. Food Inc. is another must-see. In his review, Toronto-based food scholar and activist Wayne Roberts aptly clarified that industrial food production is more accurately, a North American (although primarily US) agricultural practice. A somber reminder of our responsibility to urge our governments at all levels that we want to champion different ways to achieve food security.

A fantastic new food project and television series, Farm to Table, is also creating a dynamic stir in leading to increased awareness and action on the reaction against conventional foods.
Show producer Zachary Adam Cohen's hopeful statement, that the “sustainable food movement is coalescing quickly” is reassuring, but he is also right in pointing out that “sustainable food lacks the entrepreneurial leadership necessary to reinvigorate our local business communities around sustainable food principles”. We simply need action at all levels – grassroots to government – and it can’t wait any longer.

-- Amanda Rappak, Assistant Editor, Greenlivingonline.com