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Vancouver leaders give recipes for local food success

Fresh blueberries for sale at the Richmond Country Farms produce market.  All photos by Ashley Mikulik

An Evening at the MOV

In the 1970's, Vancouver and the surrounding area produced 70% of its own food.  Forty years later, that figure is down around 30%.  On Thursday, October 14, a panel discussion took place at the Museum of Vancouver, where four strident voices in the discussion on local food issues outlined their recipe for retaking control of Vancouver's food supply.

The event, sponsored by Tides Canada and hosted by Tyee editor David Beers, was one of four talks in the Food and Beers Speaking Series, a cycle of discussions on local food issues being held at the Museum of Vancouver in conjunction with their autumn exhibit, Homegrown: Local Sustainable Food

October's panel consisted of Meeru Dhalwala of Vij’s Restaurant and Rangoli; Amy Robertson, chairperson of the Farmers Market Society and founding member of Langley Organic Growers, Happy Planet Foods, Better Choice Organics and the Mission Farmer’s Market; Lori Stahlbrand, the Founder and President of Local Food Plus; and Ian Walker, President and Co-Founder of Left Coast Naturals, a local organic food manufacturer.

Taking the podium to start the evening off,  Beers began by asking audience members to raise their hands if they needed convincing of the desirability of local food.  No one did.  With the quality of local food a well-established fact, it is clear that Vancouverites don't need any more convincing. 

Despite this, we see that local food producers are struggling.  The average age among BC farmers is 55, and their numbers are declining.  The question we must ask is not, "How do we get people to like local food?" it is, "How do we ensure that local food production is a sustainable and economically viable industry?"

Sweet corn grown and sold in Richmond

The Problem
According to the evening's panelists, the quality of local food does not seem to be at issue for most people as much as the price.  The global food market is streamlined to be more efficient than  local markets and this higher efficiency allows mainstream food producers to keep their prices lower than those of smaller, more sustainable growers.  Mainstream, conventional growers also benefit  from subsidies on ubiquitous products like conventionally-grown corn and soy, which, thanks to government funding, can be sold at a profit for well below the cost of their production.

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