Monday, July 6, 2009

St. Catharines Standard July 3rd Editorial

It has been tough to come up with one idea for this last column, so here is what is on my mind….

I am continually amazed by how little attention we pay to our food and food issues around us. It nearly seems to me that an elephant is sitting in our midst and we ignore it.

Multinational corporations control our seed supply, animals are treated as commodities, not the living and sentient creatures that they are. Chemical use on farms and meat production continues to be one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas.

Lots of talk about local food for sure, but some of the promoters, I am sorry to say, are more bent on self promotion… when you recognize that, and the reality that some farmers are less than honest about what they are growing and how they are growing it, some of the appeal is lost/

And organic-oops, I can't use that word anymore. It is in the dictionary, and according to the father of organic growing, Robert Rodale, I do it. But I'll be slapped down hard if I use the word. I am required to pay someone to come in and look at what I do to use the "o" word. Certification of all sorts is the order of the day, as yet other folks jump on the bandwagon to make a buck off the local food trend.

This stuff drives me crazy....all part of "the scuffling" as my husband would say...folks just trying to claw their way to the top to get their piece of the pie. All this just makes me want to garden and surround myself with things that are truly comforting and real. When I am upset, I go out in the garden and weed, and walk through some incredible marvels of nature. To feel this connection with the land and the true satisfaction of growing my own food, is truly wonderful.

I love growing heirlooms! It is something so real and important that it just makes sense Packets of seeds are true treasures-miracles waiting to happen. Seeds for produce whose fruit is striking, unusual and full flavoured. But the true beauty is the fact that these marvels from the past still exist...and that there is increasing urgency and interest in keeping them going.

Did you know that there are more than 10,000 varieties of heirloom tomatoes in existence? Only about 5 varieties, and hybrids at that, are represented on grocery store shelves. These varieties ship well, store well and taste like cardboard.

Sadly as big growers choose hybrid varieties, many of the heirlooms disappear, forever. Seed companies have chosen to drop varieties of seed over the years that are not selling well for whatever reason and thousands and thousands of varieties of vegetables that were once prominent in home gardens, no longer exist. They are extinct.

The importance of this loss of diversity cannot be underestimated. As we rely increasingly on fewer and fewer varieties of vegetables, fruits and grains to feed ourselves, our food supply becomes more at risk. Disease can wipe out closely related strains of food plants in a flash - consider for example the devastation of the Irish Potato Famine.

There is also some suggestion too that much of the nutritional value has been bred out of the food we eat, nutrition that heirlooms have maintained. There are some organizations around the world and in our own country that recognize the importance of heirlooms and maintaining them. Seeds of Diversity Canada is a truly worthwhile organization with a mission that is true. Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa has done more to maintain and save heirlooms from extinction than any other organization anywhere. These are the organizations who need our support as they struggle to make their voices heard above the din. Remember them when you dream this winter of your garden for 2010

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