| Nov 15, 2007


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Feature Article - November 15, 2007

Local Food Summitby Roseanna Redmond

Cf_council_meetingsThe culmination of theNational Farmers Union'syear-long initiative Food Down the Road: Toward a Sustainable Local Food System for Kingston and Countryside, offered a series of workshops at St. Lawrence College on Saturday November 3.

The workshop Crude Awakening-Farming and Food in the Face of Peak Oil was presented by local Howe Island farmer and teacher Rick Munroe. He acknowledged that he does not teach the concept of " Peak Oil" in his elementary classes for fear of scaring his students. This admission stoked the curiosity of the audience, and the large crowd gave farmer Munroe their concentrated attention. Illustrated by a series of graphs and diagrams, Munroe's lecture laid out the stunning story of how one barrel of oil represents 25,000hours ofhuman labour (think horsepower). An oil peak means a point at which world stocks of oil begin to decline permanently and very rapidly, the point at which there is no more growth in production, and stocks start to plummet. This Peak is expected around the year 2010 (right around the corner), at which point the price of a barrel of oil will skyrocket. There is widespread acknowledgement (even by the U.S. defence department), that Hubbert's Peak will indeed be a reality in the verynear future. What does this mean for our food supply? We know thatsupermarket food here in Ontario has travelled on average 2000 miles to get to our plates, so how will we be able to feed ourselves if the price of transport becomes prohibitive? Many fertilizers and pesticides are derived from natural gas and petroleum, (used especially by corporate farming operations). This kind of farming will become obsolete when oil and gas are not readily available. According to Munroe, it behoves us to develop local small organic farms that do not depend heavily on petroleum products.

Another interesting workshopwas Who are Tomorrow's Farmers? Young local farmer Emily Dowling told of her adventures as a C.S.A. participant. Community Shared Agriculture is a new trend in smaller farm operations.Consumers pay up front for weekly food boxes at the start of the growing season, and they share in the risk of a possible poor harvest, or in the benefits of an abundant season with the farmer. Consumers can also share in work bees at harvest time and celebrations when crops are plentiful. During her first year of operation Dowling had many anxieties over possible crop failures, but in the end her season was a glowing success, and the support of her customers over some rough patches helped her to carry through. Her presentation was very moving and there were tears shed, on the podium and in the audience. Dowling's presentation was a graphic display of the very real story ofsmall-scale farming as a labour of love.

Saving Heirloom Seeds with Wolfe Island farmer Kathy Rothermal was a hands-on workshop, where the presenter distributed seeds for the participants to sort and share. We each brought home samples of heirloom seeds at the end of the day. Potentially these heirloom seeds could end up in thousands of gardensin summers to follow if all of the recipients plant, and harvest, and share as demonstrated. Ms. Rothermal carries on the tradition of the Heirloom Seed Sanctuary operated by Carol and Robert Mouck, who in collaboration with Kingston's Sisters of Providence have been developing a large cache of heirloom seeds for the benefit of humankind.Seed saving has been practised for over 10,000 years on this planet, yet in the last hundred years humanity has lost 75% of seed diversity.During the900-day siege of Leningrad, during the Second World War, even though thousands of people were dying of hunger, scientists protected the genetic pool of open-pollinated seeds. Seed saving is another labour of love, especially as practised by this remarkable group of philanthropists. Robert and Carol Mouck have managed to gather over 400 varieties of open-pollinated seed over 8 seasons of farming in Kingston. These varieties improve biodiversity and decrease the vulnerability of our food system. These seeds are adapted to our specific local climate, even as it changes, enhancing our success rates.

There are many people in our local area who are working very hard to provide us with a sustainable,healthy, local food system. They merit our support and our admiration for their incredible dedication and hard work. It was a great privilege to meet some of these courageous people at the Local Food Summit.

More information about local sustainable farming initiatives can be found at www.fooddowntheroad.ca

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