Local businesses, farmers, food producers, artisans, and eaters all have a role to play to reduce our collective impact. Individually, eaters can make choices day to day that helps mitigate climate change. The biggest contribution is in food miles, a measure of the distance food is transported from the time it is harvested or produced to when it reaches the consumer.
A 2006 study showed that from the 13 million tonnes of food and commodities imported by Canada, 3.3 million tonnes of CO2 were generated. Food miles add significant stress to our climate. In BC, we have access to a large variety of goods. With over 1,400 farms, over 200 agricultural commodities, 100 harvestable seafood species, and more than 1,500 businesses that produce foods and beverages, we have access to a plethora of local goods and services.
Goods moving around the province have significantly fewer food miles than goods imported by train, boat, or plane. Supporting BC’s growers and makers positively impacts the social wellbeing of communities and strengthens local economies. Food choices have rippling effects on communities, even small choices.
Brooke Fader co-owns Wild Mountain Restaurant in Sooke. Fader has been a member of the slow food movement for decades. The motivation to open Wild Mountain was to create a local food economy and support local growers all year. Fader says, “We let farmers in our community know that this is our buying power for the foreseeable future. You can count on that and not just through the summer months but all year round so we can be giving farmers cheques 12 months of the year, not just in farmers market season.” Supporting restaurants that buy local food gives those who dine out an opportunity to support local farmers and artisans that supply the establishment. Fader says, “For some people, if you like going to restaurants, then choosing that restaurant that is sourcing locally and cooking food genuinely can be a huge support to the people that they are buying the food from.”
Eating a locally produced, plant-forward diet and good quality meat in lower quantities is beneficial for our climate and the local food economy. Livestock can have a major impact on our environment; eating meat every day from conventional sources contributes to excess food miles, land degradation, and methane emissions. Many farmers in BC are raising livestock in small-scale, climate-friendly ways. Amber Rowse-Robinson has been raising livestock for twelve years and owns Brass Bell Farm. Their family lives on 25 acres of leased land and shares another 100 acres of grazing land with another farmer. They adopt a slow-meat model and raise their animals to benefit the land and community.
When raised well, livestock have a positive impact on the land they graze on. Rowse-Robinson says, “You have cows on the land eating what they’re meant to be eating. We’re looking at what’s already there, what’s happening on the land, and how our animals can best complement that. It’s about facilitating this natural relationship that is as old as time, ruminants eating grass.” Grazing ruminants can be hugely beneficial for the animals and the land.
Rowse-Robinson says, “By grazing cattle the way we do, it leaves that land accessible to deer, birds, and all kinds of other wild animals.” Consumers can make good food choices about the meat they eat by reducing meat consumption and choosing quality meat from farmers who are taking care of their animals and our climate. Fader encourages eaters to eat less meat, but higher quality meat. Fader says, “It can be a great way to make an investment in your local food community and eat better quality products for yourself.” Fader suggests, “If you are a meat-eater, make that choice as often as you can because it’s really hard to raise animals on a small scale, and those farmers need our support.”