Published by Edible Vancouver, Fall 2017
Author: Michael Marrapese
I’m fortunate enough to live on Fraser Common Farm Co-operative in the heart of the Fraser Valley. I love giving tours on our farm. Some people are excited by all the different kinds of kale we grow, some delighted to find that arugula flowers and rose petals are edible. The kids just like the animals. Guests love it when we give them some of our salad mix to take home. As bucolic as that sounds, when we started farming in the 1980s, people didn’t know what kale was or how to cook with it. We couldn’t give rhubarb away. Supermarkets weren’t interested in dealing with local producers. Many restaurants set their menus yearly and didn’t want to deal with unpredictable seasonal products.
Dr. Lenore Newman observes that “In the last ten years or so, we’ve had this real resurgence of interest in local food—particularly around the idea that it tastes better.” Newman holds a Canada Research Chair in Food Security and Environment and is associate professor in the department of geography and the environment at University of the Fraser Valley. “We’re also seeing an audience that is much more interested in food. They’re really seeing food as something that is individual, that they can really engage with. So we’re seeing huge dropoffs in canned-goods sales and a huge rise in fresh consumption, which is great,” she reflects. “I grew up in the 70s when everything came out of a can. If there’s one trend I’m glad is reversed, that’s it.” In BC, primary agriculture, the actual growing of crops and raising animals, is a $2.9 billion industry. But as Newman points out, “This very quickly creates opportunities for agri-tourism, value-added products, and an incredible restaurant culture. Basically, all the world’s great restaurant cultures are in areas where there is strong local food production.” Food processing (seafood and meat packing, bottled beverages, dried, frozen, and packaged fruits and vegetables) adds another nine billion to the BC economy. Most of that money circulates in the economy multiple times.
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