West Shore food security grows roots (David Stott)


West Shore food security grows roots

What did we do this year to continue making our region a more food secure place to live?

Last fall I wrote a two-part commentary article in the Gazette outlining some of the significant activities different groups, organizations and individuals did in 2008 to make more local food a reality where we live.
The level of concern for our food sources then was rising and people were starting to respond. But what has happened this year to improve on the situation? As the food security co-ordinator for Capital Families Association, I have seen or personally been involved with a number of these actions. Here’s a bit of what I’ve seen.

It’s been a really exciting and full season of activities by many different people throughout the region — a banner year with new and expanding activities on a lot of levels.

Let’s start with perhaps the highest profile activity—local food marketing. All three local community farmers markets—in Colwood, Langford and Metchosin—had excellent years, selling more produce and other locally produced goods than in 2008.

Perhaps the biggest growth was experienced by the Luxton Station Market. With the support of the municipality, it relocated to the heart of Langford and saw its numbers of Saturday vendors increase to 26 and its customers likely double.

Nearby businesses also reported a 50 per cent-plus increase in sales on market days. And the Colwood Farmers Market had an estimated 6,500 people visit their market this year.

In addition to the markets, supermarket chains have picked up on the increase in demand by offering “local” or regional foods wherever possible.
According to Michael Mockler, produce manager for Thriftys, interest has increased remarkably, with people willing to pay more, at least in some cases, for locally grown foods. However, as Mockler points out, there are not yet enough farms able to respond to this demand.

This is especially true on the West Shore, where most farms are small market gardens and not able to supply the kinds of quantities supermarkets need. Nonetheless, as writers such as Jeff Rubin, former CIBC chief economist, writes in his book Why Your World is About to Get a Lot Smaller, the economics of global resources, particularly oil, dictates that local production of goods, including food, whether we like it or not, will increasingly replace cheap foreign imports of all sorts.

On other fronts, this spring and summer we saw community and backyard gardening on the West Shore take on new forms together with increasing demand for everything from seeds and transplants to garden plots.
The situation in 2006, when more than 90 per cent of households with yards were not using them to produce food, is changing.

The community garden at Pilgrim United Church filled all its plots with 28 gardeners participating, while a new community garden sprang up at Pacifica Housing’s Oak Park residences on Goldstream Avenue. And plans are being made for a community garden at at least one new housing development, Essencia on the Esquimalt Lagoon. In addition, backyard and personal food production is expanding with programs such as the Colwood Tomato Challenge, now in its second year, and two new programs, sponsored by Capital Families.

One innovation is Gardening Neighbours, which was very successful in supporting 16 new gardeners with materials and a resource person who helped them create their first gardens. The other new Capital Families’ sponsored program is the West Shore Fruit Tree Project, an entirely volunteer based initiative, which got off to a good start by collecting more than 2,000 pounds of fruit that otherwise would have gone to waste, from 11 different local properties.

About half of this fruit went to good causes, such as the Goldstream Food Bank, with the other half mostly going to the volunteer pickers.

- David Stott the former food security co-ordinator for the Capital Families Association. For more on Capital Families food security programs, see www.capfamilies.org/food.

This is the first of two columns on food security issues on the West Shore.

Daystar Concepts