Local food producers heard a passionate call for change in the way they might view the land and society.
Best selling author, journalist, TV and radio personality, and professor, Sarah Elton, spoke to the Eastern Ontario Local Food
The theme of this year’s sixth annual conference, hosted by Belleville and Quinte West, is “Mission Resilience”.
Elton said people need to accept the reality of climate change and the reality that food producers have to see themselves as
“stewards of the land”, not just producers of food for profit.
She offered stark-looking old photographs showing desert-like wastelands in and around Ontario communities in the late 1800s.
The stretches of sand came about because of the clear-cutting and burning of forests as European settlers built their new homes.
Not long after the trees were removed, water supply became a serious issue, and subsequently, farming became difficult, and the
settlers’ food supply was threatened.
In the early 1900s, the government decided to start on a massive reforestation project, replanting trees throughout the province.
And, that decision eventually led to a rebound in water supplies and good habitat for farming again.
Elton said people should always think of the well-being of the environment when making any decisions regarding changing the landscape.
She stressed that farmers should make decisions leading to the preservation of trees and other habitat, and make changes to the land leading
to the preservation of water.
Elton also said producers needed to grow produce and livestock that would withstand the local climate, all the while knowing that climate change
She urged farmers to reach out to their communities and regions to make themselves and their products known. On the other hand she stressed
that local consumers should seek out and buy locally produced food.
Near the end of her address, Ms. Elton praised the trend toward more cooking classes being offered in schools and elsewhere and the trend, particularily in larger cities toward creating community kitchens in neighbourhoods.
Recent statistics show less than half of Canadians will cook at home on any given day. Elton says that has to change because home-cooking offers people the chance to control what is going into their bodies and tends to lead toward the creation of healthier meals.
Sarah Elton believes that by nurturing and protecting the land, and by people connecting with each other on a local level, communities and economies would become resilient and be able to provide a future for generations to come.
Elton’s last book was “Consumed: food for a finite planet”.
She has also just published a book on cooking for children.