Exploring our food security

It's time to start thinking about the future of our food supplies, write Dr. Roy Strang.

As world population continues to increase and more and more people crowd into cities, it becomes challenging to provide adequate food supplies.

Food production increases are leveling off, available land for farming and water supply are both diminishing and, looming in the background, are the imponderable effects of climate change.

Present estimates are that, globally, one child in six is undernourished, meaning they get fewer than the 1,800 kcals/day which are rated as a minimum for adequate nutrition.

What does this rather dire scenario mean for us and what can we do about it?

Individually and nationally, we can support effective food aid for needy countries overseas; locally, we should do everything possible to foster domestic food production.

The recent disturbing finding that GM corn is very susceptible to drought reinforces this message.

High on the priority list must be protection of what farmland is still available, whether it is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) or not.

Recent land allocation decisions in Langley and Tsawassen First Nations Reserve are ominous indicators that the imperative to protect and preserve agricultural land is still not well understood.

Blueberries and grapes are desirable crops, but should they continue to be extended to the exclusion of other fruits and vegetables?

As consumers, we should do all we can to foster and promote local production wherever it’s available, supporting local growers instead of buying imported produce.

Crescent Beach has 100 garden allotments in the three acres of Dunsmuir Gardens, and there are another three comparable schemes in other parts of Surrey. Could more plots be made available; for example might retention swales be turned into community-managed garden allotments?

New York has such productive roof-top gardens as Rooftop Farm, which supplies local markets and restaurants; Vancouver plans to grow food on a temporarily vacant lot; and Montreal has its Lufa Farms greenhouse on top of a warehouse. Why are there none in Surrey or White Rock, which enjoy a much more benign climate?

None of these are insurmountable obstacles if the will to change them is there.

South Surrey library has an ornamental, vertical garden on a south-facing wall, which suggests there are no administrative barriers to structural gardens. Is it too late to institute a pilot roof garden project on the several long, low warehouses in the new Campbell Heights development along 192nd Street?

The most sophisticated possibility, of course, is the Vertical Farm; a self-contained, multi-storey marketgarden built amongst offices and residences. Prototypes are available; suggestions for a small-scale pilot structure in Surrey have been well received but no action is apparent. Again, one must ask why not? They are architecturally-feasible, horticulturally they have been proven, the need will expand with time and yet nothing seems to happen.

Let’s make a start towards greater self-sufficiency now while we have time to make mistakes and learn from them before the need becomes urgent.

Dr. Roy Strang writes monthly on the environment for the Peace Arch News. rmstrang@shaw.ca


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