Resiliency during the Pandemonium
Unprecedented, unsettling. The words that come to mind to describe the current state of the world are all words I have heard echoed on the radio and in articles over the past few days and week. Our family had planned to have a weekend away visiting friends in Calgary. Needless to say those plans were cancelled and instead of visiting with those particular friends we haven't been visiting with any friends at all. The call for 'social distancing' and other measures, like closing restaurants and bars, all sound quite extreme, but these are extreme times. I have seen people being more glib about the situation, spending time socializing, and read articles about particularly baby boomers not heeding the well-researched advice to lay low to flatten the curve.
For our part, as producers and providers of food to our community, we feel the need to do our utmost to reduce our risk of exposure. As such we are limiting our social contact to immediate family and one adjacent neighbour. I have had moments of doubt, especially when considering what social isolation will mean to some of my own close friends, but seeing the situation in other places creates a precedent that cannot be ignored. So for now it's a tight circle, but thankfully we all like each other.
Farmers with smiles, now spending even more time alone, together
As far as our own meat pick-ups, we are encouraging people to place orders online and pay by e-transfer to reduce contact and shorten our transaction times at the actual pick-up sites.
When it comes to buying food the radio is telling us conflicting things; don't hoard food and supplies because there is enough to go around, but at the same time stock up on some basic essentials. People seem to be reacting more to the latter recommendation than the prior one, emptying the pasta and rice shelves of our local grocery store, and allegedly the meat section of some other chain stores. This is definitely not the case everywhere, but it has propelled people to contact us at a greater frequency than usual, and most importantly it has brought the questions of food security to the forefront of our minds. Food security is ensuring that people have safe, reliable, and appropriate access to food at all times.
While some people may have more than they 'need' stored away in their kitchens and pantries right now, that leaves others without access to some of those staple items until they are restocked in grocery stores. It puts into question how the global food network and agribusinesses will be affected by this pandemic, as well as the potential shortage of workers as people are asked to stay home? Even higher-ups in the Canadian food system are openly stating that Canada cannot rely on US and Mexican food supplies, as Canadian agriculturalists face a difficult season with potential complications in hiring Foreign Temporary Workers (FTW). The CBC reported that FTWs will be allowed into the country (something that was thought not to be the case yesterday), but they will need to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. The cost of flights due to airlines canceling flight paths, and the reduction in airports dealing with international traffic will also cause complications.
In the complex web of national and international food systems the food grown in Canada is not always destined for Canadian households and dinner tables, but that perspective needs to shift. Small and medium scale farms need to have more support from their local communities, and demand needs to be met through an array of measures. Home delivery is being announced by more farms than usually engage in the more labour intensive practices, and we will likely be rolling out some sort of optional home delivery plan as well.
The implications of all of this are huge for our communities, for both farmers and eaters, and they bring to light the absolute necessity of having healthy, and resilient, local food systems.
Local farmers are currently planning for the coming season, starting to plant seeds or even harvest early greens and micro greens. Many still have storage crops in coolers and root cellars (think potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onions, beets, parsnips, celeriac, radishes). For now the Kelowna Farmers' Market has been cancelled thus adding another challenge to our local food system. Efforts to deliver to eaters are going to be somewhat fractured and scrambling, at least for now. If local food is already important to you consider reaching out to your local municipality to help highlight the importance of farmers' markets as a place for farmers and eaters to meet in our communities. I know I will be writing some emails in the coming days, because really what is a better place to be buying your food than directly from the people who grew it outside in the fresh air?
We are still working on how to best collaborate with other local farms and farmers to offer the bounty of the Okanagan to consumers. We are lucky to live in such an abundant place, so keep your ears and eyes open on how to connect yourself to the local food supply. Start by supporting farmers by phoning to see what they currently have in stock.
If you're a local farm looking to quickly establish an online sales platform consider LocalLine, Local Food Marketplace, or Grazecart depending on what your farm is offering and what kind of usability you require. These are going to be tough times for everyone as the economy takes a dip, but people need food and farmers need to be able to keep producing so let's partner up and strengthen the local food network.
For our part we are composing a newsletter to all of our customers to discuss logistics of current and future meat deliveries and pick-ups. In the meantime know that we are thinking of you, and that we are as grateful as ever for your support. We are also fully committed to continuing to grow and raise high quality pasture-raised meats for our local customers.
**UPDATE: CBC radio 1 reported on March 19th on Daybreak South that in fact FTW are not being allowed into the country, only those workers who are already here in Canada will be allowed to remain. The rest is still being worked on and it all leaves a big question mark for agricultural sectors across the country.**