Local, yes. Sustainable, no way.

Attending the Royal Winter Fair last Sunday was a rude reminder of the reality of mainstream farming.

Sorry to be a downer, but I saw plenty not to be happy about: University of Guelph food geneticists, pesticide companies claiming environmental stewardship, corn fed beef, (not to mention the usual bad coffee).

Whine whine. Gripe gripe.

At first glance, the Royal Agricultural Show is a great thing. The farm comes to the city and the farmers, at least on the surface, get the recognition they deserve.

But the fair is steeped in traditions (horseshows, auctions, biggest zucchini) that belie the dire situation of the farmers and their absolute dependence on the pharmaceutical companies who lord over them — a tradition in itself, unfortunately.

I came across some slick marketing materials by so-called pest controllers that use clever omissions in their copy to convince us that using pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers is not only necessary for plant growth, but actually improves soil quality and preserves wildlife habitats.

Come again?

I have nothing against the farmers. They’re caught in a cycle of chemical dependence that began after WWII and it is bleeding them dry. But seriously, does the Royal Winter Fair have to add insult to injury by having the very same forces that are destroying our food supply, our soil and our waterways claim the high road as saviour of these very things?

I thought this event was for the farmers.

Whine whine. Gripe gripe.

With tomorrow’s municipal elections in mind, I just came across an interesting reminder by Debbie Field, Executive Director of FoodShare Toronto, about the important role food plays in our communities:

Let’s make good food more accessible, not less.

Apple cider
Not far from the Tree’s fruit picking program organizes volunteer groups in Toronto to harvest fruit from trees on residential properties that would otherwise go to waste.

If you have a fruit tree that yields more than you can handle, consider calling these guys to come pick the fruit and put the unwanted bounty to good use.

One third goes to the fruit tree owner, one third goes to the volunteer pickers, and one third goes to community organizations in the neighbourhood.

And Not Far from the Tree is sharing their return with the public tonight as part of the Gladstone’s Fly by Night exhibition for Nuit Blanche. Starting at 6:57 pm today, they’ll be pressing apple cider from dusk till dawn.

Enjoy a cup of local love … a tireless cider-pressing extravaganza that animates the urban orchard!

Snap snap!

I have a confession to make. In the last federal election, I voted for the Green Party because Elizabeth May, like her or not, was the only candidate who mentioned food quality as a concern. Needless to say, she didn’t get in. But now in the run up to Ontario’s municipal elections in October, it looks like food might be back on the table.

Tomorrow morning in Toronto, the Canadian Urban Institute in collaboration with the Cities Centre at the University of Toronto is putting on a breakfast seminar on how and why food fits in the election agenda.

“How should we think about food? … We need to think and act very differently about how we grow, process, distribute and consume our food. Improved access to healthy and abundant locally-produced food is a worthy goal shared by the City of Toronto’s Board of Health…”

I should say so.