Friday, June 10, 2011

June Friday AM article

Salmon Safe, Costs are not.
Spring is finally here and all our animals are out on pasture. It has been a very slow start but with the recent sunshine I feel the year is on its way. While writing this though there is still much to do in the garden, as we have not planted any thing out yet due to cold wet nights. That will change with this week’s sunshine and I hope to have the job finished by weeks end.
We officially became Certified Organic this May, the Homestead not me, I am still a nasty toxic mess. Our land and vegetables are now organic though not our livestock. I have kept them out of the system as we feed them grains from the Barley Station brewpub. After each batch of beer is made we pick up the mash that is discarded and recycle it through our critters. Although it does not meet the organic standards we felt the ‘greenness’ of it was more important. Our livestock are treated as organic in all other aspects and so we felt this was the right thing to do.
In April we received a letter from the Pacific Salmon Foundation to say we now are ‘Salmon Safe’. This is a new certification, which ensures best management practices are met in relation to farm management and waterways, in our case the Salmon River. It is a new program and has been adopted from Oregon where it has been running successfully for some years. We entered the program last fall and were processed by Jude a lady from Oregon who manages the program there. It took about 3 hours, many questions and a farm tour to verify my answers. As luck would have it we stopped at the bridge and looked at the river and there were the salmon busy spawning, I’m sure that helped with our application!
With Organic Certification, Salmon Safe and a Farm Environmental Plan in place we feel we are doing our best to ensure a tasty, healthy, safe local source of food for our customers. At the same time we are being easy on our land and waterways so as to make it a sustainable system for all concerned.
With all these things there is a cost and ultimately they are pasted on to the consumer. Interestingly it is consumer demand that has ensured we follow these protocols and this is why there is a so-called ‘price premium’ for specialty and niche products. There is though a sad disconnect where the “rubber meets the road” so to speak, with the pricing of products and customer acceptance. Many folk feel because they are buying direct from the farmer and cutting out all those middlemen the price in the Farmers market or at the farm gate should be lower than in the store. Sadly due to modern big scale agricultures size producing only one thing in large quantities, the product price is lower per unit than the same thing produced on a small local farm. Smaller scale mixed farming by its very nature is labour intensive but it is also more sustainable and easier on the environment. The hidden costs of large scale agriculture that are paid by you via the government such as environmental cleanups, legislation, inspecting, drug and chemical testing etc are often not needed or used by small scale organic farming. The saving on the price is in the down stream hidden costs not the upfront cost. The biggest benefit to you the customer is the fact the local food is FRESH. This means more flavour, more nutrients and the much sort after antioxidants. This produce often stores longer in your fridge, as it is not tired out from a 2000- 6000km journey! The money you spend stays in your community and is not spent else where on fuel, boardroom offices and shareholder dividends and the left over crumbs to the farmer who produced it. Money spent on local produce goes via that local farm family back into the community through local stores (many of them that you shop in), the arena, cinema, and towards the Library and Swimming Pool via property taxes. Buying from your local farmers at the Market or at their farms is an investment in your community and the Shuswap lifestyle.
With a cool start this spring produce may be slower coming to town than usual but knowing the skill of local growers it will only be a week or ten days slower than normal. I encourage you to visit an area farmers market this summer, treat your taste buds and body while investing in your community. If you have questions or want to chew the fat over food and farming issues I am at the Saturday Farmers Market from 9-12 noon at Hanna’s with what ever is fresh from our farm as well as Homestead baked goods.
Rob farms in the city at Harmonious Homestead and ewe. Check out what’s up on Facebook at Harmonious Homestead and ewe.