Canadian Pizza Magazine

Friends of farming face the future

By The Vancouver Province   

News

Nov. 27, 2008, Vancouver–Farmers and farming advocates doffed straw hats
and donned thinking caps yesterday at a Metro Vancouver forum on the future of
the region's farmland.



If the direction of the discussion was any indication, the way forward may lie
in a change of headgear.
Neptune Food Service executive chef Brandon Owen said that traditional
farmers have trouble tapping into the huge demand for locally-grown products,
but they must do so.

"The public wants to go to a restaurant and know that what they're
eating comes from B.C. It's a matter of
connecting that consumer to the producer."

Neptune hopes to make it
easier for farmers to get their products to those
who are looking for them with a co-op program set to start in the
spring.Owen said that many farmers don't have the knowledge or money to
meet
federal requirements on verifying sources so they can market their
foods to
chefs at top restaurants and hotels.The Delta-based food-distribution
company hopes to do that for them by
creating a facility where approved farmers can bring produce in their
"Ziploc bags and banana boxes" to have it repackaged and labelled for
use in the food-service industry.

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"But we don't want [the farmers] to
lose their identity, so we'll have
special labels that tell the chef that this came from a farm in
Richmond, for
example," he said.

Chefs can then use that knowledge to market their
dishes to the consumer.Many people at yesterday's forum agreed
education was an integral part of
preserving the region's farmland. Ideas raised by participants and
audience
members included taxing large grocery chains for buying out-of-country
products
when locally-grown products are available, and "telling the story" of
products and producers in schools, in the media and even in grocery
stores.

Many people are now "three or four generations removed from the
farm," said B.C. Agriculture Council chairman Garnet Etsell.

Where our
food comes from needs to be "demystified," agreed
agrologist and economist Wendy Holm, using Canadian cheese as an
example.After asking the audience where they expected the ingredients
in Canadian
cheese to have come from, Holm said the milk-protein concentrates used
in
cheese and ice-cream production are sometimes "imported globally."

Holm
hopes to see that changed.But education and savvy marketing plans
aside, executive director of the
non-profit group FarmFolk/CityFolk Heather Pritchard seemed to sum up
the
thoughts of the forum participants best:"We have to stop taking land
out of the Agricultural Land Reserve —
period," she said.

Her statement was greeted with much applause.


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