A couple of weeks ago in my Victual Reality column I wondered why more farm areas don’t focus on growing food for local consumption, since the global commodity market had proven such an economic disaster.
I acknowledged one key problem: the collapse of local food infrastructure after 50 years of investments in stuff like grain elevators and train systems designed to haul food far, far away.
I forgot to add a factor I mentioned in an earlier column: federal regulations, designed with mega-producers in mind, are a crushing weight on small-scale artisanal operators.
Together, these two factors can deal a death blow to people’s extraordinary efforts to rebuild local food networks.
An email I received yesterday from the Community Food Security Coalition’s excellent listserv illustrates these points to maddening effect.
Canadian local-food activist Eric Busch writes that in Ontario, an area called the Rainy River District is …
… a remote agricultural community with very little infrastructure to rely on for local food production. Locals depend on eating local beef for their livelihood, but there is no inspected abattoir for 300 km (180 mi). They were given an exemption to this rule two years ago, and have produced local, safe meat for that time. Just last week, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food arrived to shut down the processing facility because an inspected abattoir wasn’t used, even though the system that was used has a proven, safe record. The same week a syringe casing was found in a large meat processing plant in the same province. The district residents feel that enough is enough, and they’re tired of government favouring large industrial food systems over localized production systems. If places like the Rainy River District cannot eat their own products, their communities will not survive.