C.B.S. losing its farming heritage

Joan Butler
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A new food policy council recently formed in St. John’s is hoping to reverse our increasing reliance on imported food and encourage more local production.

Paulette and Bob Brake of Hummock Farm in Kelligrews stand by their produce at the St. John’s Farmers’ Market Saturday.

You don’t have to look much further than Conception Bay South to see the food supply issues that the new council is trying to address.

We have traditionally been an agricultural community. The once large farms and family gardens are slowly disappearing as we become more urbanized and too dependent on the two local supermarket chains and a few others in St. John’s and area for most of our food.

The new council, being formed in co-operation with the City of

St. John’s, has emerged in response to concerns about how our local food supplies are disappearing. It is bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders such as the Food Security Network and restaurant owners, as well as government and anyone interested in the province’s food security.

Here in C.B.S., we used to provide much of the city and area with milk, meat, fruits and vegetables and this certainly changed in the past 50 years.

Families who were not into large-scale farming often had their own gardens. Like many other locals, our family had a garden and we had a cellar to store our crops, providing us with vegetables often into the spring. There was an abundance of blueberries, strawberries and blackberries to pick and eat and preserve.  

Today, we still have some local farmers who sell their produce at roadside stalls, local stores and the chain supermarkets. We also have several butchers who sell locally.

There are still some family farms — the Taylors, Kennedys, Fagans, Butlers and Jeffords, to name just a few — and many are continuing a tradition started by their families.

But as land becomes more accessible and valuable because of urban sprawl, farmland is getting used up for residential and commercial development.

Of course, there is also the bigger issue of who will take over the family farm as our traditional way of life disappears and children opt for other career options.

One of the most visible examples of how urbanization and land use policies have contributed to the loss of our farmland is our town’s Gateway project. This 100-acre commercial development site in Kelligrews was once primarily farmland.

While some of the now commercial land had not been farmed for years, there were some active farms in that area at the time the town identified it as a location for development.

The small family gardens are disappearing as land is subdivided into smaller parcels of land with no room for farming.

Even if we have room for a garden, we have become so dependent on the abundant variety of fresh fruits and vegetables from the U.S. and beyond that it’s not worth the time and effort.

We are now realizing that we have to do something about our food sources. We have seen the impact on our food supply from wind storms or other interruption to the ferry system or road network.

It is hard to imagine that we can be a truck or two away from some food, yet it is our reality and what this new food council is hoping to change.  If you are interested in learning more about our town’s agricultural history, it is well-documented in a heritage booklet, “A Place to Grow,” which you can purchase at the Manuels River Hibernia Interpretation Centre.  


K of C flea market

The Knights of Columbus is holding a giant flea market at Powers Court Parish Hall in Manuels. The market takes place 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, July 12 and 19, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays, July 13 and 20. The money raised will support eight children in developing countries.


Joan Butler is a lifelong resident

of Kelligrews, Conception Bay South.

She can be reached by email

at joanbutler@ymail.com.

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Recent comments

  • Matt
    July 17, 2014 - 13:11

    Part of the problem of maintaining the family farms is that there was a stigma associated with farming being a "lowbrow" career. That's slowly changing, but those who are young and interested in farming face some pretty serious barriers to entry, not the least of which is getting access to a dwindling supply of farm land. The municipalities, and the province, need to co-operate on programs to help young people who want to farm the land, as well as help those who have farmable land (which, let's face it, is in short enough supply without paving it over for houses) keep it that way.

  • Ev
    July 10, 2014 - 09:51

    Local farmers can not compete with highly subsidized,highly mechanized,huge corporate farms from the mainland and the USA.Local farmers produce a quality product that is almost free of pesticides,but can not match the price of a quanity mass produced product that may be laced with pesticides. Until we are health conscious enough to be willing to pay a bit more for our food,farmers will be squeezed out of business.

    • Cyril Rogers
      July 11, 2014 - 10:40

      You are, indeed, correct in saying that local farmers cannot compete with the global entities like corporate farms and the giants of the food industry like Monsanto. But….beware.! Much of the food grown in the US now comes from genetically modified seeds that are often devoid of most of the nutrients we associate with such items. As you say, they are heavily laced with pesticides that the GMO seeds allow them to absorb. Is that good for you and me? The evidence suggests otherwise but….until ordinary people wise up and decide to take control of their own health..we will see an increasing parade of health issues, notably cancer, diabetes, heart issues, and so forth. We have been suckered into adopting the Walmart mentality but at what price? Governments, in their wisdom….or lack thereof…are supporting the corporate giants who are systematically destroying small farming operations and, by extension, destroying our chance for obtaining quality food. I find it ironic that they will spend billions on dealing with health symptoms….more political mileage in that…while doing next to nothing to encourage local food production…. free of pesticides…. and that contributes to local economic development. Sadly, the various trade agreements they are latching onto are starting to tie their hands in that regard….so it comes down to this! Unless we, as citizens, band together and thumb our noses at the corporate elite by forming broad-based cooperative ventures, we are going to become evermore dependent on the excuse for food that we see coming across the golf.