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.
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