REACT 2008 Article Series - Article #6
Re- Developing Our Local Food System
|Re- Developing Our Local Food System|
Gordon Michael, Coordinator of Market Development, Farmers Market Cooperative of Nova Scotia
The access and distribution of food in Nova Scotia over the past number of years has seen dramatic changes. In the 1950’s and 60’s food was obtained at a number of small to medium grocery stores in communities across the province. They provided a place where the local producer could bring their products and using little energy (gas), to sell their goods. The grocer was the link to the producer and the consumer thereby instilling confidence in the food chain. With the development of the supermarket, smaller grocery stores disappeared and the producer was forced to bring their products to large distribution centers which in turn supplied the supermarket. This extra travel time resulted in many producers either getting out of the business or looking at other ways to sell their products.
With an inexpensive transportation system in place and the consumer becoming aware of foods from an international menu we moved into a global food system. This system combined with a changing life style resulted in demands for an easy access to food.
At the same time many individuals were looking for healthier food alternatives so organic, natural food stores began to appear. In addition with the increase in allergies and other health issues people began to look for local foods that were naturally grown. Some local producers saw the demand and an opportunity and the local farmers’ market provided the venue for them.
Farmers’ Markets were not new to Nova Scotia. The Halifax Market began operation in 1750, however it wasn’t until the 1980’s and 90’s when we began to see a number of them open across the province, until today where there are over 18 farmer’s markets in operation across the province.
The recent change in consumer demand concerning where our food comes from, how it is produced, the distance it has traveled, the impact of certain foods on our health, food safety, how we grow our food and the impact it has on the environment are some of the pressures facing the agri – business today.
As a result of this shift in thinking we now have a society looking for more locally produced food., however we have a number of small to medium producers looking for avenues to sell what they have and at the same time looking at the potential. Because many producers are small to medium in size they do not have the capacity to sell their products to the large supermarket operations which look for “consistency, quality, supply and price” however they could get there some day, with proper planning.
To complement the farmers markets as a part of the local food system three areas should be considered:
- Develop strategies to address human resource needs—education, career development and training-- for the local food industry.
- Evaluate the viability of year-round greenhouse production.
- Evaluate the viability of commercial kitchens in Nova Scotia and create models that are sustainable to provide a range of value added food products.