Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Celebrations of Thanksgiving and Food

Pender Island Fall Fair Barbeque

      In the past few months there have been several celebrations that are based on food. In the summer, along with July 1st barbeques, family get-togethers and fall fairs, there is Food Day on the Saturday of the first long weekend in August in Canada. Food Day was started in 2003 to help Canadian beef producers who were struggling with the impact of BSE, and ironically is not well known among many farmers (who are too busy at that time of year anyway) but is used to promote beef, and by restaurants to promote Canadian food.
Morning Bay Winery, Pender Island
      In the midst of the controversy in the US over the burning of the Quran and the building of a mosque at the site of the 911 tragedy, we enjoyed the Ramadan holiday with the Muslims. No, I am not Muslim or even personally know anyone who is, at least to my knowledge. But we do raise lamb, and this year we had a very nice group of ram lambs that were in high demand. Ramadan, which lasts one month and this year took place in August, is a time for self-reflection, sharing with others, and thanks-giving. Ramadan is also marked by fasting from sunup to sundown, and meals that include sheep and goat meat, preferably from male animals that are in the form God created them. That is, intact rams. Ours had the added bonus of long tails and they were very clean from being on pasture all spring and summer, and they were organic.
August is also the time of garlic harvesting, and on Pender Island there is a Garlic Festival at Charman Farms the day after the Pender Island Fair.  On Saturna Island on October 2nd, 31Square held a community food and food gathering project called the One Square Dinner. All the food and wine was produced on Saturna. Galiano Community Food Program held an island-wide picnic in September.
Charman Farms Garlic
     Just this October 3rd, Harry and Debbie Burton and other Salt Spring Island orchardists and volunteers put on the 12th annual Salt Spring Island Apple Festival, a major success in celebrating the under-rated apple. Last month Harry gave an enthusiastic presentation on apples to an equally enthusiastic Pender Island audience. He gave us a quick overview of grafting and the selection of different apple varieties. I especially enjoyed the slide show which gave us a glimpse into Harry and Debbie's world and their joy and passion for their piece of heaven. The theme of the festival was Kids and Apples, because Harry knows from his own experience how important it is for children to connect with the land.
     It is exciting to see this connection in action with a school garden growing at Pender Island School, with students recently enjoying their first harvest lunch from their garden, and we can hope for many more. There are plans for apple trees to be planted at the school as the garden grows in size.
As it becomes harder for BC producers of apples to compete in a global market, with major competition from China, New Zealand and the US, there is some relief as consumers become more aware of supporting our BC apple producers. BC produces 3.5 million boxes of apples, while Washington State produces 105 million boxes, and 230 million boxes are grown in North America. Last year several farmers' markets saw apples sold at 12 cents per pound to show the consumer what most apple producers receive for their apples. Many orchards with the standard Macintosh and Delicious apples we all know have been dug up and replanted. One of the new varieties that have excited growers is The Ambrosia, a new apple accidentally discovered in a Similkameen orchard (the pickers would eat all the apples on this favourite volunteer tree!).
Besides Thanksgiving, one day this month that acknowledges the food that is produced is World Food Day, observed each October 16th in recognition of the founding to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945 in Quebec City. The purpose of World Food Day is to increase awareness and understanding and informed action to alleviate hunger in the world. This year we have over one billion people who go to bed hungry, which is hard to understand when you live where food is so cheap and available. A few years ago Stewart Wells, President of the National Farmer's Union in Canada wrote to the UN to enquire if it was true that the world was drawing down its food supplies. As the world's cropland area remains static or declining, we experience the equivalent of a North American population added to our numbers every six years. What happens to per capita cropland area? It's more than a math problem. The UN tracks global food production, supplies, usage and prices. The global economic slowdown, following on the heels of the food crisis in 2006–08, has deprived an additional 100 million people of access to adequate food. There have been marked increases in hunger in all of the world’s major regions.
Closer to home, as Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving and the harvest bounty this month, hopefully a few celebrants will give thanks to the people that produce the food we need and enjoy. The BC apple producers and beef producers, who have had some tough times, are like other producers of food who have experienced tough times. They all keep going because they have pride in what they do, in producing food for the tables of others. Because food is a key element of life.

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