Saturday, June 26, 2010
Locavore by Sarah Elton: Review
In continuation with my farm/gardening kick, I picked up Locavore by Sarah Elton at the library. Mostly because I liked the outfit the lady on the cover was wearing. It looks like what I would wear gardening.
I've read books about the local food movement in the United States and even a revolution in Japan but Locavore was the first book devoted to the movement in Canada I've seen. Talk about local. Sarah Elton started researching the movement in Canada after a cookie her daughter bought turned out to be manufactured in China. Where had all the local bakeries gone? And for that matter, where were all the farmers who could produce the ingredients?
Sarah discovered the abysmal state of the family farm, once a Canadian institution, now an endangered species. Economic hardships drove most farmers to sell their land to developers. Those few who are left have difficulty selling their produce to local markets who buy cheap food from other countries.Very few young people are choosing agriculture as a career, unwilling to take on the struggles of traditional farming. This left Elton feeling fearful for the future of farming in Canada.
But there is hope! Farmers are starting to approach farming from new angles. The old ways aren't working. They use new technologies and techniques, join co-operatives, go organic. Many are getting to the consumer directly by selling at farmers' markets. They are creating unique, healthy food and new ways to sell it. Elton speaks to not only farmers but restaurateurs, economic and agricultural experts, and artisans. People who are tackling the problems of growing and eating local produce.
Consumers play a big part in creating a new food regime. We're asking questions: where did this come from? How was it grown? How was it raised? We're choosing different ways of obtaining our food, even growing it ourselves. Some are raising chickens in their backyards right in the city!
What I liked about Locavore was that she travelled across the country, coast to coast, talking to the people most affected by industrialized farming. She stood in their fields and spoke to them face to face. It humanizes the debate in a way I hadn't given much thought to before. She also recognizes that the current locavore movement has it's flaws. She seeks out experts grappling with the problem of creating a two-tiered food system, one where only the wealthy can afford to eat the best produce (interesting ways around that!) and offers caffeine addicts some relief. She doesn't believe in the 100 mile diet, just be a better consumer and buy things like coffee and orange juice from a sustainable source.
Of the books on the subject I read so far, Locavore is one of the best. Very conversational, very personal. Sarah Elton also blogs at locavore.ca. Go take a look.
Borrowed from library.
PS- For a nostalgic look at farming in Canada, I highly recommend the memoir My Grandfather's Cape Breton by Clive Doucet.