In light of the empty grocery store shelves in Revelstoke due to flooding in the region as of late, local farmers are advocating for residents to change the way they eat and shop in order to keep the shelves full and the environment healthy.
“With these natural disasters, hopefully people will start thinking about how they can start saving food for the winter and do a lot more preserving for the fall, whether its from their own gardens or it’s from local producers,” said Jesse Johnston-Hill of First Light Farm in Revelstoke.
According to Johnston-Hill, stores in Revelstoke only stock a day and a half’s worth of fresh produce, so any time the highways are closed due to weather, it doesn’t take long for the shelves to go empty.
Rob Jay from Terra Firma Farms in Revelstoke says that society needs to be trained to eat with the seasons, by switching your diet depending on the time of year, to adapt to what produce is available in the region.
Local farmers say that squash, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, beets, winter radishes and other root vegetables are perfect for this time of year, as they were harvested recently and can last for months under the right conditions.
Johnston-Hill says that root vegetables aren’t the only type of produce that can last into the winter: apples stored in climate-controlled environments can last a long time, and fresh veggies like tomatoes and peppers can be turned into products like salsa in order to prolong their shelf life.
Jay says that spinach can be grown 10 months out of the year, and leafy greens like kale and chard can be grown almost all year round.
Local farmers say there’s plenty residents can do to grow their own produce, and that the benefits come from more than just the food that is produced.
“Even a small amount of self-food production not only provides those people with an extra resource of sustenance, but it also provides them a deeper connection and appreciation for the work that goes into growing that food,” said Stu Smith of Stoke the Fire hot sauce, a local farmer.
Buying local produce also helps farmers gauge demand, and helps them plan before each season even begins by letting them know what the communities needs are, fortifying their operations. Johnston-Hill says that understanding the needs of the community creates opportunity for local growers.
“The more often you show up to the farmers market, or make an effort to shop from a local producer, the more it helps them plan ahead and get some stability themselves,” said Johnston-Hill.
In addition the accessibility of producing food locally, local farmers say that buying local helps reduce your carbon footprint due to the energy and resources it take to not only ship in fruits and vegetables foreign to the area, but to store them as well.
“The simple choice of ‘do I buy an orange or do I buy an apple’ is a huge decision for your carbon footprint,” said Smith. “And in turn, its a huge decision for what you’re supporting: are you supporting a farm down in Florida, or an Okanagan apple grower?”
Jay says that eating within our seasons keeps amount of produce being shipped into the region lower, reducing the impact on the environment.
“So much of the stuff is transported so far on ships and planes,” said Jay. “Think about the environmental impact. Realistically, you can get the majority of that stuff here in town. The stuff you can’t get, maybe think about going without it.”
“Once we all start realizing we need to stop leaving such an impact on our environment, things will change.”
Johnston-Hill says plans to create a community storage facility broke down, however she thinks a co-op facility where locals could order and store food would be an asset to the community and would add to the stock of grocery stores.
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