Before we go any further, let me just say that our farm receives no government subsidies. I want to make sure there are no questions about that because I just read somewhere that sourcing your food locally is not a good idea as it encourages local farms, which receive tax dollar subsidies.
We sell our crop at market where we compete with lots of other local farms, which are also not subsidized. There is a program financed by a local bank that doles out $3 coupons for parents to spend at farmers markets. Is that a subsidy? Probably. We see a couple of those coupons every month at Vancouver markets so that’s about $6 per month right there. Note that.
Governments do not “pander” to Helmer’s Farm in any financial way. They would like voters to think that they are encouraging “sustainable food choices” and “innovation in the value-added food chain,” but in practice they are doing the opposite. Rail yards, housing developments, roads and industrial parks now sit on the most valuable farmland in the province because the government let it happen. This has made it easier to get us local consumers hooked more efficiently into the global food chain. That’s a subsidy in my opinion.
If I was commenting on agricultural subsidies in an article, I would never forget to mention the massive direct tax dollar subsidies enjoyed by the biggest farms in North America, which are producing corn to make Coke, feedlot cattle food, ethanol and “nutrition” bars for starving people in Africa. Failure to include this information renders such a piece a rather flimsy affair.
Last week I read that partaking in local food is bad for the world economy, contributes to global poverty and (did I read that right?) is the root cause of millions of malarial deaths. I guess you should all rush out and buy woody carrots grown far, far away and prevent all this. Oh and definitely avoid the sweet, crunchy, fresh ones from the Pemberton Valley.
These claims might be laughable, but they are also astonishing and poorly-researched attacks on free enterprise and consumer choice, casualties in the fight for your food dollars. Proponents of the global food system that has brought us (ask your doctor) foodborne illness, obesity, diabetes, malnutrition and heart disease are unbecomingly desperate for your support, and unless we pay attention we’ll be giving it.
Local food costs more up front because that’s how much it costs to grow food when you don’t get subsidies and consumers who spend more on this type of food perhaps spend less on other things. If the local food they buy is also organic, then some of the world’s most highly valued companies are cut completely out of the picture. You can imagine that this will not be long tolerated.
Here’s a study for you: Leger Marketing found that 92 per cent of Canadians trust farmers.
Trust me when I tell you that it would be a big mistake to question your taste buds and your common sense when it comes to your food.
In a way I am relieved to have encountered a certain amount of absurdity last week in the media. My other article idea was a delicate treatment of the big family farm fight of 2012 — a thrilling battle over carrot harvesting techniques that revealed unresolved issues dating back to the early 1980s.
Anna Helmer is a little steamed.