Monday, June 21, 2010

No longer lacking in tomato plants!

In a previous post, I wrote about my tomato plants that got sunburned...well they survived the burn and have since been transplanted outside, though they have yet to prove to me that they're going to make it. However...in some of my other beds, I have masses of tomato and ground cherry plants growing! When the sprouts first started showing up, I thought they were actually dandelion sprouts, but now that they're bigger, they look and smell like tomato plants. They're mostly in my spinach and chard beds and paths which are both part of my early season harvest, so I'm going to leave the tomato 'volunteers' to their own devices and see what kind of tomatoes I get! I think they're in the area that had heirloom cherry tomatoes last year (which I didn't plant again this year) but I won't know what I get until they start producing fruit.

Tomorrow morning, I head into the GTA for my first vegetable delivery of the season. I've been so excited to be harvesting these last two days because last year I didn't really get to do any real harvesting until September. I cut, washed, spun and bagged salad greens (a green oak leaf, red romaine and red/green batavian type lettuce), spinach and baby chard (a rainbow mix of many colours). I also harvested all my bok choy because much of it has started to bolt from the heat (no more bok choy until I seed a second bed). I've taken the row cover off my bok choy/daikon radish/turnip bed, which is always more fun than putting it on! The vegetable package this week will also include spring turnips, radishes and garlic scapes. I did harvest the very first of the sugar snap peas, but they're still about a week away from their full production, so not everyone will get them yet. I can't wait to have tons of sugar snap peas to eat!

I hope traffic in and around Toronto tomorrow will be bearable. I'm definitely avoiding any G8/20 areas!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why Is Organic Food So...Cheap?

The title is of a good article that talks about food prices which you should definitely read (link in the title if I set things up right). Some of you have probably heard me rant about the prices for food in Canada and how they're too low to possibly be supporting any of the farmers who grow the food. I say some of you, and not all, because I have a hard time expressing my true feelings on this topic and don't want to get into fights with people on an issue that's particularly emotional for me.

The local organic food movement is full of people who work very hard, for little pay, to produce good food for their communities because they believe that the food system needs to change. We try our best to price our produce to be as fair as possible to both our customers and ourselves, but if we were to actually price our labour time at a true living wage (which I've read is around $17/hour) or even minimum wage ($10.34/hour now I think), the food prices would have to be many more times what we charge. As it is, even with our 'low pay' pricing, all of us regularly hear comments about how our produce is too expensive or even unaffordable. One friend of mine says that we have to make sacrifices to be agents of social change, which is indeed noble, but doesn't make the comments any less hurtful to hear. Certainly, I need to develop a thicker skin.

What is unaffordable? According to the latest StatCan numbers for 2008, households spent 10.4% of their income on food (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/091218/dq091218b-eng.htm). This is one of the lowest percentages in the world. Compare that with transportation and housing at 13.6% & 19.9% respectively. Of course, the high cost of housing is another issue to be lamented, especially as it drives up transportation spending since people end up living far from where they work.

How do we, as a 'have' country, justify being so cheap on such a life necessity as food? There are enough articles around these days about the rise in North American obesity rates and how the average diet is quite unhealthy, high in processed foods, and how few people know how to prepare meals from raw ingredients anymore. Some of the consequences for us as a society is higher health care costs, and arguably, kids who don't reach their intellectual potential due to malnutrition or the side effects of the chemicals used to grow non-organic produce. Has there ever been a time with so many kids with attention disorders, food allergies, asthma, obesity, diabetes, etc.? Is it really a better bargain to spend less than $2 on a loaf of white bread made from highly processed ingredients than to pay $6 for a loaf made from locally grown, organic whole wheat or other grain, from an artisanal bakery? And of course, we're not just cheap with food...we're also cheap with clothing and other manufactured goods. None of these cheap products do us any good. I know it's hard to pass up a bargain, but when the pleasure at finding a bargain becomes an expectation that everything should be cheaper, then we are entirely complicit in the exploitation of workers everywhere, all for inferior products. Everyone loses.

Imagine a world where everyone were fairly paid for the work that they do and the products that resulted were of good quality and didn't destroy the world around them in their manufacture. Where honoured professions were ones that nurtured our health and minds, such as farmers, teachers, artists...maybe I'm not so far from being a hippy as I've thought ;P