Galen Weston on Farmers’ Markets and our reaction

The Place: Farmers’ Markets everywhere

The Treasure: Farmers and our food

 Okay. I’ve said before I don’t want this blog to be political and a soapbox for anything but the great parts of Nova Scotia but recently Galen Weston took a shot at farmers’ markets. And luckly this is my blog and I can pretty much do what I want. HA HA! 

The quote: 

“Farmers’ markets are great . . . ,” Weston is reported to have said Tuesday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. “On day they’re going to kill some people though.” 

“I’m just saying that to be dramatic thought,” he added.

 I assume he added that when he realized the can of worms (locally produced I’m sure) he opened.

 Now. Let’s take a look at what he said at face value. One day they will – does that mean he doesn’t know of any deaths related to farmers’ markets? If so, that’s a plus for the markets – they’re already ahead of the ‘super’ markets and grossery stores. Err.. Grocery stores. As for being dramatic, really? I don’t think there’s a need to be dramatic when warning about death if there’s a real risk of it being there, say, like eating listeria contaminated food.

 That simple seed of doubt will cause some people to turn away from farmers’ markets. It works wonders on the political landscape – once the rumour or seed (non-GMO please) is out there it does the damage and a meager ‘sorry’ doesn’t cover it. Scandal is front page news, retractions are page 10.

 Now the real focus here is the true treasure that we here in Nova Scotia and many of the provinces across the country are fortunate to have. Our farmers. Access to those farmers. Farmers’ markets and a booming CSA model of business for those farmers.

 Ever ask a grocery store where they get their meat from? Ever ask to go see the farm, the animals, the method in which they are raised, fed, slaughtered, butchered and delivered? The way their crops are grown? What they are or are not sprayed with? Why there’s apples from Morocco sitting in their stores while the valley has trees full practically falling off with no buyers (by the way, check that apple juice you buy from coffee shops)? Why there’s turnips from Mexico? How far their fish is shipped for processing and still gets slapped with “fresh”? How can out-of-season strawberries be considered fresh? Ever ask them how much the farmer actually makes?

 We’ve sat at farmer’s family’s tables and ate with them. We’ve dropped by out of the blue because we were driving around and thought we’d stop in for a few minutes and left hours later. We’ve looked at their animals, the food they get, we’ve actually touched them and got to know the farmer’s beliefs and ideals. We’ve been to the butchers they work with, or know the names of them. We’ve heard their heartbreaking stories of a favourite animal needing to be put down – that there is a genuine care for the animals well being while alive so it can provide the very best meat when it comes time. We’ve talked about the ups and downs of weather and how it affects crops. The timing of hay drying. How everything is affected by sudden and heavy rains. We know how much they make on their product selling it directly and in some cases we know the cost of butchering.

 I know where my food lives. I know where my farmers live. If I or anyone else gets sick we can call, go there, let them know and they can, and I believe will, do the right thing. Of course in 8 or so years of buying direct it hasn’t happen, but it’s a theory. The reaction is swifter and with far more care than a major food chain recall that sometimes doesn’t come out until the problem is ‘serious enough’ to warrant it or in some cases after the expiration date of the product anyway.

 No, I’m sorry Mr. Weston, you weren’t being dramatic. I believe you were reacting to a threat against your company’s profit margin by planting doubt and saying there should be more regulation. More regulation means more cost for farmers and farmers’ markets, means it’s less attractive and then the big stores can offer them a deal for pennies. Too bad all that regulation didn’t help the people that got sick or died from contaminated food bought through major store chains. It’s absolutely unfortunate that it happened but I really think it was an unwise stone to throw.

 The more farmers we talk to the more we appreciate how hard they work and how kind they are. Several have offered, for free, a meat bone or something when we talk to them about our dog’s needs. He can’t be fed kibble, he’s allergic to all grains. When we explain it to them they get it and they do their best to help and keep us in mind.

 If we’re out of eggs and the chickens on their farm haven’t laid many they’ve gone to their own fridge and pulled some out for us. The eggs aren’t uniform and ‘perfect’, they have character. Some make us feel sorry for the chicken that laid it seeing how the egg drawer in the fridge won’t close with that egg in there.

 I bet if we said it was chilly they’d find us a jacket to wear.

 I doubt many people inside the major grocery stores could tell me where I’d have to travel to to find out if the growers of their products would do the same.

 I could really go on and on about the things that disturb us in grocery stores. We’re fortunate that we, with a little leg work, have been able to all but divorce ourselves from the big box stores. If someone could grow toiletries we may never have to step foot in a major food chain again…

 This weekend we’ll go to a farm, buy some of their products, shake their hands and say thank you for feeding us.

*** 

Links to articles:

http://www.thestar.com/living/article/1127787–loblaw-chief-says-farmers-markets-pose-health-risk?bn=1

http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/02/08/loblaws-chief-farmers-markets-will-kill/

http://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/2012/02/08/loblaw_chief_galen_weston_says_farmers_markets_pose_health_risk_1.html

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