Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Quiet Revolution

A quiet revolution is stirring in our food system. It is not happening so much on the distant farms that still provide us with the majority of our food; it is happening in cities, neighborhoods, and small towns. It has evolved out of the basic need that every person has to know their food, and to have some sense of control over its safety and its security. It is a new agricultural revolution that provides poor people with a safety net, and opportunity to provide nourishment and income for their families. And it provides an oasis for the human spirit where urban people can gather, preserve something of their culture through native seeds and foods, and teach their children about food and the earth.
The revolution is taking place in small gardens, under railroad tracks and power lines, on rooftops, at farmers' markets, and in the most unlikely of places. It is a movement that has the potential to affect a number of social issues - economic justice, environmental quality, personal health, community empowerment, and cultural connection. It is especially important for the world's poor, a majority of whom now live in cities.  Source.

Windsor can attest to the power of this revolution sweeping the developed world.  While many of us have always had vegetable gardens in their backyards, a number of changes have occurred recently on the locavore front:  The Windsor Downtown Farmers' Market completed its second successful season, we have several community gardens, with a new one starting in the spring.  We can buy meat from local farmers and have it delivered to our doors - Trusty Food to You and County Connect are just two available services.  We also have a CSA but if gardening is not for you, Natural Earth Organics will deliver a weekly veggie box to your doorstep.   There's a lot more happening behind the scenes too.

There's one major food, however, that is not covered by these great initiatives:  eggs.

Most of us eat eggs every day, whether we consume them boiled, scrambled, fried, or indirectly, such as when we eat baked goods, desserts or fortified breads.

It's not easy to obtain fresh pastured eggs in Windsor:  for one thing, farmers are not allowed to sell their ungraded eggs beyond their farm gate.  You also can't freeze whole eggs, so buying them in bulk is not an option.  And it's impossible to buy free range eggs in the stores, since they are not commercially available in Ontario.

So if you're looking for a locally-produced source of eggs from chickens that have been outside in their lifetime, your only option is to take a drive into the county.  It's not an efficient option if you don't happen to have business that takes you to the county on a regular basis, and it's not at all feasible if you don't have a car to begin with.

Isn't it strange that Canada's southernmost city doesn't have a comprehensive locavore strategy at the forefront of its political agenda?  If this quiet revolution is spreading throughout the developed world, Windsor, struggling for recognition as a serious player when it comes to green energy manufacturing, cannot afford to ignore it. 

We need to be looking at all the different foods that we eat, and ensuring they are all readily available.  It makes no sense to have plentiful locally grown vegetables and meat, but to decide upfront without any further investigation or discussion that eggs are not important.

I don't like to admit this, but in my opinion, the city's willingness to consider backyard chickens is even more important than the final decision on whether to allow them.  That's because it displays a recognition of the importance of the local food movement and the fact that eggs are missing from our locavore menu.

Progressive cities are "getting it" more quickly than others when it comes to embracing locavorism.  In the final analysis, those are the cities that are going to win out when it comes to economic development.  Because just as cream rises to the top, the best people tend to choose the best cities to live in.

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Please keep the Windsor urban chicken discussion going! We love to 'read your constructive comments.