Foods group ‘hosts’ university speaker

Food systems for the 21st century the title of Kent Mullinix presentation

What is food security going to look like when the triple whammy of peak oil, declining reserves of fresh water and climate change all converge on the current industrial agricultural model?

That was the subject addressed by Kent Mullinix from the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond (www.kpu.ca/isfs) at a presentation titled “Sustainable Food Systems for the 21st Century: Challenges and Potentials” he gave in Hedley on April 25.

Leda Fair, president pro tempore of the West Boundary Sustainable Foods and Resources Society (FAR), had attended that Hedley meeting and, although she wasn’t able to bring Mullinix back to Midway in person, she did return with his PowerPoint and a tape recording.

FAR director Rick Steingard worked some digital magic and combined the two, and a dozen and a half people turned out at the Midway Seniors Centre to listen and learn. Thanks to funding from the New Horizons for Seniors the centre has recently been upgraded with a sound and video system which was put to good use for the meeting.

Mullinix said sustainability is humanity’s greatest challenge. “We have got to figure out ways to conduct the economy in ways that do not compromise future generation’s ability to live on earth.”

Mullinix said that agriculture is an 11,000-year-old human endeavour that developed under relatively constant and predictable weather patterns; whereas industrial agriculture, which began in the 1960s, is about to face that triple whammy.

He inventoried a long list of problems with the current model and charged industrial agriculture with failing to meet the goal of feeding the world.

He cited figures showing one-sixth of the world’s population living food insecurity and another onesixth being overweight—while one million children starve to death every year.

“Food security is an economic equity issue not an agricultural production issue,” Mullinix said.

He said the fundamental question that each community needs to answer for itself is, “What kind of food system is appropriate in my life system?”

He sees this transition as an economic opportunity, creating jobs that keep dollars in the local community longer.

Mullinix and KPU are working to develop municipal supported agriculture, whereby municipalities take a leadership role in facilitating a local, community focused agri-food system.

He suggests that every community can have a farm school that fits where they live.

Studies done by Mullinix for the City of Surrey, which has one-third of its land base in the ALR, found that while about half of that land is effectively lost as farmland, some 3,300 acres could be used for small-scale alternate market community focused farming. According to Mullinix, if economic conditions and policy supported that land being brought into production it could satisfy 100 per cent of Surrey’s consumption of 27 crop and animal products for six months of the year; and with proper storage and processing it could satisfy 100 per cent of their demand for 24 products year-round.

He forecasts that 50 million farmers will needed in Canada and the U.S. post peak oil; that is 20 per cent of the population, contrasted with today’s 1.5 of the population working in agriculture.

“This is not going backwards, it is learning from our 11,000-year agricultural history, including the 50 years of industrial agriculture,” Mullinix said. “You must learn from your successes and learn from your mistakes—you will do better going forward.”

FAR made a couple of business announcements at the meeting. Vivien Browne has resigned from the FAR society because of health reasons. Secretary Leda Fair has taken the position of president pro tempore until the first AGM, which is expected in July.

Fair said the society is currently working on a New Horizons for Seniors grant to collect, preserve and pass on local food production and processing skills.

She asked those attending the meeting to let the society know of any skills they have which they would be willing to pass on. She also asked they communicate what they might like to learn.

For more information contact Erika Tafel at far.society.wb@gmail.com or 250- 528-1000.