<h2>Our Beloved BC&#160;Fruit and Climate Change</h2> <p>Over the past few weeks, I have been taking our message of sustainable food and organic production to local Edmonton farmers&apos; markets.&#160; On Wednesdays I am at the SW Edmonton Market in Terwilligar, on Thursdays at the new 124 Street Grand Market at 107 Ave, and Saturdays at the famous 104 Street City Market downtown.&#160; We have been selling our fabulous blueberries, strawberries and fair trade fruits.</p> <p>Being at these markets gives me the opportunity to talk to hundreds of people a week about organic food, the food economy, and the importance of organic food.&#160; However, the most common question I get asked is <em>why isn&apos;t this local?</em>&#160; This week, I wanted to give my perspective on the BC Fruit industry and the overall global organic fruit market.</p> <p>In additon to running The Organic Box, my wife Miranda and I own a fruit orchard in Creston, BC called &apos;Just a Mere Organic Farm&apos;.&#160; I grew up in the Creston Valley, spending my summers on Kootenay Lake and in the apple and cherry orchards in Creston.&#160; One of my earliest memories is feeding apples from my grandparent&apos;s trees to horses on the neighbour&apos;s farm.&#160; I remember my cousins, brother and I sneaking into the drive-in theatre with my radio and a 5 pound box of cherries to see &apos;Back to the Future&apos; in 1985.&#160; These are wonderful memories for&#160;me, and I am happy that my own&#160;sons will have the opportunity to&#160;make their own histories in such a significant agricultural community in Western Canada.&#160; </p> <p>However, this entire way of life and food economy is under threat.&#160; &#160; The economics of the BC fruit market have changed over the past 30 years and combined with the threats of climate change, life is very different for an orchardist today.</p> <p><u>We Have Become Mono-Crop Exporters</u></p> <p>When I was young, all orchards I can remember were mixed fruit farms, 10 to 20 acres and farmed by the families that owned them.&#160; Each farmer would produce a crop of several apple varieties, peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, pears and berries.&#160; These were sold at farmgate and to grocers throughout BC and Alberta.&#160; Farmers were part of packing house co-ops that marketed and shipped fruit collectively so each farm wasn&apos;t required to have a full packing house infrastructure.&#160; BC Agriculture had an entire support network of ecologists and horticulturalists who were available to growers at no cost to monitor the overall health of the industry and advise on specific issues.&#160; </p> <p>Today, those mixed farms are mostly gone.&#160; Farmers produce mono-crops of cherries, apples, or other fruit, and the majority of this is packed and exported to Europe or other markets via brokers.&#160; There is little or no interaction between producer and consumer, and farms must have at least 40-50 acres of leased land to have the scale needed to be viable.&#160; BC Agriculture has cut all its support staff and growers must pay private horticulturalists for services.&#160; Farmers who are still managing mixed farms struggle to sell their crops.&#160; Grocery stores are now vertically integrated and most produce is shipped store direct from distribution hubs in Vancouver.</p> <p><u>We Are Being Forced off the Farm</u></p> <p>Because of the new economics of the BC Fruit market, most farmers need to have off farm jobs in the off season.&#160; Some even have year-round full time jobs.&#160; The era of spending your winter developing your farm, servicing your equipment and having a rest are over.&#160; Because the produce market has become so commoditized, harvests do not return enough money&#160;to support families and supplemental income is required.&#160; This creates a negative feedback loop whereby less time is spent on the farm, resulting in lower quality and yields, and eventually individual farmers will lease their land to larger growers because they are unable to sustain it.</p> <p><u>Climate Change is Destroying our Viability</u></p> <p>The most worrisome and horrifying change happening to our fruit economy is that being introduced by climate change.&#160; Randy Hooper is the co-founder of Discovery Organics in Vancouver.&#160; He is a pioneer in the organic and fair trade produce markets and is a mentor to me and my team at The Organic Box.&#160; This is what he had to say this week on his blog about the global apple market:</p> <blockquote><p><em>This whole apple deal is getting worse and worse. There is a huge gala shortage across all southern growing regions, because of record-breaking temperatures, which forced fruit to ripen before it was sized up, and some producers had up to 18% of the apples cracking because of this. Our regular NZ growers have all decided to ship most of their fruit as conventional. With such a high prevalence of apple moth, and the risk of having organic fruit rejected, and no longer exportable, they are choosing to spray it, which guarantees permission to export, and still get high prices because of the global shortage. One lot of Granny&#8217;s that were on their way have just been rejected by the USDA, as well as another lot of Cripps Pink from Argentina, which also had material defects. The only saving grace is loads of fruit are being diverted from Europe to the U.S., with lower transit times, as shippers hope to have better arrivals. At least we&#8217;re only 6 weeks from the first California apples, and 8 for local summer apples. </em></p> </blockquote> <p>In BC, we are experiencing the exact same issues as our friends in the southern hemisphere.&#160; Last year, we had a deluge of rain in the valley which caused 30-40% of the cherry crop to split.&#160; This year, a very warm spring led to early blossoms on our trees, which then fell victim to frost damage.&#160; 20% of the 2012 crop was lost.&#160; Record moisture again this year has also ground much of our field work to a halt and the weeds are taking over.&#160; Projections by BC Environment call for record heat this summer in the growing regions, which will impact our tree fruit crops in the same way as down south.&#160; Organic pest controls are becoming less effective as &apos;super pests&apos; adapt to conventional sprays.&#160; Our pollinating bees this spring seemed to be asleep in the field; much less active than in past years.&#160;&#160;We truly believe that agriculture is the &quot;canary in the coal mine&quot; for climate change and we are seeing the results first-hand.</p> <p><u>Why we bring non-local fruit to market out of season</u></p> <p>All the challenges we face as fruit growers in BC are not unique to us.&#160; They common amongst every small-holding family grower across the globe.&#160; We have a shared experience and a shared fate.&#160; It is critical that we work together as an industry and make the connection between the consumer and the grower, regardless of the distance.&#160; The local Edmonton families who grow for The Organic Box share the same challenges and together we want to create a food system that empowers all small growers to have&#160;a year-round living off their land, be paid sustainable prices for what they produce, and to support organics not just as a health choice, but as a way of life and a philosophy about the relationship between health, food, the environment and the soil.&#160; When our fruit isn&apos;t ready (berry plants in Alberta still have white flowers), we recognize that families are still going to buy strawberries, blueberries, melons, stone fruits, apples and pears.&#160; We believe that they should have the choice to buy those from a recognized, traceable source that is organic, fair trade certified, grown by independant producers and embracing all the same values we hold dear here in Edmonton.&#160; I am proud to say that The Organic Box has the most ethical bananas on the face of the earth.&#160; And our strawberry sales make a real difference to Esteban Martinez.&#160; If you would like to know more, come visit me at the market and we can talk.</p> <p>By choosing to support us, you are choosing to support a food system that is ethical, sustainable and moving in the right direction.&#160; I don&apos;t believe that we will be able to solve all these problems right away.&#160; But I do sleep well at night knowing that at least we are making things better for a small community of people, one that we hope will continue to grow and take hold in our city.</p> <p>Have&#160;a Great Week!</p> <p>&#160;Danny.<br />Founder, The Organic Box.</p> <h2>Featured Local&#160;Producers</h2> <table cellspacing=&quot;15&quot; cellpadding=&quot;0&quot; bgcolor=&quot;#edf0e9&quot;> <tbody> <tr> <td valign=&quot;top&quot; align=&quot;center&quot;><p><img title=&quot;rhubarb01&quot; alt=&quot;rhubarb01&quot; src=&quot;/uploadedImages/009_-_This_Week/rhubarb bowl.jpg&quot; /></p> <p><img title=&quot;rhubarb02&quot; alt=&quot;rhubarb02&quot; src=&quot;/uploadedImages/009_-_This_Week/rhubarbpie.jpg&quot; /></p> </td> <td><h2>&#160;Rhubarb!!!!!!!!</h2> <p>Originally cultivated in China for medicinal purposes, rhubarb is most know in North America for it&apos;s culinary use (espcially in deserts). It has only been since the late 1700s that rhubarb has been used in cooking and first made it to North America in the 1800s. They spread in popularity rapidly and have been a staple at farmers markets ever since. Only the stalks of the rhubarb plant are eaten and most prized for use in pies, tarts, and sauces. </p> <p>Nutritionally, rhubarb is about 95% water and is fairly high in potassium, vitamin C (which adds to its tart flavour), fibre, and calcium. </p> <p>We are going to be seeing a lot of rhubarb in the coming weeks from two of our local organic farms and we couldn&apos;t be more excited! It&apos;s time for rhubarb crisps, tarts, pies, muffins, jams... and to combat the sourness mix in some strawberries, blueberries or try it with mango! </p> <p>Here is&#160;a great Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Recipe:</p> <p><a href=&quot;http://allrecipes.com/recipe/rhubarb-and-strawberry-pie/&quot; target=&quot;_blank&quot;>http://allrecipes.com/recipe/rhubarb-and-strawberry-pie/</a></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td valign=&quot;top&quot; align=&quot;center&quot;><p>&#160;&#160;&#160;</p> <p><img title=&quot;Almonds&quot; alt=&quot;Almonds&quot; src=&quot;/uploadedImages/009_-_This_Week/almonds.jpg&quot; /></p> </td> <td><h2>&#160;Almonds!! </h2> <p>Most often thought of as a nut, almonds are technically the seed of the fruit of the almond tree. It is cousins with the peach, cherry, and apricot trees. Almonds are also considered an incredibly healthy &apos;brain and heart food&apos; due to it&apos;s high content of Vitamin E, manganese, and healthy monosaturated fats. We love almonds at The Organic Box. They are a great snack to get you through until lunch, and keep you alert when feeling fatigued. We have so many varieties of almonds now... and we are pumped!! Try them out:</p> <p>-Raw Almonds from Left Coast</p> <p>-Teriyaki and Chili Sprouted Almonds from Organic Lives</p> <p>-Sprouted Almond Croutons from Organic Lives</p> <p>-Maple Almonds from Prana</p> <p>-Almonds and Dark Chocolate from Camino</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table>