Friday, February 20, 2009

Mr. Obama Goes To Canada

It was quite unusual. In fact I don't remember seeing it before. Canada spent an entire 24 hour news cycle at the top of the headlines in the US media.

How refreshing to see Canadian issues treated to coverage and analysis for a full day by the major US media, thanks to Barrack Obama. How refreshing to see a US President discussing issues of cross-border consequence as if Canada's partnership mattered! Wow! No more diplomacy by decree!

I went to the CBC for updates to see how the visit played in the north. Several days of wall to wall coverage by Canadian media speaks for itself.

I noticed that stories here specified that the trinkets Obama picked up to take home were paid for in Canadian currency. A small thing perhaps but a gesture of respect none the less.

Our usually virulent conservative commentariat had little to say about the trip - except to complain about the tax-payer expense of the travel (wtf?). Of course they'll wake up and get good and mad once they realize that Obama picked Canada for a reason.

Social responsibility and economic conservatism seem to work hand in hand in the north. I think President Obama deliberatly highlighted that fact. Harper also mentioned it in the context of NAFTA. When conservatives in the states realize that the Presidents' plan is to level the NAFTA playing field by implementing the kind of social programs that exist in Canada - the beer nuts will fly and right wingers here will go crazy.

For more watch the press conference.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

When Organic Becomes Conventional

A farming friend called me from the Midwest Organic Conference last week and we've talked several times since about plans for spring. He posed an interesting question. Even as more and more organic produce is being delivered to market he's noticed a loss of flavor and quality. He asked me what I thought the reason might be.

AHA! Says I, having already read a great book on the topic.

In, "The End of Food", Thomas F. Pawlick (a Canadian) documents the decline in the nutritional value and quality of North American food since the early 1960's.

For decades the food industry has been developing varieties that ship well, hold on the shelf a long time, look attractive in the market and / or process well. Few growers select variety for taste or nutrition. In fact, the documentary evidence presented by Pawlick proves that flavor and nutrition have been bred out of your food.

Now that organic is becoming conventional, organic farms are choosing the same commercial hybrid varieties for shipping and processing. You get fewer varieties and your choices don't taste very good. Hybrids developed to produce square tomatoes or peaches that look ripe - but feel like tennis balls - are not good food even if they are organic.

I was once asked by a market visitor on PEI if organic produce really tasted better. I said, "no". But fresh food tastes better and the food we sell is fresher than anything that took a week to reach the local shelf. Today I'm suggesting that freshness plus the varieties we plant for flavor and quality make local and organic produce taste better on PEI.
"Organic" is just the method by which food is grown. Our conversation needs to keep moving ahead to discuss terms like "local" and "sustainable" - words that also define soil, air, water, the community we feed, the seeds we plant and the hands that tend our fields.

It has become clear to me that "organic" alone is not the answer.