Yesterday, a team of researchers brought their vision for a sustainable, self-reliant food-producing Okanagan bioregion to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board, piquing the interest of some on the board who have concerns about local agriculture being lost to big corporations.
The Kwantlen Polytechnic University project aims to present local governments with information about the economic, environmental and social benefits and trade-offs of regional food systems.
"Well over 60 per cent of food retail trade in Canada is controlled by four corporations, and as an example, during the pandemic, they profited because of this,” Dr. Kent Mullinix, the project's director, told castanet.net. “It really does beg the question of whether we advance a food system that is dependent on this sector or a food system that develops via an economic parallel to that food system, or in concert with that food system.”
Mullinix and his team presented the board with the findings of their extensive research, including modelling of future environmental, economic and social impacts of a food region system, based on land use and availability, anticipated population growth and more.
He explained that in one of the team's previous studies which included potential predicted climate differences, in the balance of the nearly 130 food crops studied, yield variability did not affect food self-reliance. Some crops would thrive in changing conditions, to make up for others that did less well.
"The Okanagan is one of the absolutely best places on earth to grow a deciduous tree fruit, and in particular apples and the Okanagan apple industry has long been a global leader in apple production innovation. It is a travesty, in my estimation, that it is suffering and declining," Mullinix said.
He said regional agriculture needs to differentiate itself from the global sector, a perfect example of a primary motivation for regionalizing the food system.