EAT GOOD FOOD! (for the future)

By Kevin Hamilton

Six years ago I began farming at Plan B Organic Farm. I remember thinking that it was time in my life to develop skills that will help me survive in this world. Not the kind of skills that most people think of. Like going to school or getting computer skills to get a high paying job that will probably drive one crazy and not contribute to society in a very positive way. (don’t mean to be harsh, its just that a lot of corporate jobs, as innocent as they seem, are responsible for damaging communities and environments) So I was trained as an organic farmer under the CRAFT program. (Collaborative Regional Approach to Farmer Training) I have never sprayed a chemical in my life and never looked back. I have also been around to take part in transitioning two farms from conventional to organic.

It is an interesting thing to observe. Each time I noticed that if you’re growing veggies, the infestation that occurs from pests lasts about two to three years. Usually people plant hay consisting of clover, vetch, wheat and alfalfa or whatever kind of hay mixture they see fit. This will help draw out the residuals left behind by chemicals and help remediate the soil by putting carbon, fixing nitrogen and keeping the weeds down. Both times I planted veggies I saw pest infestations of a serious nature. This is from having an ecosystem that is unbalanced. A lot of farms are mono-cropping food and creating an environment for plague like proportions of bugs to infest. The equilibrium will start the third and forth years when all of the beneficial insects and birds (environmental refugees I call them) start to repopulate the farm and the complex system that is nature creates a healthy balance. For insects, all the prey and predators come together and keep a balance along with the birds that come to feed and breed. Then the soil food web (bacteria,fungi,protozoa and nematodes which were adversely affected by chemicals) starts to repopulate itself and breaks down the soil and starts releasing what nutrients are in there. We now know that minerals are chelated from the soil by fungi that latches onto rock and makes the minerals readily available for plants to uptake. This fungal matter and a healthy soil food web is the basis for having nutritious veggies and healthy plants. The European Union did a $25 million study two years ago that put an end to the debate is organic food more nutritious than conventional.

Chemicals that are sprayed on food have a skull and crossbone on the label clearly stating that it is poison. As for chemicals breaking down or being safe on food… Let me put it this way. When I was born in 1976 the cancer rate was 1 in 5. Then gradually it became 1 in 4, 1 in 3 then 1 in 2 people get cancer (in their lifetime) and 1 in 3 people die of cancer. This is according to the Ontario Medical Association!

So to say that chemicals are safe for waterways, to breathe in the air, to eat on our food or even to handle is highly questionable. The two things we do everyday is breath and eat. Without question. If the air is polluted and the food has been treated with poison, I think it is safe to say we’ll get cancer at some point. So where are we heading? To the point where everyone under the age of 40 gets cancer or maybe even 30?

I’m not here to bash conventional farmers. The problem I see with our current food system is that farmers don’t get much government support. This in turn drives farmers to work thousands of acres of land with the cheapest viable inputs (usually chemicals, gmo’s and sludge!) to get the maximum yield for their buck. Sludge and gmo’s are another article unto themselves. (rest assured both of these practices should be banned!) Farmers have suffered a farm income crisis where 15 of the last 20 years we have made incomes the same or worse than the great depression! Terrible. This continues now and it is because of a cheap food policy that we have been spoiled with our whole lives along with the trading food as a commodity. I shouldn’t get into the sinister international treaties that get local farmers exporting most of there food on the global market while their fellow citizens starve.

So in short, we need people to encourage our local farmers to try and transition some of their land. We need to support those farmers. We need to start buying food locally and paying a fair price for our food. There is a revolution afoot. Take part in it! It belongs to you and me!

Born and raised in Hamilton, Kevin Hamilton has been involved in environmental and food activism in the city for years. He works on an organic farm and avidly promotes the local food movement. A familiar face around Hamilton [and the OPIRG Board of Directors’ table], Kevin can often be seen riding his bike and playing harmonica.