I saw this slide last night at the MEAL meeting. I did not know this - that our industrial food system that we think as the normal - only produces 30% of the world's food.
The 150 big farms that we have on PEI - are not our future.
First of all, almost all are owned by people in their 60's. No one can take on the debt required to take the farm into the future. The choice for the families is to sell to a corporate buyer or to find a development deal.
There is a better way. You may not know this but there is a new Back to the Land Movement in progress and not just on PEI. Thousands of young couples have given up on the idea of a "Job" - and are seeking to make growing food their life.
They do not want or need 1,000 or 3,000 acres. They don't need or want millions of dollars of equipment or buildings.
Instead they want between 1 and 40 acres. Their focus is on quality not quantity.
They have direct relationships with their customers. They sell direct or they sell direct to chefs. Here are just a few who use the Farmers Market. Many use CSA to provide working capital - they are connected to their end buyers and they react to what the end buyer wants. The end buyer has the same connection back.
This is the big but unnoticed trend. We can act to make this stronger and faster.
Back in the 1970's when the first wave of Back to the Landers arrived - many got help from the old farmers then - whose own kids had left the Island.
There was a strong link. Could we not work to make this happen again? Could a large conventional farm start a network using their land where they could help the young buy and operate parts of the larger whole?
Where they too have a different relationship with their buyer than the traditional arms length one. Where they could offer advice, the use of equipment etc. Where they could have a stake in the new?
Could they not be able to band together also and help each other? Making the transition from city to rural is not easy and the answers do not come from a book. Growing food in anew way is not easy either. Selling food and being a real business person is not easy. Settling into PEI is not easy.
A few of us are taking these thoughts and starting to work on them. My bet is that we have a lot more of the new here but we cannot see it yet. Nor can those in it see themselves clearly either. My hope is that i we can start to "Map" the new, it will reveal itself and we will be able to see where best to help.
I close therefore with the most important map ever made to show you the power of such a process.
In 1854 London was again having a cholera epidemic. This was before we knew anything about germs. the conventional wisdom was that disease was spread by smells. But one doctor, John Snow, did not buy that idea. What he did was to map the deaths in the area to see if a pattern would emerge that might give him an answer. This is the map.
The deaths cluster around a pump. The Broad Street Pump. The pump and so the water was the source. Snow had the pump dug up and it was discovered that the pump was contaminated with sewage. He had broken the Smell (Miasma) Theory that had medicine on the wrong foot and showed the link to water. It was only a matter of time and Pasteur to discover the agents in the water.
My point is that without the use of such a map - what is going on cannot be clearly seen. Maps like this produce emergent properties that cannot be seen by using data alone. They provide the basis for a debate. For sadly Snow could not convince the establishment that what they could all see was true. They closed the pump but insisted that it was still smells. But the map could not die for it showed the truth to anyone who had eyes to see.
My hope is that if we "map" the new system - show the people who are farming in the new way - show their connections to the processing and to the end market - show how the community is financing them - show the CSA clusters - show the chef nodes and their connections - then we will see the PEI Local Food System as a system for the first time.
Then we will be able to see what best we can do to make it all stronger.