***Caution: swear words ahead.***
Hello Honeywwoofer Fam, it’s been a while.
I guess, for me, writing is like milk- some weeks I can’t seem to get enough, and other weeks it accidentally goes sour and forgotten in the back of the fridge. More on spoiled dairy in a moment.
The past few months have felt chaotic- said every farmer ever during harvest season. I also had to take a part time job off the farm because we got hit with a large and unexpected bill to replace our septic system. Slinging “premium” veg in rural Nova Scotia was just not able to shoulder the blow as we were already living on a shoe string. I also say “premium” because as new market gardeners we not only had some crops that failed entirely, others were just embarrassing to look at (thank you for buying them anyways). My new job is mostly over night shifts which is good for almost always having someone present on the farm, but not so good for well, me. But it has benefits and RRSP matching and I’ve met some nice people… so there is that. #massages
Perhaps you are wondering what has lured me back to the keyboard after several months of hiatus? Anxiety mostly- said every writer ever. But more importantly, a program called Loop.
Sometime during the summer (or more specifically when our pigs started eating us out of house and home) we approached several grocery stores in our area to try and procure some free food waste- hopefully the unsalable leftovers from the produce and bakery department. The closest grocery store to us had already been claimed by a family farm several generations ago. The next closest, a Superstore, told us we couldn’t have any because of liability- all their food scraps and expired food went in a garburator and then to the dump. This was unbelievable to us- a casual symptom of all the things wrong in the world today.
As if the Universe had lent us an ear, I soon stumbled across a relatively new program that had been initiated by a farmer in Saskatchewan. LOOP. In a nutshell, the program links grocery stores with local farmers who pick up unsalable food for their livestock and compost. Imagine. There is training and waivers and some documentation required, but overall the process is simple and streamlined. Folks, frankly we won the farming lottery as we threw our name in the hat at the exact moment they were expanding to Atlantic Canada. It seemed too good to be true. With free livestock feed and a substantial amount of homemade compost we might one day have *gasp* a profit.
We were absolutely stunned by what we received on our first pick up. It seemed so surreal that it took Will a significant amount of time to convince me that Ashton Kutcher wasn’t hiding in the bushes waiting to punk me. There was ice cream with expired best-before dates only hours old. There was flour, and pasta, and beef jerky- the things preppers give the apocalypse the middle finger with. There was an extraordinary amount of actual flowers. Blocks of cheese with one corner squished. Cereal with a tear in the cardboard box. Bacon. Grapes. Yogurt. Juice. Flatbread. So much flatbread.
Note- EVERY DAY a farmer goes to our local Superstore and picks up ATLEAST a pickup truck load of food “waste”- we have even been told to make sure we are able bring an additional trailer some weeks. It makes me absolutely beyond sick to think of all that organic matter, and effort, and packaging, and nutrients, and seeds, being carted off to the dump. But doesn’t it just break down you ask? No. Engineered landfills are anaerobic environments (without oxygen). When organic materials break down in anaerobic environments, not only is methane gas produced, but without access to light or oxygen food cannot decompose properly. By sending food waste to the dump we are sequestering those amazing building blocks of life matter and rendering them inaccessible. This. Is. Not. Sustainable. This. Is. Stupidity.
Of course my imagination was dying to take what I was seeing before my eyes one step further- what about all the big grocery stores in Toronto? If each one of them was sending ATLEAST the volume coming out of this rural Nova Scotian Superstore to the dump EVERY DAY…how many pickups would that be? What about all the grocery stores in Canada? The World? Ok well, now my brain is just exploding. You get the picture right? HOW IS ONE SINGLE PERSON FOOD INSECURE?! Why do nutrition-related factors account for 45% of deaths of children under five globally? Seriously! Are we living on planet twat-hole?!
Now the thing about LOOP is you can’t pick and choose what you take- it’s an all or nothing deal. You are also personally responsible for properly disposing of packaging which is a bit time consuming (although chickens are surprisingly good at cleaning yogurt cups) and about 95% is recyclable. It is also illegal to feed meat to livestock (cough- coronavirus) so you have to have a plan for that- it’s typically given to dogs and cats. (If you think about it, it’s actually irresponsible for me to NOT get more puppies now right? 😉 ) You also can’t personally eat or resell what you receive- but you CAN partner with other farmers to offload excess with some more signed waivers.
Now back to the part about anxiety. Don’t quit on me now!
You may have seen in the news last week that the Chinese government was telling its citizens to prepare for widespread food shortages. There are many factors at play, some we know and some I’m sure we don’t, but the fact is it’s unprecedented. It also sent me down a rabbit hole researching how food security had been affected globally over the last two years. I’m just going to leave this link here: https://www.worldvision.ca/stories/food/food-crisis-facts-and-how-to-help Let’s just say it’s not a bed time story to read to your kids. If you need something to lighten your heart after that, this link will take you to China’s action plan “on saving food amid warnings of global shortage” : https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202111/1237803.shtml So, how do you say LOOP in Chinese?
Now another thing has happened. Vancouver, yes our Vancouver, has just been declared completely shut off from the rest of Canada by road due to extreme weather and the resulting damage. See here: https://www.kamloopsbcnow.com/watercooler/news/news/Provincial/Vancouver_is_now_completely_cut_off_to_the_rest_of_Canada_by_road/ Combine that alarming tidbit with the supply chain problems and shipping delays you already know about and guess what you get? ME accelerating from “casual” prepper to creating a list of our local friends with valuable skill sets and pricing out slip tanks. If you got a weird text from me today- you are probably on the list.
Before you accuse me of fear mongering, I fully recognize that I am a highly sensitive person. World issues related to suffering have left scars on my heart since childhood. My grade 5 speech (remember those?) was about animal abuse. For whatever reason some sh*t (sh*t that would “seemingly” have nothing to do with my personal reality) just f*cking eats at me on a cellular level. I also recognize that our rural homesteading lifestyle requires a certain level of organic prepping so I already lean in that direction. Guess who probably isn’t getting their power back on first in an ice storm?
I am also quite possibly sleep deprived.
My point is, I feel anxious and so should you. Just kidding. I do invite you however to start thinking about not only your supply chain, but also your neighbors. Someday you may need them more than you think.
Keep calm and send me your apocalypse cover letter.
(Big thanks to LOOP for their forward thinking and initiative!)