Pot Luck November 2015

Chin up, Stephen

    Good, the election is over. Blue is the color of a bruise on Harper’s chin and I can unpack my valise for Belize. 
    Archie Parsons, with Jim Slauenwhite riding shotgun, has delivered the winter’s hay. Garrett Blanchard, a neighbor high school student with a work ethic many might emulate, has shifted the bales about so that first-cut hay is in line to be first-fed. As long as pastures hold up, the cows couldn’t care less. 
    Just so, as long as supermarket shelves are filled with food most of us couldn’t care less where it comes from and therefore likewise about the recently crafted Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. TPP delights some farmers while worrying and even threatening the survival of others, depending on commodity. Pork and beef, thumbs up; dairy, thumbs down, as supply management in that sector takes another hit following losses written into the yet-to-be-ratified European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
    Most bothersome, TPP would for the first time open the spigot on fluid milk from cows injected with growth hormones. U.S. dairy farmers are allowed to boost production using rBGH, a manufactured bovine growth hormone. That’s not legal here. Canadians have been clear in their objection to and rejection of rBGH milk, but here it comes anyway – or will if the new government in Ottawa signs on to TPP as it now stands.  
    Why Dairy Farmers of Canada did not wave this flag large and high as they marched on Parliament Hill during the election is hard to understand. Public support would have been strong. Could it be that within DFC ranks pressure is on to do away with hormone restrictions here?
    “It’s just farmers aren’t good at marketing,” a farmer friend offered as explanation. Which, if true, is good reason to pay into organizations like DFC so they can hire bright lobbyists who know what buttons to push to get public attention. 
    That farmers can improve individual marketing skills is at the core of at least three workshops at the upcoming Atlantic Canada Organic Regional Network conference in Charlottetown Nov. 23-25. Farm market venders will be schooled in topics like marketing and branding, customer service, and merchandizing and display. Some lucky individuals are born with marketing in their veins. The rest of us could well use coaching.
    Thinking about organic farming and gardening brings me to the bountiful season just past for berries and tree fruits. Many from here to New England have said it was so. I’ve a small arbor of jelly grapes yet to harvest, and seeing their dark and green clusters hanging heavily on the vine beckons – and at the same time raises concern. Where are the birds? Any other year robins and their feathered cousins would long since have picked us clean.
    Where were the strawberry and raspberry marauders last summer? Have others noticed the same? Or was Sandy Bay spared bird damage for some unique reason? Maybe there was so much fruit everywhere birds were sated before they could wreck total havoc.
    That is unlikely. Far more plausible would be that my experience is far from unique, and as others have warned, a second Silent Spring is upon us. This time it is the result of two decades of increasing use of neonicotinoids to kill pestiferous insects. Studies now more than a year old in the Netherlands linked imidacloprid, a neonic nerve toxin brought to the market by Bayer, to declining bird populations. However, like tobacco manufacturers before them, neonicotinoid champions have circled the wagons and it will take more than a couple of flaming arrows to burn them out.
    Support for organic gardening and farming on the land, at farmers’ markets, and at the grocery store helps, as does support for any grower avoiding the use of neonicotinoid-based poisons. They are evil.
    As are companies like Shell that are willing to drill for oil on rich fishing grounds without adequate safeguards against devastating blow-outs. Yes, and government agencies that green-light drilling when gear to staunch a rupture is two weeks and an ocean away. 
    I asked John Davis of the Clean Ocean Action Support Committee about this potentially calamitous situation. He replied by email, “There are two active lease sites and nine more on the Scotian Shelf that are open for bids which close on October 29. That’s 11 potential sites. Three to seven wells per site. We must have a capping stack based in Halifax.” 
    Check out and support the Clean Ocean Action Support Committee which, along with the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, has taken up the battle to bring well capping equipment to our shores before drilling is allowed. (Follow the Clean Ocean Action link at RuralLife.ca.)
    Back on land, while grain and livestock farmers west of the Atlantics are likely welcoming implications of the new TPP accord, here at home beef and sheep farmers are realizing support that needs no ratification. The biggest breakthrough has been Brookside Abattoir near Truro having at last been federally licensed for sheep. Maritime lamb can now be killed here and sold across the country. Congratulations to Mike Isenor and his Brookside crew. It was a long, expensive, and often frustrating task reaching this goal.
    The other encouraging development is the return of meat-cutting to the ag campus – now Dalhousie faculty of Agriculture – in the extended learning department. The first course is slated for early in 2016. Want to know more? Read the story from Atlantic Beef & Sheep posted on RuralLife.ca (follow the Meat Cutting and Processing link), or contact Program Manager Ashley Coffin at 902-893-5304.
    Now to go pick grapes, none of them sour. DvL