Pot Luck April 2015

NFU on the March, and other stuff

    Out on snowshoes for the first time in years I came across tracks I took to have been left behind by the cow and calf. The tracks came to a four-foot high pagewire fence – and continued on. Cow and calf maybe, of the endangered Mainland moose variety.
    Earlier this week our five miles of road in from the highway melted free of ice, iceholes, and ruts for the first time in six weeks. The blizzard now forecast for later today should make short work of the reprieve. 
    The Atlantic Farm Mechanization Show held every two years is behind us, Prince Edward Island’s annual Easter Beef Show and Sale is on, and the Nappan Test Station bull sale is just around the corner April 4. These are all signs that the winter of 2014-15 is behind. Gone but not soon to be forgotten. 
    Here on Nova Scotia’s South Shore we thought we were hard hit by snow. Compared to most years, we were. Compared to the rest of Atlantic Canada we got off easy. We lost some barns and greenhouses, true. However, a drive up around the Tantramar Marsh on the way to visit the Farm Show in Moncton told just how lucky we are. It seems a wonder all that snow blown east and west off the Marsh will ever melt. 
    We’ll be a long time adding up the costs associated with the hardest winter in memory. Highways, highway signs, buildings, maple syrup infrastructure of the modern sort all took a shellacking. We will never know how many tires and wheels were destroyed smashing through potholes.
    Manufacturing friends from Ontario exhibiting farm equipment in Moncton got a flat tire on their Budget rental and were surprised to find there wasn’t a spare in the trunk, or a jack, or tools to change a tire had they had one. They phoned the company office to explain their puzzling situation and were told that in fact not all Budget cars are necessarily equipped with a spare tire. Got a flat? That’s your problem.
    Got a greenhouse flattened by snow? You may have lost thousands in uninsured housing, equipment, and 2015 sales, but that’s also your problem says the Nova Scotia government. The same week greenhouse growers seeking compensation were turned down, the government found $22 million in payroll rebates for the Royal Bank whose CEO David McKay earned (their word, not mine) $7.45 million last year. 

    “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” right? Nova Scotia’s Liberal government appears as ready to ignore that fine principle as were NDP and Conservative governments before it.  In this instance it’s a long-standing ban on Sunday hunting, which the province would mess with. The Department of Natural Resources is surveying public opinion on the matter. They call it a “consultation.”
    Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia are the only two provinces that forbid Sunday hunting – with the exception of Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia who are allowed to hunt any day. These happen to be provinces where the land is mostly privately owned, and where residents are happy to have one day a week in the fall when they can work outdoors or go for a walk in the woods or along the shore without wearing hunter orange, hearing gun fire, or fearing being taken for game. 
    Apparently, leading up to the last election, some current Liberals, including a Minister or two, promised the hunting lobby to look into the ban. 

    “In my travels across Nova Scotia, I’ve met various people who wish to discuss the prospect of Sunday hunting,” said Zach Churchill, Minister of Natural Resources (in a DNR press release). “No decision has been made but the public consultation will provide further information about how Nova Scotians feel with regard to this issue.”
    “Various people,” are represented by the Federation of Anglers and Hunters based in Halifax. Its membership is dominated by city and town folks who, this generation or the last, left the land to take up an easier life where someone else scrapes the sidewalks, looks after sewer and water, grows their food, harvests trees and mills their lumber, and generally looks after their essential needs. 
    Come hunting season these various people want access to the land they abandoned to come play with guns. 
The “consultation questionnaire,” which runs to April 10, and can be found online at www.novascotia.ca/natr/hunt/sunday.  Or phone 902-424-7955. 
    Home and market gardeners are buying seeds, starting plants, planning for the growing season. Such optimism! Wait a bit before capping off your dry bean purchase for the year because in May we’re all about beans – pintos, soldier, kidney, Navy, and more. We’re inviting readers to share their bean stories and family heirloom recipes using dry beans in our “Household Notes” column. They might be used in salads or soups. They might be baked, refried, or who knows how prepared for the table.
    Another invitation to readers is about the term “buy local.” How do you define and practice buying food or other goods locally? I threw the question out to a half dozen friends and was both surprised and pleased at their thoughtful replies. It is apparently a question on many minds and one that has been given more than passing consideration. There was wide variety of opinions. Your idea of “local” isn’t necessarily your neighbor’s, or even your spouse’s. Is there a common thread? 
    If there is, we would like to use it to tie our annual Buy Local Atlantic together. So, share your thoughts. It will be fun to see if there is a common thread.

    There is irony in the fact that a guest speaker at the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture’s 2014 annual meeting might be credited with sparking provincial interest in establishing a provincial chapter of the National Farmers Union. The more outspokenly critical (of government policies and initiatives such as Bill C-18) NFU has been a strong voice in Prince Edward Island for decades and in recent times has achieved status alongside the Agricultural Alliance in New Brunswick. In Nova Scotia, a NFU youth group has taken root, but it was Joe Schwarcz from McGill University who may be credited in years to come with bringing the NFU to full flower in Nova Scotia.
    Oh, and the Federation’s failure to support small unlicensed abattoirs in their battle with Nova Scotia Turkey Growers. 
    Schwarcz, McGill’s professor of science and society, succeeded by ridiculing Dr. Vandana Shiva, recent keynote speaker and presenter at both the ACORN (Atlantic Canada Organic Regional Network) annual conference and trade show, and Food Secure Canada’s 8th national assembly. The two were held back-to-back in Halifax.
    Shiva is not appreciated by her followers – and there are many – she is revered, for her stand against practices of multi-national corporations in the agricultural sector that harm indigenous farmers around the world. The NFU has made room for Shiva. The NSFA, by headlining Schwarcz, did not. It snubbed her badly.
    It’s not as if Shiva’s facts or opinions are beyond legitimate argument or dispute. It was Schwarcz’s way of taking Shiva out of context – not just things she has said but the scientist herself – and trying to make a comedy act out of what should be a serious discussion that destroyed his own credibility.
    St. Pat’s week, five “kitchen parties” were scheduled in family farm kitchens from the Annapolis Valley to Cape Breton with guest Coral Sproule, NFU women’s president and Ontario farmer, to discuss, as one organizer put it on Facebook, “how a farm organization who takes no money from commodity groups or government works.”
    A farmer who was at the Federation AGM said afterwards what a shame Vandana Shiva was not invited to speak there, and Schwarcz at ACORN. “There’s too much preaching to the choir.” Amen. DvL

And the winner is. . .
    Donald MacFarlane from Antigonish, N.S., a part time vegetable and livestock farmer, is this month’s winner of a copy of “Getting Rid of Alders.” Donald’s name was drawn from among those subscribers who kindly took time to fill out our reader survey, a copy of which be found in this issue on page 36.