Pot Luck July-August 2015

Great radio takes a hit
Stan Carew dead at 64

    Stan Carew, who ruined sleeping-in Saturdays and Sundays for many years by providing one of the most entertaining radio programs on CBC, has died. He announced in May that he would be retiring in September. We were planning to invite readers to contribute to a tribute to Stan in a coming issue. 
    It never came across that Stan was just doing his job as he spun records and in later years CDs on his “Weekend Mornings” show. There was no microphone between him and his Maritime-wide audience. It was more like a great big family gathered around his kitchen table sharing stories, wishing family members well, and guessing the names of mystery artists – often on the basis of little more than a couple of notes or words to an old song. Over all those years I never guessed the name of a single Mystery Vocalist, yet around that table there was always someone of sharp ear and mind ready to nail the answer. 
    In retirement, Stan planned to live the life of a wandering minstrel, singing for his supper as he traveled the countryside. Making music was his first love, bluegrass a favored style. It probably won’t be long before Stan is writing songs in the clouds, has the angels strumming along, and “high lonesome” St. Pete breaking in on cue.  

    Martin Niemoller’s famous poem of WW II, “First They Came for the Socialists,” came to mind on reading in Nova Scotia’s daily paper a couple of weeks ago the tale of woe from Cape Breton egg farmers Chris and Theodore Eyking. They were forced to discontinue sale of 150,000 eggs a week (a quarter of their production) to Loblaws due to excessive and shifting regulations. In this case it is Loblaw's own policies that have made business life impossible for the mid-sized grower, but the Eykings' argument sounds a familiar knell. 
    Writes Andrew Rankin, “Neither of the Eykings are opposed to the regulatory program, but they say it’s designed for larger industrial farms where the risk of cross-contamination is greater than at smaller to medium operations, like Eyking Farms.”
    They are right. Not only cross-contamination but so many other health risks diminish in lock-step with diminished scale until education alone ought to just about suffice at the local, direct-sale (farmer to consumer) level.
    The thing is, the smallest producers have been hampered for years by regulations that make little sense for just this reason, plus the fact that the smaller you are the smaller the risk to public health should something go wrong. Their complaints and concerns have largely fallen on deaf ears.
    In another realm, education, our truly rural schools have and are being closed throughout North America. Those affected complain but might as well hold their breath. The next larger community stands to gain students, maybe even a new school, and has the votes. 
    And so I think of Niemoller’s powerful message borne out of experience of the Nazi holocaust when good people did not speak up as neighbors were hauled off to death or a concentration camp for being this, that, or the other – “but not me.” 
    Until eventually they came for “me,” and there was no one left to come to my defense.

    First the regulators came after backyard growers, but as a mid-sized commercial farm it had nothing to do with me. Then they came for. . . .

    First the amalgamators shuttered the hamlet school, but our town had nothing to fear. On the contrary: hamlet children were being bused our way. Then they . . . 

    The truly rural economy of farmers and fishermen has been taking a beating for decades and little beyond some lip service has resulted by way of significant interventions by those in high places. The loss of 400 farms or a like number of inshore fishermen, were it to happen all at once, might raise a significant stink, as happens when a company employing that many collapses. Because farm and fishery losses happen over time, a province barely blinks.
    Maybe it is good that larger communities in Atlantic Canada are losing their schools, and that mid-sized farms like the Eykings' are finding regulations too much to contend with. Momentum might just build to turn the tide in favor of small, slow, considerate communities and economies. 

    A friend said to me, “you complain a lot.” I agreed, replying that “there’s a lot to complain about,” from Israeli settler occupation of Palestinian farmland and aquifers, to how hard it is to find a decent wheelbarrow. 
    She does have a point, though. There is much to note in the world around that brings us joy, like the smell of a fresh lilac bloom, a box of fresh-picked strawberries, or looking back at the end of a long day on a freshly seeded field or garden. A child giggling with delight wipes the glum from the face of the most committed curmudgeon.
    Maybe not joyous, but a positive story is Dalhousie Agriculture’s Extended Learning office thinking seriously about bringing back a meat cutting short course. To that end,  Program Manager Ashley Coffin has put together a survey to judge the level of interest in the region for learning how to butcher clean, quick, and properly, meeting demands of particular shoppers. To find the survey, follow the Meat cutting short course link at www.RuralLife.ca. It is easy and will not take many minutes to fill out and return to the Extended Learning office.
    Writer Frank Macdonald (“Nobody asked me but . . .”) has an enviable ability to address our sins and foibles without sinking into grumpiness. His criticism of the proposed Mother Canada monstrosity in Highlands National Park in this issue is uncharacteristically without mirth; all the more powerful for the fact it comes from a writer who ordinarily finds amusing ways to make a point. 
    On its website Parks Canada says its mandate is, “To protect, as a first priority, the natural and cultural heritage of our special places and ensure that they remain healthy and whole.” In his remarks Frank compares the Cape Breton desecration of a place of natural beauty and geological significance to the meaningful Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, an illustration of which can be found on page 23 of your new Canadian passport. 
    A pox on the Harper government for considering siting this rah rah ugliness in a national park. Good to hear that journalists Peter Mansbridge, Lisa LaFlamme, and Lloyd Robertson have withdrawn their support for the gaudy giantess. Time for Cross Country Upchuck’s Rex Murphy to follow suit.  DvL