From global outposts to local heroes

By Tom Read

Eventually these isles at the Texada Food Market may contain actual Texada food, as our community comes together in a positive response to evolving problems in today's global food system.

Eventually these isles at the Texada Food Market may contain actual Texada food, as our community comes together in a positive response to evolving problems in today's global food system.

We spend most of our food dollars at our local grocery in Van Anda. For some reason that I’ve never understood, the store still carries a large “Lucky Dollar” sign that overshadows the newer, more tasteful “Texada Food Market” sign carved in wood. Anyway, this is OUR store.  The people who own and staff the store are friends and neighbours. It feels good to shop there because it’s so personal – we know a lot about the store, and the storekeepers know us.  We shop in this store most often because we happen to live closer to Van Anda than Gillies Bay, but occasionally we also enjoy shopping at the Gillies Bay General Store. It’s got an excellent deli and hardware section that nicely complements the grocery store itself.

As for the Texada Food Market, we plan many meals knowing the store’s delivery schedule for fresh produce, and Jamie the superb in-store butcher goes out of his way to phone us when he’s concocted a new version of turkey sausage he thinks we might like. We especially appreciate the opportunity to special-order case lots at a discount. The store manager, Rosalie, does a great job of finding the items we’re looking for, then getting them delivered here. Some of our recent bulk purchases include organic extra-firm tofu made in Vancouver, olive oil (a special brand we like, from Greece), organic rice from California, and canned wild salmon from Alaska.

Notice the geographic spread of our food sources. We may live on a small island, but the world is our food supplier, just like people throughout the industrial world. In reality, our very personal and much-appreciated Van Anda and Gillies Bay grocery stores are merely outposts of the global industrial food system. There’s not much local or regional food for sale in the Texada Food Market (except dairy products from Vancouver Island and tofu from the Lower Mainland), but that’s not because of some restrictive store policy. It’s more because local food producers, who generally offer better products than anything in the global food system, receive more income by selling directly to their customers, or through the Texada Farmer’s Market.   There aren’t many commercial local food producers to begin with on Texada – and none who can compete with the global food system on price. Plus, the provincial and federal governments have become de facto parts of the global food system, using their regulatory powers to stifle small, local food producers (BC’s new meat regulations being a prime example).

One of my favourite writers, Kentucky’s famed farmer-writer-poet Wendell Berry, once observed that agriculture is the foundation of all human economies. If we want to create a stronger local economy on Texada Island, then producing more of our own food would be a great place to start. But how can we include our local grocery stores in this effort? They may serve as outposts of the global food system today, but we’ll need them even more in the future, when the global system no longer functions reliably.

That’s one of my key assumptions about life in today’s world: that the global food system is much more vulnerable than it appears, especially to energy price spikes and economic turmoil, let alone calamitous events such as a possible global flu pandemic. As the global system first hits a few bumps, then starts limping and finally just stops working reliably, Texada’s little groceries in Van Anda and Gillies Bay can gradually become our focal points for a community-based effort to grow, store, process and distribute food.


1 Response to “From global outposts to local heroes”

  1. 1 David Parkinson June 6, 2009 at 09:12

    Amen, brother! How do we get there from here? It’s going to be an interesting ride, assuming that the global food system is as fragile as you and I (and many others) believe.

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