Eat, Think, Vote. That was the theme of several events across the country to get local candidates talking about food policy, including one for the Brandon-Souris riding here last week. It was hosted by Small Farms Manitoba in partnership with Sharing the Table Manitoba and Manitoba Alternative Food Research Alliance.
Liberal candidate Jodi Wynman and Green Party of Canada candidate David Neufeld attended the event, which focused discussions around issues facing young farmers, access to land and capital, and the need to develop local processing facilities.
“With all of the trade agreements that are being signed, which favour imports over domestic supply, it is getting harder and harder to have local processing facilities,” said Neufeld. “We in Canada don’t process our food. Our governments have been so focused on the export markets that they haven’t stimulated local processing, storage, and handling properly.”
The roundtable discussion touched on the province’s succession crisis and what could be done to encourage and attract new farmers.
“The infrastructure crisis we have here is going to keep hurting farmers and is also going to prevent farmers from getting involved,” said Wynman.
“After touring a few farms, I found it interesting that everyone is worried about the environment and climate, except the current government. We need to pay attention to that or there isn’t going to be anything left for small farmers. If you lose a large piece of your property due to flooding or poor drainage, that can put a young farmer out. Climate-resistant infrastructure and focusing on the environment is necessary or I am not sure how small farmers can survive.”
While the Liberal candidate discussed how the party’s funding would focus on infrastructure improvements, the Green Party’s agenda looks at increasing funding to facilitate the transfer of knowledge.
“In many cases farmers are learning the skills they need from other farmers. We believe in funding facilitation,” Neufeld said. “If we are talking about growing another generation of food producers that is going to provide us with a stable food supply, I think that the education and passing of knowledge from active farmers is absolutely critical.”
The Eat, Think, Vote event was a part of Food Secure Canada’s campaign to make food an election topic, with the overarching goal of creating a national food policy for Canada.
Conservative candidate Larry Maguire and NDP candidate Melissa Joy Wastasecoot did not attend.
“These food policy issues are so critical and we are hoping that events like this one will be just the beginning of a larger, continued discussion,” said Kalynn Spain, event co-ordinator and founder of Small Farms Manitoba.