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NB Agricultural Alliance launches Why local? Why not? campaign

The NB Agricultural Alliance recently launched a multi-faceted campaign called WHY LOCAL? WHY NOT?
The NB Agricultural Alliance recently launched a multi-faceted campaign called WHY LOCAL? WHY NOT? - Contributed

Access to locally-produced food becoming critical

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was submitted by Submitted by: Christian Michaud, President of the NB Agricultural Alliance.

As this interminable winter wanes and spring becomes a possibility, a new season is beginning for the agriculture industry in New Brunswick.

It’s a rebirth of sorts: a return to the recognition of farming as the basic element of survival and sustainability. No farms, no food. In the midst of climate change and political turbulence, the old adage rings truer than ever. Access to locally-produced food is becoming critical; the growth of local and regional agricultural sectors must be promoted and supported.

With this reality in mind, the NB Agricultural Alliance recently launched a multi-faceted campaign called WHY LOCAL? WHY NOT?, funded by AANB, the Province of New Brunswick and the Government of Canada. This initiative was developed through engagement with the industry. It highlights the fact that the connection between consumers and the sources of their food has been greatly weakened, if not lost altogether. This campaign has been designed to link people who eat food with those who produce it. It has three goals.

The first goal is to raise public awareness of the benefits of local products. This involves informing them about what is grown here, how fresh, safe and nutritious it is, and why consumers should buy it whenever it makes sense to do so. It’s sensible from the perspective of health, as the hazards of processed food become more obvious. And it’s sensible from an economic perspective; it keeps money in the community and increases employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, especially in rural areas. Take, for example, the purchase of a bunch of carrots. An import, at $1.80, returns just 20 cents locally; $1.60 leaves New Brunswick for the product’s corporate office, transportation and grower. Local economic return on investment is minimal. The local product, at $3, returns all of that to the farmer for an economic return on investment of 100 per cent. This means the consumer paying the extra for the local carrots is not only supporting the farmer, but is also investing in the development of strong communities and economies as the money circulates locally.

The second goal of the new strategy is to increase demand for local products. Over 60 different foods are grown in New Brunswick, with variable availability from season to season. With the advent of new technology and innovative farming methods, there is virtually no limit to the variety and amount of food which can be produced here. While local markets may be enough to sustain some farmers, there is also potential for the development of export markets for larger commercial ventures. There is always a demand for food; the global reach is boundless. With solid local markets, farmers can be encouraged to increase production, becoming even more sustainable in the long term.

The third goal is perhaps the most encouraging; it will highlight the many opportunities for employment and entrepreneurial development in the agriculture sector. Agriculture is on the cusp of a major boom as it extends in new directions. There is potential for growth through innovation and high-tech applications which can revolutionize large-scale farm management. But there is also an expanding movement back to the land for small farm operators. This is especially evident in young people who wish to reconnect with the natural world and provide their families with safe and healthy lifestyles. Others are being drawn to farming, including active retirees and immigrants, with or without agricultural backgrounds and experience. Agricultural horizons are broadening to include a wider range of farm products, sizes, operators and consumers. Farming is not what it used to be, confined to its own silo. Now it is becoming integrated with initiatives in health, education, community development and revitalization, thereby playing an increasingly important role in social and economic sustainability. A career in agriculture is no longer available primarily to the sons and daughters of farmers.

An interesting development in the promotion of agriculture as a career is an initiative of the NB Department of Education and Early Childhood Development; it is developing a potential high school diploma in agriculture as a component of its Essential Skills Achievement Program. This experiential learning curriculum is designed to enable graduates to enter the workforce or to pursue further education.

Excitement is building in the agriculture sector. We see opportunities to raise awareness, increase demand, and change the perception of farming through our buy-local campaign. With spring in the air, we want to get growing.

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