Author highlights importance of producing local food

Alex Di Pietro
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Author, poet, chef and local food advocate dee Hobsbawn-Smith was in Prince Albert on Friday.

dee Hobsbawn-Smith poses with her fifth book, Foodshed, before a reading at the Bison Cafe on Friday. 

She sat down with the Daily Herald prior to giving a reading of her new book, titled Foodshed, at the Bison Cafe.

She was invited by the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) to speak about local food.

“My mandate as an advocate is to help people come to an awareness of the role and importance of local, as opposed to global food,” she said. “And it’s not that I believe that we only have to have one, but I think we’ve suffered by having more of the other.”

While Hobsbawn-Smith’s latest book is about Albertans, she said the issues that impact local food are the same in Saskatchewan.

“Regardless of what province you’re in, farmers have the same problems, the same challenges, the same rewards, so it’s one of those really portable things,” she said.

She had plans to speak about the negative effects of food commodification, what constitutes a foodshed, how money is used when supporting local farmers and the best places to source local food.

“I have this vision of concentric rings when I think about local food,” she said. “It starts just outside my own door if I have a garden or a couple of pots inside the house, so we can grow some salad greens or some herbs.

“And then work out in rings that progress so that you get your meat from as close to home as possible and then your vegetables and farther and farther out until your rings of your immediate geographic foodshed overlap with the rings of another region,” she continued.

Hobsbawn-Smith said one could look to community-supported agriculture where consumers buy a share in a farmer’s crop each year.

“It might be 24 families It might be 16. I know one really hard-working young farmer in Alberta who supports more than 80, like between 100 and 120 families with his CSA farm,” she said, noting significant benefits for consumers and farmers alike.

“It gives the farmer the cash up front when he or she needs it and they don’t have to spend all that time and money on marketing. They also don’t have to worry about spending all their time going to and from farmers’ markets. Instead, they deliver to one central point.

“It gives the consumer a whole bunch of added benefits. They know who their producer is and they can ask all the questions that need to be asked about how their food is being raised and how their animals are being husbanded, what they’re being fed and it gives them a chance to say, ‘thank you,’ which I think is one of the big underrated things about the food system,” she added.

Hobsbawn-Smith, however, doesn’t believe that people should spend all of their money on local food.

“The important things to spend your money on locally are protein sources, because they occupy so many resources, so much water, so much energy, so much time, so much money and sit so high up on the food chain,” she said.

Hobsbawn-Smith is currently earning a Master Fine Arts in writing from the University of Saskatchewan. She has served as a judge for the Gold Medal Plates event and wrote a column for the Calgary Herald, titled “The Curious Cook,” from 2001-2008.

Organizations: Canadian Federation of University Women, Daily Herald, Bison Cafe University of Saskatchewan Calgary Herald

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Alberta

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