In Defense of Local Food
Advanced Release June 7, 2022

NOW IS THE TIME! is the story of Transition Town Peterborough (TTP) Canada’s First Transition Town. The transition movement is anchored in local food. This Blog is created in defense of local food in support of the celebration of International Localization Day June 21,2022.
I joined the Transition Towns movement as a Gaian and believer in Peak Oil with managerial experience in both the industrial food and energy global businesses. I was eager to learn more about our food production and how it intersected with what I knew about oil, GHG emissions and our global and local economies.

To increase my knowledge about real food and my own personal heath, two of my early reads were Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006) and IN DEFENSE OF FOOD (2008).
Pollan’s first line of his In Defense of Food book has to be one of the most clever first lines ever… offering “the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy ” … namely:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Almost immediately after TTP’s official recognition by the Transition Towns Network we started the Transition Reskilling Institute and began a series of pay-what-you-can volunteer led workshops and film showings on permaculture, regenerative agriculture, sprouting, cheese making, bread making, kombucha, krauting, hemp milk, on and on.

I was pleasantly surprised that the art of sprouting your own greens presented by Peterborough’s own Sprouting Lady could hold an audience of nearly 50 for two hours. Further, I am a daily consumer of hemp milk made from hemp hearts grown locally by Ontario’s largest hemp farm as presented at one of our workshops.
These two examples as only the tip of my personal experience with local knowledge about local food makes it difficult for me to accept that we cannot push on and dramatically increase our local food security and achieve 50% Local Food by 2030.

The success of these workshops led to the creation of the Purple Onion Festival (POF) our community’s only festival dedicated to local food and culture including our local food security.
After a two year hiatus due to COVID-19, we present the 10th annual POF on September 25th, 2022.

The red onion grows well and often quite large in farms in Peterborough County. As it grows larger it takes on a purple glow. Dress in purple when you come to the POF. Enjoy our local food as served in the Taste of the Kawarthas Food Tent, and learn more about the foods grown locally. You may even win some Purple Onions!

By modifying Michael Pollan’s brilliant phrase ever so slightly to:

Eat local food. Not too much. Mostly plants

…we can make a huge impact on our community, our personal health, our own food security and well being while proactively addressing the environmental crisis.
We follow with some learnings of a local food regime versus the current industrialized global food system that is a root cause of the Climate Crisis Long Emergency.

First: Local food substantially reduces the amount of energy we use to grow, process and deliver that food to local consumers. Most of that energy is Oil. There is no possible smooth transition to renewable energy in Canada without a dramatic reduction in the total per capita usage of all forms of energy including all fossil fuels.

Second: Increasing local food production is the most effective way to increase food security. Only local food production can offset the rising costs of food by decreasing the leading inflationary costs of inputs to the industrial food supply ..namely oil itself and the use of fossil fuels to manufacture fertilizer needed to keep the yields up …enter permaculture regenerative farming practices where our local soil and water management become the building blocks for community resilience, food security and wellness as we celebrate at the annual POF.

Third: As we grow more of our own food locally, the local food supply chain begins to develop and more livelihoods and jobs are created. Local food becomes the key multiplier for economic localization and the creation of many more sustainable jobs. At first many of these jobs in the language of the 20th century are labours of love in contrast to traditional jobs, but the dynamics and politics are changing quickly as food insecurity has spread to poor and rich
nations and here in Peterborough; driven by COVID-19, disrupted global supply chains, the war in Ukraine, the rising price of gasoline and fertilizer to say nothing of the huge challenge to feed the homeless throughout North America including in Peterborough.

All three levels of government in Canada and all political parties support the global industrial food system and are failing everyone. None of them have a clear strategy or set of policies with respect to food security without the use of more fossil fuels as we move further and more dangerously into the Climate Change Long Emergency.

Fred Irwin Founding Director
Transition Town Peterborough Inc.