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Growing concerns on food production skills

It is always interesting when you meet someone for a story interview, but end up discussing past column opinions.

It is always interesting when you meet someone for a story interview, but end up discussing past column opinions.That was the case recently when I met with Warren Crossman, a founding member of Assiniboine Food Security Alliance, a fledgling organization which is seeking non-profit status. The new group is looking at ways to ensure local food security which entails focusing attention on creating strong direct ties between area food producers and consumers. Crossman said it is the organization's view that such connections can build a greater appreciation of where food comes from, and for the producer, reinforces an understanding of who they are producing food for.It's a theme touched on in this space in the past.Experiences, stretching back to 1972 when this writer attended the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, have clearly shown a growing segment of the population has not just lost direct contact with farms, but have lost an understanding of where food actually comes from.Milk doesn't come from a carton. It comes from a cow's udder, at least in the majority of cases in this country. There is far more to getting a glass of milk to pour over your breakfast cereal than making the spout work on the carton. Milking a cow may not be a required skill which we need to learn these days, but understanding the role of a cow and the farmer in producing milk should be.There is also a growing concern that in general terms we are losing our food production skills.Crossman and I discussed how an upcoming event the new Yorkton group is planning will include speakers on some rather basic gardening skills, including how to save seed from one year to the next, and the general skills of planting and maintaining a garden.Again I've written about that in the past. It was not so long ago every home in the city would have committed their backyards to a garden. Today it's more like a deck, gazebo, flowers, grass, stones, anything but food.As we have abandoned growing a garden, how to make jams, freeze vegetables, make pickles and in general preserve what a garden produces is being lost too. I wonder how many people under the age of 30 could can fruit, pickles and freeze vegetables?In a world where too many people, even in a city like Yorkton, go to bed hungry, learning how to grow our own food is perhaps the quickest way to solving the problem.While of course we live in a country where the idea of raising animals for food in a city are now foreign, it is not so long ago an area no larger than a city backyard would have been enough for a goat, a few chickens and rabbits, which would translate into milk, eggs and meat for a family.I wonder if a few chickens in a garage would be worse than a couple of Great Dane dogs and a bevy of cats, which most cities do allow?Somehow it is allowable to keep pets, but feeding ourselves must be left to others.With the growing disconnect of consumers from the knowledge of food production, and the inability of a growing urban population to even consider basic food production, crammed into condos and apartments as we are, dealing with hunger directly is increasingly difficult.So when an organization such as Assiniboine Food Security Alliance comes along with ideas to teach basic gardening, and are formulating plans for a community garden, and similar direct food ideas, it has to be applauded.As Crossman suggested the percentage of food consumers in a city like Yorkton which is actually grown locally is likely in the five per cent range at best. Considering the province was first populated by farmers growing food, that makes no sense at all.It will be a major undertaking to increase the percentage, but it still must start some place, and those behind AFSA are at least willing to make the effort, and that is a good thing.