With some grocery store shelves empty and people at home self isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic, a passion for food security seems to be growing.
Seed sales are slightly up at Azalea Garden Centre and the owner of Alpine Plant World has also noticed an increase in interest for seeds.
“Yes there has been a run on seeds, seed potatoes, and other garden supples since mid March,” said George Horlings. “Seeds are the new toilet paper. Partly driven by a stronger interest in growing food as well as people having more time at home and having something to do with the kids”
He added he’s having a hard time keeping them in stock.
“My main seed rack which is West Coast Seeds in Delta is completely over run. They are running out of seeds, seed packets….. Normally I can order a restock on Monday and receive the seed in the mail on Wednesday. Now it is taking two weeks to get an order and when it arrives half the seed is not available.”
Laurie Gallant with the Northwest BC Food Action Network said this recent pandemic is shedding a light on the need for food security.
For the past three years the network has been hosting and organizing food secretary forums and she said there was a lot of interest from people who were already involved in food security but she had hard time attracting the interests of local government and influencing policy.
“I think now that it is a real situation, it is one of the top five concerns because it is a basic need and local government is getting more interested. We are seeing a trend around the province towards needing access to land for community gardens.”
The network has some ideas and strategies for improving food security in Smithers including designing in the infrastructure for food security as we develop our communities.
“Why can’t it a be mandatory whenever a new residence is built there is space to grow a garden? Not just a green space but space to grow. And maybe have food storage space, every new apartment or multi residential complex, maybe there needs to be a bylaw that you have to build in a root cellar for it,” she said.
She is also hoping the mindset on what food is also changes. While Farmers’ Markets have been deemed an essential service, there are now strict guidelines on what they can sell and flowers aren’t on the list.
“What they define as a food product is very different than what a real avid food grower would define as food,” she said.
She was talking to a friend who is a flower and birch syrup producer and he said restrictions on flowers are moving in the wrong direction because flowers aren’t just ornamental. He said a lot of them are medicinal, they are edible and they can be companion plants for other vegetables and just blanket saying no flowers for sale, people are missing out on all of those things that are so important.
People are now asking her for advice on where to buy chickens or starter plants.
“The local nurseries don’t have them so people are going right to the source and that is a reflection of concern. There are shortages everywhere because people are buying more than normal. I think in future years business will plan better for it but this year it was short notice. No one could predict the demand this year. There is a shortfall in supply for the do-it-yourselfers.”
While people are thinking of growing or raising their own food, Gallant wants to remind people that is only part of the food security puzzle .
“You have to produce it, process it, distribute it, people need to be able to access it and then they are consuming it and then you need to recover the food waste and then cycle that back into the land to grow more food,” she said. “Sometimes we forget there is an eco system for food security. If you just focus on one part of it without thinking about the other parts we still won’t get food security. It is important we strengthened every part. We need seeds, we need root cellars, we need space for community gardens all of those parts are just as important as teaching people how to garden.”