In Nova Scotia a growing number of consumers are seeking alternatives to foods produced unethically, unsustainably, and in places far away. The factory farming methods that have become standard sources of food in Canada are bad for animals, bad for the environment, and as we've seen in the cases of outbreaks at XL and Maple Leaf Foods, bad for people.
Although the local food movement is rapidly gaining strength, many of the regulations enforced by our provincial and national governments make it difficult for small farmers to meet the growing demand for healthy alternatives. Quota systems, production regulations, and marketing restrictions designed to oversee and protect large food production facilities make it next to impossible for alternative farming and marketing methods to flourish.
The governments have taken the patronizing position that consumers are not intelligent enough to decide what is safe to eat and how they would like it to be produced. While the governments glean tax dollars from the sale of known deadly products such as cigarettes, they have criminalized the sale of unpasteurized milk, despite the known health benefits. Farmers cannot sell freshly processed meat unless it has passed through a government inspected facility and consumers cannot choose to buy meat from animals raised by any method that deviates from the government's narrow ideal. That same ideal condones the combining of flesh or milk from thousands of animals produced at hundreds of farms as a safe method of food production. That same ideal allows animals to be raised in filthy feedlots and tiny cages, sometimes without room to turn around.
If small farmers are not allowed to produce and market food utilizing alternative methods of growing, processing, and selling, consumers will be denied the ability to support local enterprise and contribute to ethical, sustainable and environmentally responsible production. Small farmers should be encouraged to produce and sell freely and consumers should be allowed to choose where they spend their dollars. Let consumers decide what's fit to eat by visiting farms, talking to producers, and choosing the products that align with their values and their communities.
Food safety is important, but at the small farm level and in a local market it should be regulated by the consumer, not the government. Small farmers can't afford lawsuits or bad reputations... while those things are challenges and annoyances for a large producer, they spell bankruptcy for community-based producers. Governments must put more trust in their citizens and act now to make local food production and marketing easy for the farmers and accessible for the consumers. To that end, we ask the Government of Nova Scotia to encourage transparency, redirect tax dollars away from regulation and towards education, and lift restrictions that make it costly, cumbersome and criminal for small farmers to feed their communities. It's time our food came from next door instead of half way around the planet and it's time our food dollars stay at home.