Monday, July 16, 2012

 

Seniors Scene

All Aboard the Veggie Train!

Arable land reclamation marketing and transport

Submitted by Myrtle Macdonald, Chilliwack

 

want to emphasize two major points that seem to have missed by many people. First, Although the world is becoming overpopulated there is a massive amount of potentially arable land.

 

Now is the time to urge governments, businessmen and philanthropists to invest money to develop marginal land. They need to set up programs that will hire unemployed people at a good wage and with benefits, so that their dignity and future will benefit. There are many underemployed city folk who have warm memories of their grandfather's farm, but there is no way to buy it back or even get a job on it. However, unlike the hippies they could succeed, if hired as part of a well supervised program to reclaim a clear cut hillside or a sliding, eroding riverbank, to develop it into terraced market gardens or orchards.

As in China and Vietnam, the rubble in mountain valleys can be used to terrace hillsides. Some clear cut forests can be planted with indigenous trees and shrubs and others can become orchards. Little fields can be stabilized with rock walls and sloped for streams and springs to run through them evenly. Newcomers from SE Asia would more easily understand the skills needed, even if they don't think so, than US or Canadian born people. Workmen could be rewarded with a good wage and benefits, plus land titles for a half acre of land, after it has been producing legumes, fruit and vegetables for three years. This is development work that would require the joint effort of a group of people.

Second, It is Marketing Skills and Transportation that are needed to enable farmers to make a good living. Farmers are too short of income and too short-staffed to have time for the development of marketing and transportation programs. All look back with nostalgia at the days of having nearby rail service several times a day. There was a railway station at least every 10 miles. Now their luscious berries rot in the fields and their cherries and plums drop on the ground, while mammoth refrigerator trucks bring expensive strawberries and cantaloupe that look ripe, but are hard and tasteless and apples and cucumbers that are coated with wax, from thousands of miles away. The government spends unnecessary tax dollars on road widening, bridges and maintenance. Tourists stay away because of highway congestion and smog hiding the mountain scenery.

Holland and Switzerland have reclaimed much land. Why can't we? They have a network of light railways/trams. Why can't we? That would cost far less and pollute far less than trucks and SUV's. Some of our mayors and city councils want tax dollars to go to a network of light rail/tram service rather than to sky trains and undergrounds. The cost is far less.

Small refrigerated rail cars or container cars, owned by a visionary businessman or philanthropist could make a short stop every 10 miles for a scheduled weekly market, to buy and sell fresh fruit and vegetables. What is not sold could be refrigerated for sale at the next stop, or frozen in the car for sale in the winter. This could quickly become a self-supporting venture.
 

Some people believe that it is up to farmers themselves to develop better methods of marketing and transportation. My response is that the economy is such that the few farmers there are are overworked, understaffed and not making enough profit to finance better marketing methods for vegetables and fruit. Because Pillsbury bought out the Fraser Vale vegetable freezing industry, farmers could no longer make a living growing vegetables. Since then much fertile land is not used to grow such produce.

Help is needed from government and business to get fruit and vegetables to markets nearby and far away. Light rail transportation could help save the family farm. That could result in young families staying in farming. Continuing to live near cousins and aging relatives, results in a sense of belonging and community.

Did you see the Genie winning documentary "Last Train Home" filmed in China? (My grandson Mila Aung-Thwin was Producer.) It shows how the family is no longer bonded when children are left with grandma on the farm, while parents go to the city to work in a clothing factory. They send enough money home to keep their children in high school, but they get home only once a year for the New Year, and when they do, there no longer is any family cohesiveness, and daughter drops out of school to serve drinks at a night club.

Extended families do work together, but unfortunately because of low incomes on the farm, most sons, daughters, cousins, nieces and nephews have scattered to cities or industries in other provinces. Most are not making enough money to send any home. I have grandsons living in Regina. That is 425 km south of Saskatoon where their father and sister live. They have't been able to visit each other for years because of underemployment. Grand children and great grand children have never met their cousins. The extended family has fallen apart. Friends are lovely to have but when they have to move away they seldom continue a close relationship. Family relationships are more likely to be lifelong.

To feed the overpopulated world the extended families of farmers will need an adequate income so that they can have prosperous farms near one another, and not have to scatter to make a living. That means dividing acreages, but tiny farms can produce a lot of fruit and vegetables. Active District Agriculturists, Home Economists, Experimental Farms, 4H Clubs and Agricultural and School Fairs keep methods up-to-date and exciting. Marginal lands can be brought up in fertility and hillsides and valleys terraced to provide for new farming opportunities and ownership nearby.
 

 

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