Cambridge Dictionaries describes the meaning of “Perception” as “a thought, belief or opinion, often held by many people and based on appearances”. I’m old enough to remember a time when we left the tap running while brushing our teeth. As a kid, I remember the commercials that started to appear on our 13 channel TV asking us all to turn the tap off while brushing. We were wasting a valuable commodity that others around the world badly needed. I even remember my dad “talking back” to the commercials saying “How does me turning the tap off while brushing help someone on the other side of the globe have more water?” When you live in a bountiful country like Canada, it’s easy for perceptions of abundance to form. My father was a wonderful, giving man but back in the 70s living on the “wet coast” in Vancouver it was hard to connect the dots when it came to global water issues. Today, graduates in agriculture and/or environmental fields will tell you all about the “water footprint” a commodity or product has by the time it hits your table. For example a Kg of bread has an average water footprint 1608 litres from the conception of the ingredients to the finished product at your table. Fresh water is now becoming extremely scarce in many parts of Africa, Asia, South America and Australia and as more people move to urban centers, there is that much more pressure on the fresh water supplies even here in North America.
So today we turn off the tap knowing now more than ever, we live in a global village where everything we do affects everyone else around the world. A drought in one part of the world can affect commodity prices around the world, a war in a distant land can affect the markets around the world, an avian flu or mad cow breakout halfway around the world still ends up affecting us here and so should we expect that wasting food here in North America affects others around the world. As with my father in the 70s it’s not so easy to connect the dots here with such an abundance of food all around us but the reality is that while we produce enough to feed the world, we waste an incredible amount leaving those in poverty around the world struggling each day for fractions of what we throw away. The experts say roughly 40% of food from farm to the consumer is wasted and the solution isn’t so easy. Or is it?
While the ink is barely dry on the 50 year lease between Starfield Center (the 40 acre greenhouse project) and the Town of Magrath, I have been in talks with the boys from AgSpectra for over 2 years now. I’ve shared my frustrations with the waste I have witnessed in the grocery business over the last 25 years and they expressed they have a solution. This solution is very different from the conventional way we get our food. To start rather than using fresh water, Starfield Center will clean the town runoff water and use it for irrigation. Using a variety of heating sources from solar and geothermal to biofuel heating systems, these futuristic greenhouses will grow fresh fruits, vegetables and berries year round. Enough to supply all of us in the area so outside of the odd tropical product, nothing will have to be flown hundreds or even thousands of miles and stored for weeks in warehouses before heading to your table. In fact, you won’t have to drive anywhere to get it. Ordering on line, you can have it delivered to your home within hours of being picked!
Imperfect products combined with culled products will be used to make everything from baby food to pies and excess will go to our meals on wheels program, student lunches and possibly a food program for low income families. The entire system is designed to be closed loop and zero waste. Imagine living in a community where your children and seniors can get nutritious meals that are heavily subsidised, and you can get the freshest, most nutritious food available without having to leave your house. Everyone gets fed without wasting food and polluting the environment and all the while, making a difference in balancing the struggles with food and water waste. Nelson Mandella once said “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” We here in Magrath have the opportunity to be that great generation and I’m proud to be a part of it with all involved. Starfield Center, Agspectra and you my customers and friends. See you in the bright future...See you at Roosters!