By Marg Land
B.C. celebrates year of the potato, first harvest
The International Year of the Potato is one more
reason for British Columbians to celebrate agriculture in 2008.
June 4, 2008, Victoria, B.C. – The United Nations-designated International Year of the Potato is one more reason for British Columbians to celebrate agriculture in 2008, Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell announced recently during the official B.C. launch of the global awareness campaign.
| Minister Bell and MLA for|
Delta-South Val Roddick celebrate the UN International Year of the
Potato with children from Duncan's Khowhemun Elementary School and the
Stillwell Cup, which was won by B.C. in New York, 1911, for having the
best potatoes in North America.
“Our province has a rich history of farming, and supporting our agriculture industry is more important than ever before,” said Bell. “British Columbia is fortunate to have one of the earliest potato harvests in the country, providing a great way to launch the Year of the Potato, a designation of global significance that reminds us all of how important agriculture is to sustaining our way of life.”
The United Nations recently declared 2008 the International Year of the Potato to raise awareness of the importance of the potato and agriculture in general in addressing issues that concern the whole planet: hunger, poverty and threats to the environment. Because of the tuber’s remarkable nutritional benefits and ability to thrive in a variety of climates, its cultivation is a possible solution to rising food costs in many parts of the world.
The province’s kick-off event launched the B.C. Fresh campaign to promote the early harvest of the “new potato,” a very popular, locally grown nugget potato of the Warba variety. B.C. Fresh is the new name for the Lower Mainland Vegetable Distributors, which is 100 per cent grower owned and operated.
“The government goal of reconnecting people with their food source through promotion of local foods is an admirable one,” said Murray Driediger, president of B.C. Fresh. “Given our similar focus, this campaign should make great strides in creating agricultural awareness among British Columbians.”
At the launch, Bell and B.C. Fresh representatives had help from young students participating in the Spuds in Tubs Program. Spuds in Tubs is part of the B.C. Agriculture in the Classroom initiative, which teaches students the importance of agriculture by giving them hands-on experience growing potatoes for themselves.
“The Spuds in Tubs program has proved that kids have an interest in cultivating their own healthy foods,” said Amie Uzzell, a teacher at Duncan’s Khowhemun Elementary School whose class participates in Agriculture in the Classroom. “The children are very enthusiastic about it, which is encouraging to us, as adults and educators, because we can see that positive connection between food and food source being made for them at a very young age.”
The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands outlined its goal of reconnecting B.C. youth with the source of their food in the B.C. Agriculture Plan: Growing a Healthy Future for B.C. Families . The purpose is to educate youth across the province in order to close the gap between rural and urban values that has widened in past decades.
“It’s absolutely imperative that awareness and education efforts focus on the new generation of British Columbians,” said Val Roddick, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Planning and Delta South MLA. “Too many young people in this province are eating their cereal in the morning with no thought to where the milk actually comes from. If we can remind everyone how important local food production is to our way of life, we can change those attitudes.”
The potato is being celebrated because it is one of the most hardy and adaptable crops in the province. Although B.C. varies in climate and geography, more than 35 varieties of potatoes are cultivated here each year. In total, B.C. produced 203 million pounds of potatoes in 2007, at a total farm value of $50.4 million. Ninety-five per cent of the potatoes produced in B.C. supply local markets.