Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Production Research
The never-ending pile


November 30, 1999
By Marg Land


Topics

My world is full of piles. Now, before you all start snickering, I don’t mean THOSE kinds of piles.

My world is full of piles. Now, before you all start snickering, I don’t mean THOSE kinds of piles. I’m talking about the plural form of what the Canadian Oxford Dictionary describes as a heap of items, articles or whatever, laid or gathered upon one another.

At home I have piles of clothes to launder and put away, piles of dishes to wash, piles of papers to sort, piles of mail to open, piles of bills to pay, piles of hay to stack, piles of feed bags to lug, piles of manure to haul, and piles of trouble to keep my children out of. At work, I have piles of papers to file, piles of reports to read, piles of magazines to organize, piles of paperwork to fill out, and piles of articles to write. And in my mind, I have piles of ideas to sort through.

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Lately, I’ve had another pile growing: books to read. In a moment of temporary insanity, I decided that I just didn’t have enough to do in my life and I should tackle the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, an imposing list of literature compiled by Dr. Peter Boxall, a professor of English at the University of Sussex. And while I have a bit of a head start (I’ve actually read about 60 of the books on the list already), I still have 941 to go and a deadline steadily ticking away. I also have the daunting task of sourcing out these literary gems, which have titles such as Dead Babies, Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, The Invention of Curried Sausage and Willard and His Bowling Trophies. Who knew such books even existed? I’m being helped in my search by some fantastic, online used booksellers based in the U.K. who sell and ship books really cheap, especially to the colonies. And so the piles of books at my bedside and on my bookshelves grow higher.

So, what does all of this talk about piles, books and reading have to do with fruit and vegetable production?

Well, according to John Clement, the general manager of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO), there’s a pile of paper growing regarding the present and future of Canada’s food strategy. In the past, the CFFO has added to the tower of ideas with its report, Goals for an Ontario Food Strategy. And recently, the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) – described as an independent, unbiased policy forum – added its hefty tome to the top. Entitled Canada’s Agri-Food Destination, the 101-page report describes how “falling profitability, lost opportunity and declining relevance are impairing Canada’s ability to capitalize on the tremendous opportunities that lie ahead” in the agri-food sector.

“The status quo is unacceptable,” CAPI officials state. “Canada’s agri-food industry has the natural and human resources to do much better – yet Canada risks sleeping right through its greatest potential.”

The institute describes its report as a wake-up call for the country at a time when food imports into Canada are rising and sets some ambitious targets for 2025:

  • to double Canada’s dollar value of agri-food exports to $75 billion (currently just under $39 billion)
  • to produce and supply more than 75 per cent of our own food (currently 68 per cent)
  • to have more than 75 per cent of the agri-food sector rely on biomaterials and/or biofuels to develop new revenues or reduce expenses.

“We need consumers here and abroad to choose Canadian food,” said Gaetan Lussier, chair of CAPI.

While I applaud the institute’s enthusiasm for increasing Canadians’ consumption of domestic products and battling imports, I question its idea of increasing exports. Many Canadian producers have tried to tackle that pile only to be shut out by protectionism, shipping costs and price undercutting by producers in other countries.  I think sticking close to home and supplying our own citizens is a wiser and more profitable idea.

Meanwhile, CAPI is urging industry, government and other stakeholders to respond to the report and provide feedback on how best to implement the suggested changes. Those interested in doing so can visit the institute’s website at www.capi-icpa.ca .

I wish the group the best with its ideas and hope not too much dust settles on that pile before something is accomplished.