Good Things Grow

I’m pleased to post a guest-blog from the Guitar Player. – -Hungrygirl

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It’s that time of year again when the jingle from a provincial government-sponsored ad appearing every year at this time gets stuck in my head. Promoting the availability of local fruits and vegetables, the happy refrain tells us that Good things gro-o-ow
in Ontario!

Is it any wonder we spend public funds to remind the us to consume (both as in “purchase” and “eat”) the short-lived annual harvest of local agricultural products? A recent Globe and Mail article focused on the plight of Ontario strawberries, emblematic of the entire predicament for local growers and economies. Ontario growing conditions can produce only one crop of strawberries per year. Each acre devoted to strawberries must “support itself” (that is, generate sufficient revenue to pay for its annual overhead costs and profits) with a single harvest. By comparison, Ontario’s major competitor, California, has 12 months of growing time per year, a continuous growing season resulting in multiple harvests and year-round exports of strawberries.

At a young age, I was conscientized about industrial agricultural business, union organizing, justice and fruits and vegetables by the United Farmworkers Union, led by Cesar Chavez. The union organized a North American boycott of California grapes and lettuce in support of their strike for basic wages and working conditions.

As an adult, I lived for several years in California. Like everyone, I loved the coast and the
Sierra Nevada mountain ranges that run the length of the state on its furthest western and eastern side. But I was equally intrigued by the Central Valley that lies between. This is the real breadbasket of (North) America. Because it is a desert, there is sunshine
365 days of the year and the absence of precipitation, which should have doomed the region for growing, was turned into an asset: all of the water is supplied through irrigation. Constant sun and water make for a stiff competitor for our local growing conditions and crops. But there is no comparison when it comes to taste and pleasure -once a year we get the real (local) thing.

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So, today we’re off for a little summer excursion, heading up to the Bruce Peninsula. We’re camping at Cape Croker, a park that is part of the expansive lands of the Nawash First Nation, indigenous to the Georgian Bay region. The idea is to procure local in-season produce and products by day and cook them on the open fire
by night. Pickerel and whitefish, a variety of vegetables and fruits, even jams and jellies, baking and preserves are anticipated. And of course, we’ll bring along some staples fresh-picked from my own rookie season of backyard gardening.

Like strawberries, we may yet discover that good things gro-o-ow in Ontario.

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