National Film Board production focuses on PEI's potential to go organic

 

Organic farms dot the landscape of Prince Edward Island, but so too do conventional farms and there is a growing movement to change that.

The hope and possibility of becoming an organic Island is a conversation being had more and more and Belfast film maker, Milliefore Clarkes, recently produced a film adding to the conversation.

Island Green looks at the changes in family farming on PEI through the eyes of several organic farmers.

Ms Clarkes said the switch is already happening.

"It's already naturally happening. Close to all of the young farmers are going into organic and a lot of conventional farmers are at least converting a portion of their farm to organic because there is market value there," she said.

Yet, it won't happen tomorrow.

"A lot of conventional farmers are beholden to Cavendish and McCains and they are really locked into this system that's pretty hard to get out of," she said.

That being said, things can change and Ms Clarkes herself had her eyes opened during the production of the film.

"I didn't understand what it took to be a farmer. Where my food comes from is so much more important now," she said.

That is the trend for many people, said the owner of Organic Veggie Delivery, Aaron Koleszar.

Mr Koleszar sees more and more customers wanting to know where their food comes from, and the idea of the Island going organic is a good one, he said.

"I think that would be great. It would take political will that's not there right now though," he said.

Mr Koleszar worked for organic farmers for years and in 2007 he noticed things coming back from the market unsold and they were perfectly good, but where was the market for them, he wondered.

"I'm a link between the people who eat the food and the people who grow it," he said.

Depending on the season, Mr Koleszar's customers get weekly or bi-weekly boxes filled with fresh produce as well as local products such as honey and cider.

Local of course is what drives the organic market, but in the film organic farmer Margie Loo talks about the importance of soil preservation.

She said when farming practices changed back in our grandparents time the soil was healthy and conventional farming practices were thought to be better because yields were bigger in the beginning. But, after so many years of depleting the soil, yields fell and farmers became dependent on chemicals, not the soil to keep them up.

This can be turned around and that is the message of the film.

Ms Clarkes said making this film showed her how things can be different and that's what she hopes for the audience.

"We have this unique position on PEI. We are at a crossroads, but we have the potential to write our own future instead of going the way international markets are pushing us. It's not necessarily going 100 per cent organic, maybe there is another option, but at the very least to realize we have the potential to make decisions about the way our land is managed," she said.

The film is a production of the National Film Board and will be online for viewing in May 2014 at http://www.nfb.ca

Ms Clarkes will be holding two public screenings early in the New Year in the Charlottetown area.

 

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