PEI is the only province in Canada without an abundance of natural resources. Therefore, our rich soil is one of our most profitable sources of capital. While fishing and tourism are a major part of the Island’s economy, without a doubt, agriculture is our primary industry.
In recent years, there has been a growing discord regarding the model of large-scale corporate farming used in the province, a practice that is wreaking havoc on our soil and – combined with the increasing demand for more acres of productive land – is putting the prospect of getting into farming further out of reach for future generations.
PEI is known internationally as Canada’s ‘food island’ yet, according to a 2018 study by Statistics Canada, 23 percent of Island children live in food insecure households. With so much food production, why is this happening?
The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred many negative spinoffs, the most ominous to date being rising food and energy prices, which in turn has prompted many younger couples to want to return to the land and grow their food or start small organic farms. In a basic lesson of supply and demand, increased corporate demand means even higher land prices, thus putting even more obstacles in the path of people who in the future may not have any other choice but to grow their own food in order to feed their families.
As Islanders, we must ask ourselves if the current model of industrial agriculture is in the best interests of our soil, or even sustainable for such a small landmass over the long term. PEI is already unique in many ways. Becoming the first fully-organic jurisdiction in Canada (or the world for that matter) would make our position on the map that much stronger.
Imagine, if you will, tourists visiting Abegweit not only to marvel at our world-famous beaches and stunning vistas, but to see and buy produce from the hundreds of small organic farms dotting the pastoral countryside.
A great initiative would be to set up plants in each county that bottle, pickle and freeze Island-grown organic products which then are shipped around the globe. Furthermore, with increased organic farming, the use of and demand for pesticides will decrease considerably.
(Mr McGarry has written extensively on agricultural issues and has been involved in blueberry growing. Reference: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-children-food-insecurity-1.4722007)