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By Mike Lushington
I wonder sometimes whether it isn't time for us to start taking control of our own lives again, here on the North Shore?
A couple of weeks ago, I concluded a two-part series of essays for this column on what I termed "a fantasy" concerning the future of our forests. Central to that fantasy was the idea that in reclaiming ownership of the forests - which belong to us in the first place - we just might, over time, begin to use them in ways that could sustain us over a very long time, while continuously renewing and restoring themselves.
Recently I walked through the aisles of one of the local grocery stores and did a quick mental check of the produce offered for sale. Most of the vegetables and some of the fruit offered for sale are varieties that we can - and some of us do - grow locally. The question arose, "Is there any good reason why we should be importing potatoes, carrots, peas, beans, squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, corn, beets, turnips, parsnips, zucchini, or chard - and paying the costs of transporting them - when we have a perfectly good climate, and ample space, to grow them here ourselves?"
The next time you drive up to Campbellton, take the old road - route 134. Notice the hundreds of acres of fields that stretch out, particularly on the south side of the road - and ask yourself how many of them could be easily converted to truck garden operations. Granted, this is private property, but I suspect that many landowners could be willing to consider having some of their property turned over - or, in many cases, back - into productive vegetable gardens. The same could be said for most of the area around Charlo, going back to Dundee and Balmoral, and on the other side of Campbellton, up towards Flatlands and beyond.
Does anyone have any idea of how many hundreds of tons of wild apples and other fruit simply fall to the ground every year, rather than harvested and turned into edible products?
How much of the beef we consume each year locally could be grown locally? What about lamb, or pork, or poultry?
I grant that the effort to reclaim independence in matters of food source would not be easy, nor would it happen overnight. But it can be done, given the will to work. I really believe that we need a sustained Cooperative Movement here on the North Shore - one that would provide structure, information, and a systematic marketing agency for all sorts of products from our forests and from our agricultural lands. Given this sort of movement, it might very well be that, ten or fifteen years down the road, people here would begin to realise a certain self-sufficiency; it may very well mean that young people would have a reason to consider staying here after school to work.
At the very least, a sense of self-sufficiency, of independence, would engender pride in the area and in what we are capable of doing - and that is a virtue that is all too often lacking right now.
Do you have any idea?