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Real food is a smelly business

It's been a fishy week, but instead of reeking, it has the sweet smell of possibility and hope for the future.

It's been a fishy week, but instead of reeking, it has the sweet smell of possibility and hope for the future. Talking with people who either sell fish or raise fish and are trying to do so in a way that is sustainable and consciously aware of our global environment reminded me of the value of a single person's actions. As consumers, it's everyone's individual responsibility to ask questions and ask for better choice. Doing so gives us the power to change the status quo. The best example of that is the growing availability of organic foods - everything from baby food to a bag of potatoes, foods that just a few years ago could be found only at specialty stores at prices beyond most average earners' means. Knowing where our foods come from is an important step in taking responsibility and being aware that what we eat affects many more lives than our own.

As consumers, we have a lot of power to create change. We determine the market by the choices we make and our demand for different choices. Willingness to create change has to go hand-in-hand with willingness to compromise, take risks, alter or modify standards of living and, if necessary, choose to go without. Many of us pay lip service to the transformations we say we want to see in the way we live locally and globally. We want a cleaner environment, foods that don't add to environmental damage and degradation and more food security. To get from where we are to where we want to be means we need to start asking questions. We need to be willing to do without a favourite food and, even more importantly, to shift from an attitude of "this is great, but I don't want it in my backyard" to "how can we have this in our backyard?" Whether it's growing potatoes or raising fish, feeding ourselves is not an easy, sanitized or sweet-smelling endeavour. Raising food can be smelly, noisy and unsightly.

Developing or increasing our ability to feed ourselves in a sustainable, environmentally sound, economically viable manner that also increases a community's food security means we need to ask ourselves some tough questions and be willing to fight to keep what we have and demand what we don't. We should know, and if we don't, we should ask if the fish we are eating is killing the species off or killing the long-term livelihood of someone else's community. We should want to have a sturgeon farm in our backyard even if it does increase the noise levels somewhat if that farm means doing our part in working at saving a fish species. If it is an environmentally intelligent operation in that it conserves energy and maximizes the use of what it raises, means that people work closer to where they live to cut down on fuel and processes what it raises to further cut down on transportation needs, then we should welcome that endeavour with open arms.

We should fight with all we have to make sure we can walk down the road to our neighbourhood farm and buy a healthy, happy chicken if we want to. I'm not buying into the food safety argument attached to the new meat regulations that will kill farm gate operations. We've already seen the limitations current regulations have. They don't guarantee beyond any doubt there will never be a problem.

To whom would you rather trust your life? The large regulated operation or the farm down the road and the people who know your name and your children's names and see you not only as a customer, but more importantly, as their neighbour and a part of their community.