Larkin Schmiedl's Blog

Journalist at work

Posts Tagged ‘Food

Colonialism and food

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I am interested in bringing the effects of colonialism (and work on de-colonization) into my work on food.  I want to consider how colonization has affected diet, how this links to culture and health, how it relates to power, and ultimately how it relates to interaction with/use of the land in terms of both agricultural practices, gathering and hunting practices and plant life in non-agricultural spaces.

Colonialism has drastically shifted food practices on the landscape many of us now know as ‘Canada’, and in our local area here in Kamloops.  I’d like to know as much as possible about the topic both in general and specific terms.

There is lots of knowledge about this topic out there, and it’s something I know some about already.

I have asked readers the question “How does (and did) colonialism affect food? I want to hear your thoughts.”

And here are some responses….

  • “Colonialism changed the diets of the societies that were colonized to their detriment. When you drastically alter the food of a society you are then subjecting your “acceptable” practices onto them, and the ill health effects that come with it!”
  • “Over-processed foods are creating epidemics in indigenous communities: diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc. all have roots in Western diets that are high in grain and sugar consumption.  Here in the Columbia River Gorge (the river between Washington and Oregon), the colonists built a series of dams that swelled the river to create hydro power. It also flooded natural falls (Celilo) where, for hundreds of generations, indigenous people would go to catch salmon during the season for such a thing. Now the salmon population has been decimated, which has affected the culture, the food system, and the ecosystem.  [It’s a] big effing deal.”
  • “Neocolonialism in the form of “international development” has forced North American farming techniques (nitrogen-based fertilizers, nuclear family farms, factory farms) onto “developing” nations, disrupting cultural practices, local agricultural knowledge, and land use patterns. Countless were forced out of subsistence farming, where they shared generations worth of local know-how, into cash crop farming. Instead of growing their own food, people who used to know the land they lived on are forced to buy food that is often priced according to a global economy they never consented to being a part of.”
  • “They slaughtered 60 million wild buffalo, almost to extinction to raise inferior cattle like brainless idiots!”
  • “The process of colonialism included killing off the buffalo not just for hides, not just for profit, but to wipe out the indigenous communities. In 1873, Secretary of the Interior Columbus Delano said “The civilization of the Indian is impossible while the buffalo remains upon the plains. I would not seriously regret the total disappearance of the buffalo from our western prairies, in its effect upon the Indians, regarding it as a means of hastening their sense of dependence upon the products of the soil and their own labors.”
    A year later In 1874, Delano testified before Congress, “The buffalo are disappearing rapidly, but not faster than I desire. I regard the destruction of such game as Indians subsist upon as facilitating the policy of the Government, of destroying their hunting habits, coercing them on reservations, and compelling them to begin to adopt the habits of civilization.”
  • “Enclosure of commons is a big deal too.”
  • “I am (hopefully) writing my PhD dissertation on this very topic (food sovereignty and colonialism)! Right now i’m thinking about things in terms of land and enclosure… farms were among the first enclosures on Vancouver Island, as land was surveyed, divided, sold, cleared, and farmed. The mechanization of farming allowed capitalist farmers to exploit farmland more intensively, and it was only the wealthiest growers who could afford the latest technology. That meant that smaller farmers got squeezed out… and we are still in that process today: the larger farms tend to rely on the exploitation of precarious migrant labour (primarily people of colour), they use high-tech machinery to maximize efficiency, and they use chemical fertilizers/pesticides (or tons of amendments in the case of organic agribusiness)… and they are all based on the enclosure and privatization of indigenous lands… but this history throws a wrench into a lot of the mainstream settler narratives of food sovereignty, which are often about a yearning for a return to the good ol’ days of the (white supremacist, patriarchal) family farm against the big bad corporation… so where does that leave us settler foodies who want to grow food here? What are our responsibilities/obligations? Can there be decolonizing settler farming practices?”
  • “Have you read “Empires of Food” by Fraser and Rimas? It looks at the historical development of food systems over the last 2,000 years or so; one of the stories I learned is of landless Tamils being brought to Sri Lanka in the 1800s to farm tea on plantations for the British – there was a major drought, as well as a recession in Britain that lowered the price of luxury imports, and tens of thousands of workers died because, despite being surrounded by tea, there was no food to eat.”
  • “We (Europeans) brought diabetes amongst other things. We took tomatoes, potatoes, corn, and we have lost countless foods because we have lost languages and the knowledge that they contain.”
  • “Colonialism influences our understanding of food and how it is distributed. Food as something you can (or cannot) afford and thus can or cannot eat. It’s produced and distributed through the free market and by huge corporations who operate based on profits and using people, farmers, the environment.”
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Written by larkinschmiedl

March 27, 2012 at 5:49 pm

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An unknown source of local food on campus?

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Local food, sustainability and fair trade have come to mainstream consciousness over the past few years, and as a result some businesses are shifting their policies.  Some others are trying to appear to be doing so.

I’ve been noticing these signs in the Terrace cafeteria at TRU over the past few weeks.

The posters are a part of Aramark’s “Green Thread” campaign, described by the company as part of its sustainable food initiative.

Aramark provides the food on a great number of different university campuses across North America, as well as in colleges, high schools, remote camps, businesses and more.

I wonder what action Aramark, the food company that runs almost all the food on campus at TRU, has taken on its stated commitments toward sustainability and local, organic and fair trade food?

In 2010 Aramark published a press release announcing it had received an award as one of Canada’s greenest employers.

It seems there is lots to learn, and I’d like to know more.

I wonder what percentage of Aramark's food is sourced within Canada? Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

"Whenever possible" depends partly on availability, and partly on the level of a company's priority toward sourcing local food. Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

How much local food is served in this cafeteria, and what is meant by 'sustainable'? Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

The Terrace, one of the main cafeterias on TRU's campus. Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

Written by larkinschmiedl

March 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm

The skeleton and the meat of local sustainability

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The direction of my story is coming together in its final form now, and I’m really excited about it.

The final project, due in nine days, is going to be looking at local sustainable food sources in Kamloops.  I’m going to be defining what sustainable means (or could mean), and looking at what policy is in place in the city around the issue and how it’s being implemented and used. I’m also going to be speaking to different ‘consumers’–likely one who places high value on eating local food and does so as much as possible, and then one other ‘average’ consumer.

With all of this, I hope to paint a picture of the sustainable food situation in Kamloops–what’s happening now, what the willpower for change may or may not be, and what possible future directions or avenues might be if the goal were sustainability.

Food production is, after all, the biggest use we make of our environment.  The way we produce food for ourselves is key to environmental health.

Over the next week I’ll be speaking with as many grocery stores and restaurants as I can to see what they have, and speaking with city councillors and analyzing food policy in the city.  I’ll also be seeking an acceptable definition of the concept of ‘sustainability’ when it comes to food, and looking at the Canada food pyramid where it all, in some form, is based, at least in theory.

Stay tuned for more, and please send on any suggestions, comments, questions or feedback.

Thanks for reading.

Written by larkinschmiedl

March 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Ethical food and the world of business: complications, compromises, priorities and dreams

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Christina Grono created, owns and manages The Art We Are, a local Kamloops café, restaurant and art gallery.

She is also my former boss.

As the owner of a restaurant who faces commercial pressures while striving to serve food that’s as local, organic and ethical as possible and also remaining affordable, I talked with her about the food her restaurant uses, what her personal ethics and goals are for the business, and what kinds of things come into question.

Here’s what she had to say:

Pt. 1

Pt. 2

The Art We Are making news

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Christina Grono, owner of The Art We Are, was interviewed by CBC's Rebecca Zandbergen on Radio West live Mar. 2 at The Art We Are. Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

The Art We Are is a colourful local coffee shop, restaurant and art gallery that strives to be a community hub for music, art, relaxing and making connections.

Owner Christina Grono was interviewed on site this past Friday Mar. 2, by CBC’s Rebecca Zandbergen of Radio West.

Grono described some of her philosophy behind the café on air.  “Everyone is welcome.  I just felt that if people could express themselves in a safe place, it spreads creativity and helps growth and helps community.”

“In my travels and going to other cities I felt like we needed a place where people could create community, where they could come at all hours and be able to just feel like they could come and read their book, and be here for eight hours if they wanted to be.”

The Art We Are is quite a unique business in Kamloops, both in terms of how it looks, and how it actually feels.

As part of my project on this food blog I’ll be interviewing Grono this Wednesday.  I’ll be looking at her philosophy behind her business, and how it coincides with the type of food The Art We Are uses.

I’ll be talking with her about some of the ethical issues that arise for her as someone who is both a conscientious consumer while also being constrained by the limits of running a business.

Stay tuned for more information on the interview coming up.

Christina Grono of The Art We Are interviewed by Rebecca Zandbergen of CBC's Radio West. Photo by Larkin Schmiedl.

Written by larkinschmiedl

March 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Organic produce coming to TRU

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A new source of food will be coming to students on campus at Thompson Rivers University this September.

The students’ union (TRUSU) is looking to start providing a “good food box,” coming hopefully from local organic producer Thistle Farm, for students who’d like to buy local and organic right on campus throughout the school year.

Food boxes are a common way local organic food is distributed throughout communities, as a convenient alternative to the farmer’s market and grocery stores. The boxes are usually delivered to a customer’s home or to a central pick-up location.

TRUSU would like campus to become that location.

Nathan Lane, executive director of TRUSU, said TRUSU is looking at installing refrigeration facilities in order to store the food, and perhaps to store fresh food like carrots for the food bank as well.

The food boxes would be sold at cost.

Lane said the students’ union is set on providing food boxes starting in September, and the only contingency is confirmation of a contract with Thistle Farm.

Thistle Farm provides weekly boxes to around 100 customers locally, and an additional 50 bi-weekly.

The boxes come in different sizes with the small providing enough produce and fruit for one person for a week.

Deb Kellogg, co-owner of Thistle Farm, said the boxes contain 100 per cent locally-grown organic vegetables in the summer, alongside some fruit from the Okanagan and some imported tropical fruit. In the winter, the boxes are one-third locally grown.

Customers can choose whether they want a box of produce, fruit, or a mix of the two.

A small box goes for $20.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

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“What is perhaps most troubling, and sad, about industrial eating is how thoroughly it obscures all these relationships and connections. To go from the chicken (Gallus gallus) to the Chicken McNugget is to leave this world in a journey of forgetting that could hardly be more costly, not only in terms of the animal’s pain but in our pleasure, too. But forgetting, or not knowing in the first place, is what the industrial food chain is all about, the principal reason it is so opaque, for if we could see what lies on the far side of the increasingly high walls of our industrial agriculture, we would surely change the way we eat.
“Eating is an agricultural act,” as Wendell Berry famously said. It is also an ecological act, and a political act, too. Though much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world–and what is to become it. To eat with a fuller consciousness of all that is at stake might sound like a burden, but in practice few things in life can afford quite as much satisfaction. By comparison, the pleasures of eating industrially, which is to say eating in ignorance, are fleeting. Many people today seem perfectly content at the end of an industrial food chain, without a thought in the world; this book is probably not for them. There are things in it that will ruin their appetites. But in the end this is a book that is about the pleasures of eating, the kinds of pleasures that are only deepened by knowing.”

– Michael Pollan

Written by larkinschmiedl

February 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm

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