World renowned animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin was in town last night and I had the privilege to attend her talk along with most of the Urban Digs team. As usual, she was compelling, inspiring and engaging. Something she said has stuck with me since last night.... "Big is fragile."
The vast majority of the food produced in the world comes out of large-scale, resource intensive systems. Increasingly, we are seeing the cracks and vulnerabilities in these systems. Large mono-crop farms lose entire crops to drought/disease/storms/etc. Conventional pig farms are grappling with a highly infections virus that kills entire litters of piglets. We've seen the devastating effects of the avian flu virus on the big chicken farms in the Fraser Valley.
Dr. Grandin offered a couple of examples where large operations had been completely devastated by storms. It made me think back to a dark and stormy night in November when the roof was blown off the chicken barn at a friend's farm. I grabbed my son and a generator and drove out there as fast as I could. By the time I arrived, there were already some other friends with their kids. Then more generators, friends and neighbours arrived to help. We managed to save almost all the chickens.
We hear "small-scale agriculture can't feed the world" a lot these days. In reality, it is the only thing that can. A regional food system made up of small farms producing food for their communities is the only way to truly have food security. The resilience that comes with small, diversified systems is exactly what we need as we face the growing challenges associated with climate change, disease resistance, unstable economies etc. The fact is that "big-ag" is unsustainable which means, quite literally, that we won't have a world to feed if we keep this up.
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