In January we held a staff education night, and were honoured to have Kris Vester of Blue Mountain Biodynamic Farm provide his insight and wise words on farming, the food system, and its environmental impact. Our relationship with Blue Mountain goes all the way back to 1999 when we first began selling their produce at the store. We're grateful for the inspiration Kris and his wife Tamara have provided over the years. Here's a little bit of the information Kris shared with us that night.
The Importance of Diversity in the Food System
Diversity is an important survival strategy, and this applies to the food system as well. Through diversity the earth has an abundance of ecosystems that are able to evolve and adapt into a place where life can thrive. The farm itself should be thought of no differently, yet the modern agricultural system finds itself on the opposite end of diversity. The majority of food today comes from massive monocultural systems that lack the diversity necessary to produce a flourishing ecosystem.
As Kris pointed out, in the last 100 years we've gone from having copious varieties of seeds to privileging a select few. Think of the apple: before the turn of the 20th century, there were 1000's of apple varieties actively being cultivated. Today, you'll only find four or five in most grocery stores. The downside of apple orchards existing in a monoculture is that the apple trees loose the genetic diversity they rely on to survive disease. Thus, they become prone to viruses and pests, and require more and more pesticides to survive. If you look at a list of which crops require the most pesticides, you'll find apples have been the number one offender for the last five years.
This monocultural system of agriculture simply isn't sustainable.