I drive a pickup and run a farm smaller than some rich folks' yards, so perhaps I am not qualified to speak as an expert on supply chains. My small amount of time on the road was spent getting to comedy shows, and while art keeps people going, it doesn’t really keep them fed. So I did my duty and hung out in the Robin’s parking lot drinking coffee at 7 p.m. and smoking (darts) to see the Trucker Convoy. An easy 20 vehicles made it to the highway to cheer on the convoy, and whoever might be in it.
In a community where activism is generally absent, this is a sincere sign people care. Many folks – some of whom many wrinkle their noses at pinko-commie-left-wing-keyboard warriors like me – have decided now is the time for activism. Since the rally has started it has morphed into many different discussions. Their $4.4+million go-fund-me is the subject of hot debate, along with others including: where Erin O’Toole sits on the matter, what to do about Trudeau, will this be like the 6th, how does foreign American money fit in to the equation. There are rabbit holes in every direction, none of which give a serious look at what this was all supposed to be about – the supply chain.
We know this dance.
It doesn’t take too many winters in the Codroy Valley to know that the supply chains to Newfoundland are sketchy at best. So, too, for St. John’s, which is certainly higher in the triage list administered by shipping and retail companies, but still well below feeding Ontario or Quebec. Supply chains need to move to remain profitable, and the ports and the airports of the island very often stand still.
Grocery shelves being empty when a boat doesn’t show up is part of life on the island. When it gets really bad, things like medical isotopes and medication run short. And then this fall we lost the roads.
I live on a road with a dead-end at the community pasture and spent several days ‘trapped’ on the other side of a wash out. The introvert in me rejoiced, but the smoker in me was getting very nervous.
Thanks to the efforts of the Codroy Valley Volunteer Fire Department, heavy equipment operators like Popey, and wildly helpful neighbors, things got cleaned up fairly fast. Some areas that had long needed an upgrade got the proper sized culvert they would need.
But the Valley ran out of milk and eggs, and that got me asking some very hard questions about our supply chains.
Our supply chains are dumb. There. I said it.
We live on an island that gets five (5) months of winter in the North Atlantic, and the biggest airport is in a city with over 200 days of fog a year. Slowly, over decades, we have replaced locally manufactured products and grown food with those from away. While this is the core of many of our problems, it’s also very hard to blame folks for finding ways to feed their family. I cannot begrudge anyone for spending their household budget on groceries at Wal-Mart. Food is expensive, wages aren’t rising as fast as the cost of food, so folks are doing what they've got to do.
What I do begrudge is government policies that have made us less safe and removed us from our food. Milk and eggs perfectly sing this story of woe.
While the Valley has many dairy cows – and breeders and hay fields and silage storage, etc. – the milk is not processed on the island. Milk produced on the west coast is shipped to the mainland to be mixed and processed with other dairies around the country. The milk then is shipped back to Newfoundland. There are financial reasons for such an arrangement; this is the most profitable set up for the players involved. It also explicitly makes us less food secure, and when the roads washed out, so too were thousands of liters of milk, washed away for being ‘not safe for human consumption’.
This is not a secure food system.
Eggs ran out too. Well, depending on who you know eggs ran out. Eggs didn’t vanish from the Valley; they just stopped getting shipped in. So the stores ran out of eggs.
Well – hold on – why can’t those small farmers bring their eggs to the stores? What a great opportunity to give valuable retail space to small farmers for once! Well, eggs sold at a farmers market or straight from the farmer can’t be sold in stores. Why? Because that’s for big local egg producers.
Local stores have even been fined for providing fresh eggs directly.
Up end and localize supply chains.
So there are many people all across the country who are concerned about government overreach. It has impacted our supply chains nationally, and honestly, many of those supply chains should be broken.
Milk gets flushed. Small farms are kept off of the shelves. Farmers aren’t allowed to have more than 99 chickens without first asking Country Ribbon, a Nova Scotia Ag conglomerate (they will tell you no). And every major farm and major retailer is showered with public subsidies.
We do need to protect our supply chains, but that work must happen at home.