{Disarmed} Re: Confirmation: Your Registry Merges


Language: Use and Comprehension


I just told a fly to “bug off”.

Profit versus Not for Profit


Dan Pollatta makes some interesting points in his talk below.

… we don’t like nonprofits to use money to incentivize people to produce more in social service. We have a visceral reaction to the idea that anyone would make very much money helping other people. Interesting that we don’t have a visceral reaction to the notion that people would make a lot of money not helping other people.

The third area of discrimination is the taking of risk in pursuit of new ideas for generating revenue. So Disney can make a new $200 million movie that flops, and nobody calls the attorney general. But you do a little $1 million community fundraiser for the poor, and it doesn’t produce a 75 percent profit to the cause in the first 12 months, [then] your character is called into question.

Our generation does not want its epitaph to read, “We kept charity overhead low.”

Bick’s moves its pickles to the U.S. – Business – Macleans.ca


Via MacLean’s: Bick’s moves its pickles to the U.S. – Business – Macleans.ca.

Pickle by Reena Newman

When you trawl the pickle aisle of a Canadian grocery store you’re almost certain to see shelves of Bick’s products and that iconic red-and-green logo. It’s the country’s dominant producer of pickles. At least it used to be. After more than 60 years of processing cucumbers, onions, peppers and beets in Canada, Bick’s has closed its plants in Dunnville and Delhi, Ont., and moved its operations to Wisconsin.

The move has left the Canadian pickle industry adrift, with farmers fretting—worried not just about falling cucumber prices and disappearing markets, but the very fate of the Canadian-made pickle. Marshall Schuyler once grew 600 tonnes of cucumbers for Bick’s per year but has gradually been cutting back in favour of more profitable crops like soybeans and corn. This year, for the first time in 20 years, he won’t be planting any. “The future success of Canadian cucumbers—and many of our processed vegetables—depends on the consumers’ willingness to pay for food safety,” he says, referring to the rise of cheaper foreign imports that picklers like Bick’s are turning to.

While fresh produce has benefited from the buy-local movement, the same can’t be said for canned or jarred goods. “Canadians just want to buy the cheapest product they can,” says John Lutigheid, a former cucumber grower for Bick’s in Chatham, Ont. “They don’t care where their pickles are made. The buy-local movement has been all about buying fresh, which only applies for a few months of the year.”

Bick’s pickles was the quintessential Canadian immigrant success story. After a bumper crop in 1944, German-born George Bick and his son Walter began selling barrels of cucumbers to Toronto restaurants from his Scarborough farm. Within two decades the company was churning out 36 million jars of pickles a year. In 1962, the brand was sold to Robin Hood Flour and then in 2004 to the U.S. company J.M. Smucker’s. Maribeth Burns Badertscher, a spokesperson for the company, cites the need for “greater manufacturing and sourcing flexibility” for the move to Wisconsin, which was completed late last year (resulting in the loss of 150 factory jobs and over 1,000 seasonal farm jobs). “We know Canadian growers can be part of our future supply chain,” she adds.

But Ontario farmers aren’t convinced Smucker’s will continue to pay a premium for Canadian cucumbers now that it’s left the country. Ontario is noted for its high quality but labour intensive cukes, says Mark Wales, a farmer and president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. Typically, the vegetable is harvested not by migrant workers but by sharecropping, where a farmer splits the payment for harvests with local pickers. “We have lost over a thousand of these seasonal jobs on top of all the manufacturing jobs,” says Wales.

John Mumford, the director of the Ontario Processed Vegetable Growers, points to “the double whammy of a high dollar and rising labour costs” to account for the Bick’s closure. But he notes that there are still opportunities—many farmers who lost the Bick’s contract are selling to large distributors, such as the U.S. company Hartung Brothers, which supplies the processed food industry. “While I hate to lose an iconic Canadian company like Bick’s, we still have a huge export market,” he says. Ontario cucumbers are likely still ending up in Bick’s pickle jars (after being bought and sold by firms like Hartung’s).

Still, farmers like Schuyler see only rising pressure brought by cheaper Indian or Sri Lankan pickles. He argues that more flexible and clearer labelling regulations would allow pickle manufacturers to specify a high Canadian produce content and might help consumers make more informed choices at the grocery store. But for the time being, at least, when you bite into a Bick’s, there’s a pretty good chance that it won’t be a Canadian pickle.



Our Narrowing Food Tree


The infographic below on seed variety is quite interesting. The image is originally from National Geographic Magazine; however, I stumbled upon it via Paul Kedrosky’s blog… reading through the related comments on his blog, I can’t tell which I like better.

This one from Levi:

I’ll bet a lot of those lost varieties have very poor yields compared to the ones that are still in use. I’ll bet a few of the lost varieties also had resistance to an as yet unencountered pathogen.

But which farmer is going to take the financial hit to plant the lower yield variety?

Which bank CEO is not going to issue subprime mortgages when their competitors are all doing it and yielding higher quarterly earnings?

Efficiency/Fragility vs Inefficiency/Robustness recurs again.

or this one from @SgtPiddles:

Mo’ monoculture, mo’ problems

Seed Variety Infographic from National Geographic

Great Glebe Garage Sale 2011 – Ottawa Celebrity Farmer


A quick interview with one of Ottawa’s Celebrity Farmers — Mr. Paul Slomp. You can learn more about his farm (and more importantly his farming practices) at www.grazingdays.com.

Book: Terra Madre


After reading the English translation of Terra Madre by Carlo Petrini, I wonder how our City would change if our farmers and our policy makers made it a priority to participate at the next Terra Madre World Meeting.

The Value and Price of Food is a short yet interesting chapter – well worth reading over once or twice.

According to the FAO, enough food is produced in the world for 12 billion people, but the population ( at the time of the report ) is just under 7 billion. – Report of Jean Ziegler, special reporter on the right to food, January 10 2008, A/HRC/7/5M

Food Secure Canada’s Comic Contest


The next generation of Farmville players from across Canada tried their hand at drawing up some cartoons for FSC’s Good Food Hero Comic Contest.   A few of the winning strips have been posted online and the top 30 are going to be published in an upcoming comic book.

Note that FSC’s People Food Policy Project has recently released their Policy documents in good time before the election.  Their “Get Involved” section lists some great actions that almost anyone can take if they wish to participate.  I especially like their How-To for “Asking your federal election candidates a hard-hitting food question” and they have even posted a PDF listing key questions [PDF, 150 KBs].



Dave Meslin: The antidote to apathy


As I currently sit on one of the city’s advisory committees, I find Dave’s presentation quite inspiring. His example of the Toronto newspaper announcement for a zoning change and a magazine story about a campaign opposing the privatization of transit are sharp contrasts to how similar information for the arts and entertainment are presented.

The Future of Food – BBC Series


Last night on TV Ontario I caught the last bit of a very good food documentary filmed by the BBC.  For the most part, I found it’s content to be very well balanced and it easily drew me in with the numerous conversations of both global and local food issues.

Of particular interest (around the  8:00 minute mark of the youtube clip below) is an interview with Economist Caroline Saunders (Prof at Lincoln University in New Zealand) speaking to the study detailing carbon equivalents released by exporting New Zealand lamb to Europe.   I often hear this study quoted on TV, in books,  and at the dinner table and quite often I feel the science behind it is mis-interpreted or mis-used.

I agree with Caroline when she says:

I’m not for unfettered free trade that means that the big corporations [are] going to get bigger and richer, but free trade that allows benefits to flow back to farmers [and] producers wether in New Zealand or developing countries is the way forward to feed the world.


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