Recently, citizens of Fredericton, New Brunswick may be encountering difficulties while searching for their favourite items at the grocery store. Some say the reason for this is a food shortage; The Brunswickan aims to find out whether that is true or not. 

David Coon, Green Party MLA, educates citizens on what has been going on, why it has been going on, and ways to stay updated. 

A food shortage is a byproduct of war, natural disaster, crop failure, population imbalance, extreme poverty, or an economic catastrophe causing food to be inaccessible. While this certainly isn’t the case for Fredericton, it still doesn’t answer the question of why the city’s shelves are lacking groceries.

The answer points to food insecurity

Food insecurity affects many worldwide when the food supply chain is disrupted. The food chain supply is the line which connects consumers with producers, assisted by agribusinesses. 

Winter weather stops farmers from producing food in an outdoor setting which furthers the loss of in-province food production. In New Brunswick, only 7% of total vegetables consumed are produced in-house, causing New Brunswick to rely on other countries for imported vegetables and produce.

New Brunswick’s food supply chain is exceptionally delicate, and a single extreme weather event can disrupt the whole line of food transportation.

“When we rely so heavily on produce from outside the province, a drought in California or a snowstorm in Ontario can impact the availability of food for New Brunswickers,” said Green Party Agriculture critic and MLA for Kent North, Kevin Arseneau. “This is because the threat of disruption being so large and is why real commitment by the Higgs government is needed to ensure that New Brunswick fruits and vegetables are easily available on grocery store shelves.”

Fredericton can lessen the impact of food insecurity by investing in local farmers and their families. This is one of the most effective ways to contribute to farmers and the local food chain which will benefit the consumer and increase food quality. 

Firstly, a total provincial inventory and assessment of what used to be farmland is required to understand the total possible areas to farm. For example, New Brunswick has a total area of 7,344,000 hectares (1 hectare is approximately two and a half football fields). Still, only 5% is considered farmland, while only 2% is used for crop production. Although this number is meager, it leaves vast room for other agricultural businesses and family-run farms.

Secondly, farming in New Brunswick can be enhanced by offering incentives for experienced farmers. For example, in most grocery stores, when food is certified as locally-grown, farmers may be eligible for discounts or tax exemptions. But we need more for the farmers of New Brunswick, and to encourage more families to take up farming and to keep farming prosperous.

Thirdly, communities should have easy access to local markets. Not everyone has what it takes to wake up every morning at the crack of dawn to ensure food for others, so citizens are encouraged to support, interact, and buy locally as much as possible. There are even city farms such as Hayes Farm that works to create sustainable food sources in urban spaces – regenerative farming practices and fresh ideas like this, blended with traditional knowledge and the expertise of intergenerational farmers is what will give farming in New Brunswick a chance to not only recover, but thrive in a healthy way.

In 2015, Coon made an effort to propose certified stickers that would help New Brunswick consumers determine what is local produce and what isn’t. Unfortunately, other MPs disregarded this idea and the project didn’t go forward.

Arsenault and Coon plan to reintroduce the idea similarly as before, but now with updated arguments regarding the advancement of food security in New Brunswick. They intend to impose this to help encourage the bond between consumers and producers. Still, as of now, the Liberal and Conservative parties are not interested in pursuing this endeavor. 

The establishment of this label would enable consumers to decide whether they want to support local or not, but currently, this option is limited. 

“The bottom line is, we need to be more self-reliant in food,” said Coon. “We need to have better quality food produced in ways that are better for our environment, supporting our local economies while strengthening the opportunities and peace for people’s livelihoods in producing and processing and supplying food. When we import food, we’re taking the money we’re using to pay for it all shipped out of New Brunswick. So if we buy local food in Fredericton, the funds will stay in New Brunswick circulating in our local communities.”

Another way we can encourage local food security is by an imposed quota. Coons explained that currently there is no quota and that there is no requirement for it either. And in doing this, farmers struggle to determine the correct amount of product to farm. 

Also, by assisting farmers in developing fish ponds on their land, it will provide an additional means to encourage local food production while enhancing biodiversity (Paul Arp, UNB).

If they farm too much, it is a waste and a loss of money. But, still, if farmers farm too little, it may inhibit the future possibility of business. So this is the double-edged balancing act of farming in New Brunswick. To grow, or not to grow. 

Finally, we need a well-concerted and financed effort at the provincial level. For example, in New Brunswick, we have a few measures in assisting the life of a farmer:

  1. A farmer’s purchase permit allowing tax exemptions 
  2. Farmers license plates   
  3. Gasoline and diesel tax refunds 
  4. Those who register their farm operations receive an RPAP or a registered professional agricultural producer certificate 

The Government of New Brunswick aims to provide a long-term stable funding source for accredited general farm organizations in New Brunswick. Those who are in registration will receive an appropriate fee. Once payment is received, the farmer is allowed access to provincial farming programs, plates, etc. 

It is important to stay informed about what’s happening in Fredericton as a citizen. Pay attention to legislative assembly issues that are important to you.

It is also essential to invest and care for local farmers. Support farmers who are trying to acquire new farmland or reclaim old farmland. Support an imposed quota, and the implementation of locally-grown certification stickers. Shop local, learn about your environment, and stay in-the-know with legislation. 

New Brunswick can increase their local produce, making use of the 7,344,000 hectares of land to improve the local economy and provide jobs for families.

New Brunswickers have shown that they want to increase the level of local support for farmers and are interested in eating locally-produced food.