March 20, 2013 - 3:32 PM
By Julie Whittet
New money announced from Kelowna's Farm to Table program may be good news for the city's existing local food scene, but leaves something to be desired for smaller producers outside the spotlight.
Tourism Kelowna announced Monday it will match up to $100,000 in funds for restaurants and producers wanting to promote local foods.
“It's just handing out more money for Kelowna's wineries and tourism,” says urban farmer Curtis Stone. “These are people who don't really need the money.”
He would know. His Green City Acres urban farm supplies many of Kelowna's premier local food restaurants.
He says the funds will likely benefit restaurants already doing well. When it comes to sourcing local produce, Stone says “there hasn't been an economic hindrance.” In fact, he says buying locally can be more economically viable for restaurants because fresh produce has less waste, and adds a lot of volume to a dinner plate.
Kelowna's Farm to Table initiative is specifically targeted to help producers promote their businesses, but Stone says everyday farmers “aren't really budgeting for marketing.” Many smaller, family farms simply don't have the time or resources to get into tourism-oriented marketing.
“They're not putting the money where it needs to be,” Stone says. If governments want to get involved, then it's “far better to say all institutions, like hospitals and schools, must buy all local food. That would help the farmers.”
Stone says the real barriers to regional food security lie elsewhere, in government regulations that stifle small farmers. Many farmers cannot keep up with costly inspection policies, unrealistic quotas to qualify for tax breaks, or the debt incurred from land ownership.
“For myself, as vegetable farmer, I don't have to deal with all that.”
The success of Green City Acres is partly from leasing, not owning, their urban acreage.
“Not owning our land gives us a lot of freedom,” he says.
With growing support from the general public, Stone is optimistic about the next generation of farming, because “people want to know their farmers".
Chef Rod Butters of the award-winning RauDZ Regional Table, also notices the increase in public demand for fresh, local food. Butters says a lot has changed over the last 12 years since he first started his business. Today his restaurant is able to source meat, fruit, vegetables, cheese, wine and liquor from over 150 producers.
“I'm incredibly optimistic,” Butters says. He sees the new Farm to Table funding as “an even bigger stamp of approval” from the government.
But for Stone, the initiative is just a gesture. “You have to walk the talk” he says. If his work at Green City Acres has taught him anything, it's that “people are drawn to leadership through action.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at email@example.com or call (250) 718-0428.
(JULIE WHITTET /InfoTel Multimedia)
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013