Okanagan agricultural businesses want to see a shift in the supply chain

Time to look at supply chain

Casey Richardson

As the Okanagan Valley continues to be cut off from the Lower Mainland with multiple highway closures, local agricultural businesses are saying that something needs to change.

Throughout the area, many grocery stores shelves are bare as produce, vegetables, dairy products and meat are cleaned out.

At the Penticton Feedway, a supply truck due by Wednesday did not arrive. Luckily for the owner, Johnny Aantjes, he has been working on getting supply from another company out east.

“We typically get most of our products from the coast, but we've been talking to a company in the North Valley area,” he said.

“So we'll have two suppliers. As unfortunate as this is, we should be able to, hopefully, have feed for the future anyway.”

One of the things the business likes to promote is self-subsistence type-living, which means not being entirely reliant on the main supply.

“So spreading that onus out for food supply, out to more people is in my mind a really good thing. Hopefully that continues to grow as people become aware of these sorts of situations,” Aantjes added.

“There's a lot of people in the community here that do produce and would produce more if it was supported a little bit more.”

Local Motive Organic Market has focused their business model on local supply all along, and says this situation only proves that purpose.

“We're trying our best to supply local produce like carrots, beets, potatoes, squash, kale, those kinds of things and we still have good supplies of them. But it's really indicative of the fragile nature of our food supply. And we're seeing the implications of relying on foreign countries,” owner Thomas Tumbach explained.

“It's really showing us that we need to do more work on building a local food system. So that in these types of situations, we don't find ourselves without any vegetables in our area.”

The push is for people to change their way of thinking, first deciding to support the local food system before shopping elsewhere.

“The only way we change that is over time as consumers supporting farmers, trying to be dedicated to them, not just when there's a natural disaster, but come year round. Support us year round, shop at our stores, and markets and fruit stands as a first priority as opposed to your last option,” Tumbach said.

As one of the few places with vegetables still on their shelves, Tumbach points out that this is the time to start building the need for more local supply, so that Okanagan and Canadian farmers in the future can flourish.

“It's understanding that food is something that takes a lot of time and energy to create. I think we've gotten used to it being really cheap and available and we're starting to understand that it's more complicated than that, especially now that there's a lot of issues in the environment and unpredictability.”

“We should be proactive about how we make our food choices, and know that if we make those food choices consistently, we should be able to slowly build a food system that is more resilient and more sustainable overall.”

For more information on Local Motive, visit their website here.

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