Monday, September 26, 2016
So, I've taken the liberty of preparing the speech I'm sure he meant to have on hand last night. It must have gotten lost when he was spending the night previous reading it over while at the Fall Flavours event at Crowbush that he was so happy to tell us all about because we care.
Thank you for the warm welcome to this 13th Annual COPC Harvest Meal and celebration. 13th annual!? I think we often underestimate just how long organics has been growing and organizing together under an association like the Certified Organic Producers Cooperative, but this event really serves as a reminder of just how far you've come and hints at the potential for the future.
It's really exciting to see so many young faces at an event like this. Often, at agricultural gatherings it looks a lot like a political caucus- so many old white haired men ! (har har). But this crowd is so diverse in age and background and that speaks volumes for the future of your sector!
Can I get a sense of who are the organic farmers in the room? Could you all please stand up? Certified organic farmers. Wow! That's really fantastic, I hope to get to chat with you all about your operations sometime in the future! I would love to hear about your challenges and successes and what we can do for you as the government right now on PEI.
For the rest of you, I hope you took note of who the farmers in the room were when they stood. And I hope you take a moment to appreciate what it took for them to provide this meal for you tonight. I have little doubt that under the competent guidance of our chef, Ilona Daniel, these ingredients, grown with the care and particular intentions of these farmers will far exceed your expectations. That's the thing about organic farmers. They really care. They care enough to maintain the necessary records, host a third party inspection annually, abide by national standards that ensure your food is free from GMO's, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and that livestock live lives on pastures, eating only organic food themselves.
While I'm the Minister of all agriculture, not just organics, and I respect and admire all farmers and the work they do, organics is a particular shining jewel in the considerable crown of PEI agriculture. It is a constantly growing sector, with consistent margins, strong yields and a vibrant community. Did you know that 73% of new farmers are choosing to farm organically or ecologically? And 56% of those are women? Isn't that inspiring? I can talk openly and with conviction about organics like this because I'm not disparaging conventional ag, which we all know has a strong place in our landscape, but I am confident enough to recognize the value of a community like this one and the significance it carries for the health of our province, ecologically and economically!
In response to what I'm sure will be a rousing rallying cry from Sally Bernard coming up, she'll likely mention soil health and will be correct in saying that soil is the resource we're depleting the fastest here on PEI and it's past time that we do something serious about it. So I'm thrilled to announce that we're working on a program based on soil organic matter levels, providing funding for new soil tests that show actual soil health and activity and better enforcement of rotation rules.
So I won't keep us from the food any longer. I hear the chicken livers are particularly tasty tonight. :) I promise not to continue the legacy of being a Ag Minister dinosaur, living in the past, guided by antiquated ideas pushed by the old boys club who tell me that only conventional food can feed the world and that organics is a blip on the long term radar. Nope, I will be an effective, open-eyed minister who will stand up and openly admit that organics is doing great things for this province and we will work with you to help it continue to grow.
Yep, pretty sure that was the speech he meant to make instead of the mess we heard about inconsequential fish kills (YES! He actually brushed off fish kills at an organic supper), the importance of Fall Flavours and pretty landscapes. Good thing the food was so good I was able to get past the anger lump in my throat.