Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Agriculture and health on critic's mind

Reprinted from the Invermere Valley Echo

NDP Agriculture Critic Lana Popham
 speaking to students at 

DTSS in Invermere.
Darryl Crane/echo photo
By Darryl Crane -

Published: November 16, 2010 1:00 PM

Students and residents of the Columbia Valley had a special visitor when MLA for Saanich South and NDP critic for Agriculture and Lands, Lana Popham came to the area.

Popham was elected MLA for Saanich South on May 12, 2009 and is a well-known environmental and community activist, businesswoman and organic farmer.

Popham was on her first visit to the area and took the time to learn more about concerns locals have in the agricultural industry.

“I have not had the opportunity to come into this area and see what is going on agriculturally. I am very committed to sustainability. This area is amazing for what it is doing. I tour many towns that have the vision but the action here takes my breath away,” Popham said.

Popham started her tour in Cranbrook before moving on to Kimberley where she met with some local ranchers.

She then came north to Invermere to visit farmers who are involved with aspects of agriculture that are close to the MLA’s heart.

“They are doing things in a similar setup to what I used to do and it made me want to get out there and help them because I missed it so much,” Popham said.

Popham said she has heard that some people feel that there are fewer new farmers but she is of the belief that people do want to become involved with the industry but they want to do it in a new style that is concerned about sustainability and local food.

“This is a teachable moment where consumers are begging for local food and we have people who want to produce it. The problem is that we do not have the provincial support in agriculture right now to make it easier to do that,” Popham said.

When looking at the future of agriculture in British Columbia Popham had some ideas on what could be done by the government to help.

“We had a great program up to eight years ago. It was a buy BC program. Farmers want our products to be marketed to us. They want to have labelling so we know where products are from. It was very successful.

"The Ministry of Agriculture is so ill-funded right now that there is no money for that but it is hard for me to understand why we would not invest in a program that is going to give some strength to our domestic economy,” Popham said.

Another idea that the MLA has involves looking at the way the food in B.C. is being distributed and the possibility of better using the rail-system to move food throughout the province.

As Popham continues to talk to people in B.C. about the issues surrounding agriculture in the province she is working on a document to highlight both the issues and ideas on how to make the industry more efficient.

While in Invermere Popham stopped in to talk to students at David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) and see some of the programs which involve food at the school.

“The greenhouse and the chefs' program were the attraction. Connecting kids to food is critical right now. We are seeing skyrocketing Type 2 diabetes in kids and that is related to what they are eating. We are feeding them sugar-laced, fat-ladened, highly processed food. That has to raise alarm bells,” Popham said. She added that she was very impressed with the chefs' program and the food that they are making.

She also passed on a great deal of credit to the teachers at DTSS who are responsible for helping students in their lives.

In the end Popham said she was grateful to have had the chance to visit the area and for all the hospitality shown to her during her trip.