Letter to the Editor – May 14, 2008

To the Editor,
Last Wednesday I had the privilege of attending a conversation about Free Trade and Food Sovereignty. The speakers were Ubali Buerrero, a woman representing a farmers’ organization in the Mexican state of Guerrero, Miguel Conlunga, of the Democratic Front of Chihuahua, and Allan Slater, an Oxford County farmer and team member of the Christian Peacemakers.
We heard about the erosion in many countries of food sovereignty and the plight of small farmers around the world, who are forced to sell cheaply regardless of the costs of production. Many countries must now import food staples, and in the midst of world hunger, grain crops are grown to “feed machines rather than people.” Increasing food prices, privatization of water, and in some places victimization and violence toward farmers who attempt to resist these trends add to the gloomy picture.
Though our own situation is far less dire than some that we heard about, we too are feeling the bite of these changes. Recently the farmers at Sunnivue Farm in Ailsa Craig (http://www.sunnivue-farm.on.ca) received an apologetic letter from their flour suppliers, who find it necessary to raise drastically the price of the organic flour they sell. As a result, a loaf of Sunnivue bread will have to cost more.
Ellinor, baker-in-chief at Sunnivue, laments this increase. In all her years of bread-baking, she has never before had to raise the price. Despite the high quality of the ingredients and the labour-intensive process, despite sharp increases in the price of electricity and worries about the supply of honey, she has always felt that bread should be as affordable as possible.
Truly we are united with farmers and other families in Mexico and many other countries as we face challenges to our easy access to affordable and nutritious food. Perhaps our best hope lies in dialogue such as that undertaken last Wednesday, giving us the opportunity to compare experiences and to support one another in asserting the value of small-scale farming and the rights of all to clean water and decent food.
Sally Vernon