In Edmonton, live like a Mediterranean: Grow Vegetables to Save Lives & Money

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Protect Edmonton’s farmland. It’s what the Mediterranean’s would do. They’re smart. They know that by growing locally, they save money and they feel good physically and emotionally.

The public health costs of limiting our access to fresh produce are deep.

“Produce”  – if you’ve ever wondered – is basically fresh plant foods like fruit, vegetables, beans, lentils and peas.

Eating a diet high in produce is a fundamental principal of the Mediterranean Diet, noted as being one of the healthiest diets on the planet (the Japanese diet being the other dietary pattern linked to positive health outcomes). Is it possible to eat that diet here in Edmonton. Damn straight!! Eating a traditional health Mediterranean style diet is the basis of my masters thesis in nutrition. So it’s something I love to think and talk about every day, all day.

The natural soil in and around Edmonton, especially that near the North Saskatchewan river is in the top of its class. It is the best food producing soil in Canada and arguably some of the best in North America. (for a thorough description of the chernozemic soil of Alberta and western Canada, here’s a paper by an Alberta Agrologist, and retired professor Dr Les Fuller, whom I had the pleasure of working with when I worked for the Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics at the U of A from ’97 – ’07).

So, we can grow amazing plant food in Edmonton. And we do! Our grocery stores, our back yards and our farmers markets team with delicious foods that most of the world envies. Our long growing days and cool nights mean that our root vegetables are sweet and crisp. We grow the world’s best carrots, beets, parsnips and squash…

While we have to coddle the odd tomato, our potatoes are a source of nutritional and economic wealth for us. Seed potatoes grown in north east Edmonton are shipped across Canada and the US including to places we think of as potato power-houses like PEI and Idaho. Next time you see that PEI potato farmer commercial, just imagine that many, many of their potato seeds came from OUR back yard in  north east Edmonton. Do you like Cheemo perogies? The potatoes used to fill those scrumptious cultural bundles are grown in north east Edmonton. How about digging into a bag of Lays potato chips? Yep, those potatoes are grown  here too.

We are the world’s best growers of legumes and pulses too. A legume – or pulse –  is basically any plant that sucks nitrogen from the air and locks it into the soil where it acts as a natural fertilizer for other plants. This is called “nitrogen fixing.” It happens naturally when you plant and grow peas and beans and lentils. (Actually, peanuts are also legumes but we don’t grow them here.) So it’s a natural, organic way of keeping our soil rich, not having to spend money on fertilizer, or running the risk of adding too much potassium or phosphates to our soil and risking other unintended environmental damage.

Interestingly, Canada grows more peas than the next two countries in the world combined! We harvested 3.2 million acres of peas last year and 2.2 million acres of lentils. Travel anywhere in the world and you can bet that anywhere you see a lentil, it was grown in the Canadian prairies. Check out the Alberta Pulse Growers website to see that grow lentils beautifully in Dark Brown soil (that’s the soil in north east Edmonton).

People who eat foods high in fibre (beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, vegetables and fruit are loaded with them) have fewer diseases that place a burden on our health system.Consumption of fruit and vegetables – especially cruciferous vegetables like the rutabagas, broccoli, cauliflower and radishes grown in north east Edmonton – is linked to reduced rates of cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease and other metabolic issues such as diabetes.

When Edmontonians can buy fresh and nutritionally dense vegetables grown locally, the likelihood of improved diets goes up and the likelihood of sickness goes down. More people eat local, fewer people wind up in hospital, on medication or prematurely in a morgue.

In addition, much of the seasonal produce available at Edmonton grocers (include Save-On Foods and Sobey’s) comes from the farms in the Horse Hill area in north east Edmonton. This means that transportation costs are low for us. In addition, purchasing local food and supporting local producers keeps our nutritional value high and our cultural/social values high as well.

Save money. Feel good physically and emotionally.

The economic costs to importing food alone is a deterrent to non-agricultural development of NE Edmonton.

I keep asking WHY my city would choose to stop growing nutritious food in the richest soil in Canada, forcing us to increase our dependence on food imports and increasing our global carbon footprint.

I ask the City of Edmonton to preserve our future and protect our present. If you feel the same, please support this on-line petition.

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4 responses to “In Edmonton, live like a Mediterranean: Grow Vegetables to Save Lives & Money

  1. But really – who wants to feel good physically and emotionally? Our propensity to sit on couches and watch zombie HBO suggests otherwise. I know what you’re thinking: “this guy should be on council”.

  2. Late to the party…
    Do you believe in biodiversity? We in the northern hemisphere, and the northern half of that, are not the Mediterranean, or Japan.

    We evolved on meat, with a side of meat. Oh yes, the odd feast on Saskatoon berries, various root vegs in
    their short season, and then only once or twice. We, as much as the Moose belong to this habitat, not those other two.

    (Supper: cold plate of cucumber, grape tomatoes,
    sun dried tomatoes, shards of anise bulb, two ounces or so of dried smoked whitefish, some feta and olives). All but the fish trucked, flown or hybridized out of its reality to grow here. Let’s quit pretending…)

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