Farming and Local Food

Within the Saskatchewan RCE, food production has always been central to Saskatchewan livelihoods. Saskatchewan was historically called the “breadbasket of the world” based on its wheat exports. However, agricultural livelihoods face the many challenges of low prices, high input costs, a high dependence on increasingly scarce fossil fuels, and ecological challenges associated with crop monocultures and soil degradation. These challenges also present opportunities to move from highly mechanized agriculture to more sustainable forms that focus on local food production and farm self-sufficiency. Similarly, opportunities exist to reduce vulnerability and risk by reorienting ranching and other forms of livestock production away from intensive industrial processes to structures that are more profitable for individuals and family farms. ESD can help consumers understand where their food is coming from with greater transparency between farmers and consumers. Consumers want to know more about food safety, nutrition, treatment of animals, environmental impacts, and working conditions including wage levels. ESD can enable more healthy food consumption where the true costs of food are reflected in fair prices for local producers mediated through new regional relationships. Local food production can also enable individuals and communities to promote their own food security and self-sufficiency by acting in an integrated way as producers, consumers, and managers of wastes. Consumers can be empowered with the knowledge needed to discern food quality along with the skills needed for nutritious food preparation of basic foodstuffs.

With the centrality of market institutions in the modern global economy, building wise consumers and business practices that simultaneously meet economic, social, and ecological bottom lines is central to achieving sustainability. The full life-cycle costs of products and services need to be understood by all if market prices are to reflect their true costs rather than offloading externalities on other organizations, communities, and future generations. At the same time, many livelihood opportunities are available at a local level to meet needs outside of the market (for example, through voluntary activity or individual production aimed at meeting one's own needs). A focus on wise production, consumption, and waste minimization enables important linkages to be made between rural and urban communities and is facilitated by a regional approach to ESD.