The local food movement/fad/idea is a good thing for abundant place such as Ontario Canada. If we stopped building cookie cutter houses and strip malls on our most productive lands Ontario could become, as it once was, an agriculturally vibrant region. From Aboriginal peoples growing ‘The Three Sisters’ (mais, squash & beans) to John Molson recognizing the region was well suited to barley and hops, to the diversity of today, Ontario agriculture has a lot to offer the world. Ontario can not and should not try and grow everything, yet our conditions give us a richness rarely found in this world.
Ontario’s agriculture should be promoted and supported but not always through government programs. It is up to us citizens resident in Ontario to buy local and foster more farming in Ontario. Agriculture in Ontario could be used to grow Ontario’s economy, pun intended. Others can go into detail on how it could work to reduce unemployment, increase supporting manufacturing and service industries or buffer Ontario from the negatives of Climate Change. Deserts are increasing around the world as populations are increasing. Ontario has to stop creating concrete deserts and start tapping our nature given assets. If people here don’t want to farm allow immigration of farmers from the parts of the world devastated by droughts, deserts et cetera. Perhaps a fund should be started to help new farmers get set up.
Buying local has to go beyond food. Saturday I purchased a jacket and recently bought new shoes, both are British labels made in Vietnam. Buying local may mean buying Vietnamese made, British labels but at a local, independent retailer. I ended up at the Bay, a chain store for the jacket but why aren’t there more local businesses to shop at? Someone on Twitter suggested Walmart, ah no that is never local. Some of the best places to shop only have the one location, franchising reduces quality, friendliness and uniqueness. I once had a comic book store owner drive from Hamilton to Markham to get a box of Babylon 5 collectable card game booster packs for me. Never got that kind of service from the big chains nor will they give special prices for friends and loyal customers.
Small independent businesses provide more choice and competition that ultimately is better for customers and the economy than the giant companies driving wages down and being rigid on prices. Ontario has for to long sacrificed small business for the giant chains or global companies making us hostage to remote boardrooms. If more people were willing to spend more to buy from a local business maybe we could stop the downward trend of wages. Chains may have the lower price but it has a higher cost to the community. To get more businesses started locally we must reduce the barriers and provide affordable places to set up shop. The system now seems geared to protect the mega corporations who disappear as soon as they find a lower cost or better market.
Thanks to the internet the whole planet is local but we need to look after our offline locality. Buying local food or from local business should be augmented by experiencing local culture. Canada has a global cultural presence out of proportion to our population because we protect our content with regulations. Many TV and music artists survive because of the quota for content. Canadians having to go away to make it in the arts reduces Canadian culture and happens because Canadians seem hostile to anything that isn’t approved by Americans or Europeans. Sometimes when a Canadian artist is successful globally people here attack or dismiss the success.
The late Stompin’ Tom Conners had a dream that Canadians would grow up culturally. There is no need for success to be measured in global recognition or leaving for the ‘Big Time’ places in the United States or Europe. Honestly, the best Canadian musicians, artist, comedians and writers could never make it in Holly Wood for the best are the ones that are local and their art reflects where they come from. The global arts industry is constricted to the safest course of action so as to keep from loosing money and is overly institutionalized. Arts can give a great return on investment if it is allowed to be creator driven and not institutionalized. If people would try the local arts and not just assume the industry is cutting edge or even relevant to our culture.
London has a start in fostering local artists but could do more. More places to play, record, write, paint, sculpt, film, perform et cetera. Encouraging more affordable rents could draw artists to London, especially if we create more artist spaces. London could build a fim studio in one of our abandoned factories or warehouses to encourage a local TV and film community. A sculpture park in London that showcases local, national and global artists would add to London’s attractiveness far more than subsidizing big business or slick ad campaigns. London being in a rich agricultural area perhaps events highlighting the art of cuisine should be considered, not merely local restaurants that have generic food found anywhere but pushing the limits of what local ingredients can become.
If London creates a competitive environment it will attract people to come here and make London part of the global community. London should not go for gimmicks or expect a giant company to ride in on a white horse and save the economy. Quick, easy solutions or people who expect instant success should be dismissed, London needs the grinders who will fail and try again. London should become the proving ground, where if you can make it here you can make it anywhere.
If people want to create a better London they should stop being consumers buying the lowest price from big companies and start being customers of their neighbours business. People should check out the local art scenes and eat the local creations from a local chef. Eventually their should be reduced barriers so locals can invest small amounts in local start ups. London needs to transform its economy away from the institutionalized economy of the past and the same is needed culturally. Big business is the boom bust cycle and London will always be the loser. Institutionalized global culture is sterile and restricting and London will just be irrelevant. Time for London to break away from both and evolve.