If there was no way in to Terrace, and no way out, it is estimated that our food supply here would last about three days.
A little Doomsday-ish? Perhaps. But impossible? Perhaps not.
It’s one of the reasons behind an ambitious idea pitched by Barbara Tetz, president of the Local Green Thumb Garden Society, during a Terrace city council meeting Jan. 14. Why not take extra produce like potatoes harvested from Terrace’s local community gardens and store it in a community root cellar somewhere?
“One family, they’ve never gardened before, they came up with 350 pounds of potatoes,” Tetz told council. “And she was saying, I have to give it all away.”
Tetz’s idea is to construct a community root cellar where people could store food in rented lockers.
Her choice of a prime location is between city hall and the police station because it would be in a protected area.
While the idea itself is in its early stages, it begs the question, is the notion of food security a little paranoid, or is it forward thinking?
The city official in charge of looking at ways to increase local food production says it has merit.
“I don’t think it’s overwhelmingly kooky … based on our distance from market,” responded Tara Irwin to the idea.
According to Irwin, building up local food production is a concept that’s picking up speed.
“There’s emerging interest,” said Irwin about growing locally.
“Over the last ten years people are becoming more interested in where their food is coming from or where their food is grown.”
And while Terrace is about 1500 kilometres from the nearest large scale food producing region, the city is lucky to have a climate that supports a variety of produce growth, she said.
“It’s great for people to be growing big gardens,” said Irwin. “The food storage piece is the next step, or one of the next steps, in food sustainability.”
She noted the idea of food sustainability is nothing new – but that a younger generation of adults have lost touch with a normalized practise of earlier generations and First Nations.
But while facilities such as root cellars fell out of common use decades ago, they are a storage piece of the food-security puzzle.
Cost, availability and quality are three things to look at when it comes to food security, explained Irwin.
“The availability issue is a big one in Terrace if we were to be cut off from our supply,” said Irwin. “If there is an interruption in highway travel for any reason … for all intents and purposes we can be cut off of our food supply very easily.”
It may be one of the reasons the number of people in Terrace looking to grow their own food is increasing, if the number of individuals and families signing up to take part in community gardening is any indication.
In 2012, there were 60 gardeners signed up between two community gardens, one on Apsley St. almost across from the legion and another larger one on Evergreen St., located on the southside.
For 2013, there are already 60 people signed up to garden at the Evergreen location and 10 families have signed up to garden at the Apsley St. location, said Tetz to council during her presentation.
“We don’t really know what’s going to happen out there this year but the interest is really growing for involvement,” said Tetz.
Last year, involvement included an estimated 3,000 – 4,000 hours of garden society volunteer time in the gardens, not including time spent by casual volunteers.
“People are really getting on board, giving us a hand. Not just with this but with the finances as well,” said the society’s treasurer Linda Wilson.
In 2012, donations in kind of goods and services totalled $59,000.
There’s also money left over in the society’s account for items such as a play-style park, upgrades to greenhouses and, perhaps, a larger project such as a community root cellar.
“This is just to put a little seed into the garden of the whole town,” said Tetz as she introduced the idea to council.
“We desperately need a community root cellar.”