Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News, on August 3, 2020.

Here’s what caught my eye last week while perusing the news. One story was about a salmonella outbreak linked to red onions originating from California, which you can read more about here and dispose of any tainted produce you might have in your kitchen pantry.

The other news story was about a senior in New Westminster, whose balcony is a little green oasis – not just a visual one, but culinary as well since he is growing vegetables. The property rental company sent a letter to this senior asking him to remove the tall plants. The reason they cited: to conform with the uniform look of the building, and to maintain health, cleanliness, and sanitary standards.

It irked me for many reasons. First, because I do not believe in uniform looks. We’re all different and we each have our likes and dislikes, so our spaces, indoor and outdoor, become an expression of ourselves and our personalities and lives lived. Provided that a space is not a garbage depository or offensive in any way, making a space your own is only natural.

A garden, most of all, is never offensive, but commendable. A sanity saver too, for many.

More so in times on isolation. Keeping our connection with nature, no matter where we live, is essential: getting our hands dirty and caring for the plants that can produce some of the food we consume; having our kids learn that as we rediscover it or learn it alongside them for the first time; last but not least, appreciating the volume of work that goes into growing food but also the unmatchable joy of tasting fresh produce.

It made me think right away of this great treasure we get to enjoy most of the year, but particularly in the summer and fall, the local (safe) bounty grown by our local farmers. I get reminded of this every Saturday when we head to the farmer’s market.

If you have not had a chance to visit the market yet, please do. Covid-19 precautions are in place and you’re guaranteed to leave there happy and well stocked for the week.

Food security has been an interesting topic this year as the pandemic hit. I am not sure how many people are still faithful to their breadmaking routines and/or tending to their new gardens, both of which picked up exponentially as the virus made its rounds, but I hope it’s not just a fad.

We are being told every few months via a new report that food prices will increase. While many can absorb that increase and still function without financial trouble, others have to juggle expenses to be able to buy food.

The key to keep an entire community afloat, even in dire times, is in that connection with the food that’s grown locally, by each of us in whatever size garden we can put together, and by the local farmers. Health is where good food is, and by that, I mean local, clean and plant-based as much as possible. Same for meat if that’s your preference; there’s no shortage of ethical farmers.

The pandemic put all of this in perspective and I hope we’ll hang onto that. Let’s keep committed to rediscovering even the smallest increment of self-sufficiency because that helps us understand where good food comes from. Let’s reinforce the connection with nature and food – our health and peace of mind depend on it, and both are priceless.

The same goes for our local economy. Everything food, whether straight from producers or via the middle vendor such as food trucks, locally-owned restaurants that get supplied by the local farmers – the more we enjoy their offerings, the better we all fare with stable prices and a clean and healthy food supply.

Let’s not forget that consumers are the ultimate decision factor: individual choices ultimately shape up the community.