CHERYL LYON – “I never thought I’d see the day I couldn’t buy carrots at the supermarket!” harrumphed Gramma. “It’s winter. They keep well. They’ve got the Vitamin C we need in winter and at my age, they’ve got Vitamin A for my eyesight.”
Cora’s granddaughter, Beth, looked up from her dinner plate with affection but a touch of dismay. Having dinner with the “Gramma” was a high point of every month. She loved to make her grandmother proud of her growing knowledge about farming and climate change in her new Trent U Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems PhD program begun in 2027. Gramma and Grampa had been mostly cash crop farmers until she moved into the city as a widow ten years ago. Her grandmother had always been eager to hear what Beth, her only and adored grandchild, had to say.
Even more, though, Beth was deeply concerned about how not only Gramma but the rest of Beth’s family were going to manage in the rapidly deteriorating global food system that was being laid out in her studies. Her thesis was focusing on the inequitable social impacts of these new realities in Canada, particularly food affordability and adequate nutrition.
The 2022 Russian war on Ukraine had started a chain of tipping points throughout the food system. The 2026 UN IPCC Report had accounted for the war and adjusted its adaptation and mitigation scenarios of the future for all aspects of life on Earth. By 2028, however, the North American scenario for food security that the UN had the most confidence in was, aside from some notable successes with solar greenhouses in the far North, rapidly worsening, particularly in the Canadian prairies, the country’s “breadbasket”.
One future scenario about forest fires from even before 2026 had turned out to be consistently accurate: the likelihood of forest fires was fast approaching the predicted increase of 50%. By 2027, Canada’s forest losses to fire had been catastrophic, on top of previous record-breaking long burn times.
First, the size and frequency of fires had left cloud cover that reduced sunlight, and then the fires themselves did not spare the fields of crops. Then, too often at crucial times, all available extra farm labour had either enlisted to battle unusually early spring fires, then unable to assist with harvests in fall due to fighting unusually late season fires. Protecting or saving farm houses, barns, livestock, even whole towns had become the provincial priority. Beth knew that most eastern grocery store carrots were shipped from in BC farms.
So the usual February $1.99 bags of carrots had disappeared from grocery stores like No Frills, the Superstore and Sobeys in Peterborough – an unheard-of occurrence. The American farming heartland that was also part of Canada’s vegetable supply had been devastated by four straight years of drought, causing supply shortages that drove the price above $10.00 per bag. “That’s away more than I can afford on my pension”, said Gramma. “And certainly more than Rashida in the apartment next door. On social assistance because of MS, she’s can barely pay her rent!”
“In the before times, you could always rely on potatoes, carrots and cabbage through the winter,” said Gramma. “You could make a lot of different meals out of them.”
Beth looked down at her plate. There was the baked potato, sliced in half and slathered in – was that butter or margarine? Gramma’s famous coleslaw – minus carrots. But what was this? Something smothered in a golden-coloured sauce? Tofu?!
“Ummm… Gram, I thought you said we were having chicken. Is this what I think it is?”
Gramma looked out the window with a squirm of discomfort as she explained, “Well, you see, after listening to you tell me how raising cattle for beef was bad for the climate so we need to eat less meat, I went on the internet and found recipes for this stuff I’d heard of – ‘tofu’.”
Beth saw Gramma wince at the new word.
“Besides, you said chicken was better, but there was hardly any chicken in the meat section and this ‘tofu’ was a lot less expensive. The internet recipe told me it has lots of protein too. I hope you like it, I’m not used to using it. The recipe used spices I never heard of.”
“Is one of those spices in the sauce?” said Beth, hiding her smile.
“Well, yes. Never used it before. Hope I didn’t put too much in. Seems I’ll have to learn a whole new way of cooking. That isn’t easy for an old-time, meat-and-two-veg cook like me, I’ll tell you!”
Beth got up from her chair and warmly hugged her Gramma while thinking what a resilient woman she was.
Resuming her seat, she said slyly, “So, can I tell you about my class today in vertical farming? You’ll love it for your apartment balcony.”