Ontario corn promotion catalyst for protest
By Kirk Starratt
A group of concerned Kings County citizens has taken their promotion of food security and supporting local farmers and produce to another arena: the major grocery retailers.
With Kings County Coun. Wayne Atwater leading the charge, about a dozen concerned citizens rallied at Sobeys, New Minas, Thursday evening in an attempt to persuade the chain to carry more local produce.
Greenwich resident Audrey Haig-Stewart said the catalyst for the rally was the fact that Sobeys has a special on Ontario corn when there isn’t an ear of locally-grown Nova Scotian or Valley corn to be found on the shelves. She said the price on the Ontario corn is reduced to the point that our local producers are finding it difficult to compete in the peak of the season. “It’s an unfair advantage,” she said. “We have to support our local producers as consumers.”
Atwater, who served on the provincial Select Nova Scotia committee and has been publicly calling on the major grocery retailers to carry more local produce for years, said it’s time we do something to tell them that people want local produce in their stores.
He said all the concerned citizens are asking for is to have the major retailers supply some shelf space for local produce to give consumers a choice and so local producers at least have an opportunity to access the market. “Now you buy Ontario corn or nothing,” Atwater said.
He suggests having the major retailers clearly mark Ontario corn as a product of Ontario and carry Nova Scotian corn, clearly marked as Nova Scotia corn. “People would probably pay a little more for local,” Atwater said, pointing out the difference in the carbon footprint between transporting produce all the way from Ontario compared to farms 20 minutes down the road. “Give our farmers the opportunity.”
An RCMP officer who responded to the scene to observe asked for information from rally organizers. The officer went inside the store and emerged a couple minutes later, informing concerned citizen Pauline Raven and this reporter that store management was fine with the protest, so long as protestors and media representatives stayed outside.
Atwater and a group of concerned citizens went inside the store to see the situation for themselves. Atwater later emerged, announcing to those outside the store that the closest thing to local in stock was produce from Quebec and Ontario, so they all left the store with empty shopping carts.
When shopper Marilyn D’Eon of Kentville was asked if she would buy local at stores such as Sobeys given the opportunity, she said she always does. Asked what she thought of the concerned citizens rallying in support of local producers, she said, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.”