Guest Contribution by Rachel Bower
“People can’t eat oil, but they can eat codfish.” – Bill Molloy, inshore cod fisherman
I am an independent documentary filmmaker living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My latest documentary “In The Same Boat” highlights the parallel challenges facing small-scale fishing and farming communities. Set in the rugged landscape of coastal Newfoundland and the spectacular ranchlands of Southern Alberta, “In The Same Boat” is an intimate portrait of one of Newfoundland’s last remaining inshore cod fishermen and the lessons he has to share with Alberta’s farmers.
One of the main reasons I started filming came from a desire to have everyone experience the delight of eating local fresh food. I grew up in Burlington, Ontario where food, while always provided, was not the centre of our lives. With many after-school activities, our meals were often ‘on the run.’ I rarely thought about where food originated – it simply came from the grocery store.
It was not until I went to university– when, ripping open another frozen box of pizza- that my friend (who had grown up in a small rural community) said, ‘I can’t believe you have no idea how to cook.’ It struck me then that it is too easy to go through life without learning how to cook. Everything is packaged and ready for you. That reality made me profoundly sad and was the start of my interest in where our food comes from.
I have been lucky as a documentary filmmaker to travel to Nigeria, Ukraine and Romania. In these countries the meals made my taste buds explode – so delicious words can’t describe. When I inquired why the food tasted so marvelous, it was always the same answer – the food was fresh and local, usually picked that day and brought straight to your plate.
I learned many things while making “In The Same Boat.” While the costs for participating in both livelihoods go up, the amount both small-scale farmers and fishermen make continues to decrease. There are also fewer young people getting into both the inshore fishery and family farming. And even if the younger generation wants to get involved, there are fisheries regulations that make it difficult to pass on the skills. For instance, the fisherman highlighted in the documentary was unable to give his grandson his enterprise. If his grandson wants to continue fishing, the start-up costs would be too great.
Although the inshore fishery and family farming are ‘ways of life,’ it is not simply a quaint lifestyle that people can shrug their shoulders about, saying ‘oh well, if it is over it is over, change is good.’ The loss of small-scale food industries has critical social, ecological and economic consequences. In this regard, it is every person’s ‘way of life’ at stake.
To protect these livelihoods and make sure we have local fresh food to eat, we must support our small-scale food providers. For example, I’m excited to take part in Off The Hook Community Supported Fishery (CSF). CSFs work to connect consumers to the people who actually caught their fish. Similar to Community Supported Agriculture, CSF customers sign up at the beginning of a season for weekly shares of fish. Consumers gain access to fresh, delicious, sustainably harvested fish and a chance to connect to the people who catch it. Meanwhile, fishing families are able to set a fair price for their catch- and the rare chance to connect back to the people who eat their fish.
Truly we are all ‘in the same boat.’
Rachel Bower has worked in the television industry for over a decade, winning several awards, including the National Radio-Television News Directors Association Award for Best Short Feature. In The Same Boat– her latest documentary- won best documentary at the Silver Wave Film Festival. In the Same Boat will screen as part of Saint Mary’s University’s International Month, which is celebrating food security and water cooperation. Join Bower at 7pm on February 14th at Saint Mary’s Sobey Building Scotiabank Theatre.