CADA Newsletter June 2022

In this issue: one of our farmers pulls back the curtain on global food shortages and gives practical advice on how we can prepare.

Four Ways to Mitigate Food Shortage Risks

In the headlines informing us of war, school shootings, raging inflation, climate change, and monkey pox, there are also stories of a looming food shortage.

I’m not enough of an economist to know if we are heading for a recession, a depression or a great reset, but as a farmer I can give my perspective on the food shortage situation.


It is hard to imagine we could ever have a food shortage in North America where we have so much food that widespread obesity is a problem, and where we have such an abundance of grain that we have to feed it to animals and burn it as ethanol in our cars.

However the old proverb is, “Nature always bats last.” Maybe we are starting to see Nature’s response to modern agriculture. Now, I will admit modern agriculture produces a lot of food. But I am not so sure the food is actually good for us and less sure that it is sustainable.

Last winter, there was consternation in the farming community with the talk of a nitrogen fertilizer shortage. Most farmers did not think they could grow much of a crop without it. In the end, it was available, but at double or triple the cost of previous years.

(A quick word on why nitrogen is popular among plant growers. We know what steroids do for people. We also know the side effects. Nitrogen is like steroids for plants. Healthy soils have an intricate system of capturing nitrogen from the air and making it available to plants in moderate amounts. With chemically produced nitrogen, growers can easily double or triple the amount of food they can harvest, and since they are paid for volume, not quality, all conventional growers use it.)

The nitrogen situation drove home the point. Modern agriculture is totally dependent on manufactured fertilizer, glyphosate, genetically modified seeds and diesel fuel. Anything that restricts access to these things will decrease food output. We are seeing how quickly an event like war can disrupt the supply of inputs.

Even beyond that, modern agriculture has created a cycle of dependency. The more you use chemical fertilizers and herbicides, the less natural soil life you will have, and the more you will need to add them. It becomes a vicious cycle that makes farmers dependent on the large companies that make these products. These companies become wealthy from this treadmill. The farmers do not.

Dairy sheep grazing at sunset.
Dairy sheep grazing at sunset.

That’s just on the crop side. On the animal husbandry side, modern agriculture has developed the same dependence on manufactured solutions. It’s efficient to put 20,000 chickens in the same barn. Viruses are also efficient when they have close contact with so many potential hosts. So it takes vaccines and antibiotics and bio-security to keep the animals alive. Even with all these measures, we keep seeing these massive outbreaks of swine, and bird flu. Farmers are not staying ahead of Nature. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that pigs and chickens, the two species that are the most factory-farmed, have the most severe virus outbreaks.

What is never discussed is the root causes of these outbreaks: overcrowding, lack of sunshine, unnatural diet. . . Instead wild life and pastured animals are blamed for spreading these diseases. Pasture farmers are advised to move their pigs and chickens inside away from contact with wildlife. Healthy flocks in the vicinity of an outbreak are exterminated to contain the spread.

Yet the larger the factory farms become, and the more they isolate, medicate and disinfect, the worse the outbreaks become. A solution such as spreading out animal production among thousands of small flock holders is not considered. Instead, vaccines, antibiotics and biosecurity become even more firmly entrenched. It is a continuous losing battle against Nature that makes pharmaceutical companies wildly wealthy.

Here are just some of the situations affecting the global food supply:

  • A blockade is preventing Ukraine from shipping wheat.
  • A bird flu has killed over 30 million birds, either directly or through extermination.
  • Thousands of beef cattle died from a heat wave in Kansas.
  • Many large food processing plants have had unexplained fires.
  • Diesel fuel and nitrogen markets are volatile.
  • Our weather systems are volatile.

As I said earlier, with the amount of food Canada exports, I doubt we are going to see widespread shortages here. More likely, we will see food prices rise sharply due to the cost of nitrogen, and we may have a smaller selection of food choices. For example, there could be shortages of chicken due to bird flu and the fire at the Cargill poultry processing plant in London.

Facing rising costs of fuel and labour, some companies might also drop some of their less popular products and focus on the basics, further reducing the variety we are used to seeing in our grocery stores.

One of the lessons I learned when there was a brief run on food in the spring of 2020, is how fast we sell out if there is an unexpected uptick in demand and how long it takes to rebuild inventory again.

Remember it takes eight weeks to fatten a chicken, four months to fatten a hog and a year to fatten a cow. If there is a run on food and we farmers sell out, we can’t have product for you tomorrow.

So what are some steps we can take to mitigate the risk of a food shortage?

Pre-order your meat. By systematically booking ahead and reserving your quarters, sides or whole animals, you can ensure you always have food coming in. This also helps your farmer have a clearer picture of how many animals to enter into production or how many new customers to take on.

Buy shares in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). This connects you to an actual grower. Based on the number of shares purchased, they can gauge how much to plant.

Have an emergency food fund. We all know the most important step to financial security is to get out of debt and have three months’ expenses saved in an emergency fund. Depending on your space and budget, you can work toward stocking up on one to three months’ worth of food. This way you have something to bridge the gaps if food availability becomes spotty.

Build relationships and networks with like-minded people. Remember, no man is an island. None of us will ever be completely self-sufficient. We will always need other people to help us survive. Stay positive. We are small, but God is big, so let’s not get dragged down worrying about things we can’t control anyway. It would be a shame to miss out on enjoying current blessings by worrying about future problems.

We’re always looking for stories about how our members have achieved better health through raw milk, or how access to raw milk is essential to their culinary heritage. We’re also looking for your stories about regenerative and raw dairy farming.

Please send your stories to members@artisandairy.ca for upcoming newsletters.

We’ll just get these cows to stare down the bureaucrats at Health Canada until they legalize raw milk again.
We’ll just get these cows to stare down the bureaucrats at Health Canada until they legalize raw milk again.

Cross-Border Shopping for Raw Milk?

One of our members recently asked the Canadian Food Inspection Agency , “Can I bring raw milk purchased in the USA across the border into Canada?”

The answer may surprise you: “Yes, up to 20 kg for personal use.”

This is another inconsistency to bring to the attention of our MPs and MLAs/MPPs. It’s illegal for farmers to sell raw milk because it is considered a public health hazard. However, consumers can choose to import up to 20 kgs (or litres) of raw milk from the US for their own use. If we can choose to consume American raw milk, why can’t we choose to consume Canadian raw milk? Does the Canadian Food Inspection Agency know something Health Canada doesn’t?

Hey you there! Have you lobbied your MP yet?
Hey you there! Have you lobbied your MP yet?

Membership Update

Thanks to everyone who has invited new members! We are up to over 1400 members. Can we add a couple of zeros to that number this year?

Are you traveling this summer to Quebec or the Maritimes? As you’re savouring raw milk cheese in la belle province or feasting on lobster rolls, tell the people you meet about CADA. If they’re interested in our mission, invite them to JOIN on the website.

Advocacy Update

Federal Lobby: Our members have approached 19 of the 338 Members of Parliament. We’ve got a ways to go. Three MPs have agreed to support us and we are still following up with the rest. If you have sent a lobby letter out, please let us know by forwarding a copy to action@artisandairy.ca.

Want to lobby your MP but not sure how? Please email action@artisandairy.ca for guidance on the lobbying process.

Provincial Lobby: In parallel with our federal lobby efforts, members are beginning to approach their provincial representatives. If you live in YT, NT, NU, SK, QC, PE, NB, NS or NL we need your help to contact your MPPs or MLAs! We also need one or two people in each province to coordinate lobbying efforts. Contact action@artisandairy.ca for more info.

WAYS YOU CAN HELP

See the website for more specifics:

  • Lobby your MP
  • Recruit new members
  • Like and share our posts on social media.

Support the Cause

A one-time $25 donation from even a few people will go a long way to covering our annual costs. Send an e-transfer to donate@artisandairy.ca or a cheque payable to Canadian Artisan Dairy Alliance to 12 Upjohn Road, Unit 8, Toronto, ON M3B 2V9.

A Little Laugh…

Studies show that cows produce more milk when the farmer talks to them. It’s a case of in one ear and out the udder.