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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Agricultural food sufficiency in Alberni-Clayoquot, Canada : an applied history approach Curtis, Meagan Joan


The question of whether a place is producing enough food to feed its population is called the question of food sufficiency. This dissertation looks at the history of agriculture and legislation around food sufficiency in British Columbia and the Alberni-Clayoquot region. The research method of applied history is adopted and contrasts other common approaches to food sufficiency that focus on calculating the difference between production and consumption. To begin, the history of agricultural production within the Alberni Farmers’ Institute (from 1921 to 1984) is documented through a re-telling of events around potato growing, farmer field days, and fish-bearing streams on farms. It is argued that the region never achieved holistic food sufficiency, and that as the century wore on, visions of the food system became increasingly narrowed. Following this, the first five years of the British Columbia Agricultural Land Commission (1973 to 1978) are described. As an administrative tribunal, the Commission sought to increase provincial food sufficiency by means of farmland protection legislation. It is argued that the Commission first imagined soil, land and food to be in an inextricable knot and that its formative years contained a unique ethic related to land, collaboration and public service. Moving onwards from the 1970s, a short history of provincial slaughter regulations is provided. It is argued that the Alberni Farmers’ Institutes’ work to help change these regulations in 2020 and 2021 demonstrates how unfunded volunteer-based organizations can successfully contest barriers to local food sufficiency. The category of on-farm slaughter is further described as unique meat culture in its own respect – with its own specific environmental, and socio-economic and metaphysical characteristics. To end, the last chapter offers a deeper look at how the contemporary food system is envisioned by some Alberni-Clayoquot residents. Through food mapping and photography, the many ways people value food is illustrated as well as the tie between food sufficiency and food sovereignty. The dissertation concludes by highlighting the importance of maintaining a balance between independence and dependence in farmer-government relations and the consequential effects of our underlying values on maintaining an adequate regional food supply.

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