Food Freedom Day 2015
- In 2014, Canadians are expected to have spent 10.4% of their disposible income on food.
- February 6 is the calendar date for 2015 when the average Canadian has earned enough income to pay his/her grocery bill for the year, coined by the CFA as Food Freedom Day!
- Soils are teeming with life. Soils host a quarter of our planet's biodiversity.
- There are more organisms in one tablespoon of soil, than there are people on earth.
- Soil is made up of 45% minerals, 25% water, 5% organic matter, 25% air.
- 95% of our food comes from soil. It's incredibly important to ensuring a food supply!
- A large percentage of the planet's arable soil is used for family farming. 83% is North and Central America, 68% in Europe, 85% in Asia, 62% in Africa, 18% in South America.
- Globally, up to 50,00 square kilometres of soil (an area equivalent to the size of Costa Rica) are lost every year. Experts estimate we only have 60 years of topsoil left.
- It can take up to 1,000 years to produce just 2-3 centimetres of soil.
- While more than one-third of our food goes to waste, up to half of our household waste could be composted to nurture our soil.
* Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Soil Day
*Stay tuned for details about the 2016 Food Freedom Day!
We walk on it, plant seeds in it, reap its benefits as a natural water filter, all while it serves as a home for a quarter of our planet’s biodiversity. And yet we continue to take this one fundamental resource for granted: soil.
Because everything starts with soil, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) has chosen to have this year’s Food Freedom Day focus on the important contribution soil makes to the Canadian agri-food value chain. Every year, the CFA calculates the calendar date when the average Canadian has earned enough income to pay for his/her annual grocery bill, known as “Food Freedom Day.” This year, Food Freedom Day lands on February 6. In 2014, Canadians are expected to have spent 10.4% of their disposable income on food.
While many Canadians do not realize it, to ensure a healthy and abundant food supply we are very much dependent on the quality of our soils, not only for the amount of food it can produce, but also for the nutrient density of our food, which is dependent on the level of minerals in the soil minerals. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) - which has named 2015 as the International Year of the Soils - has estimated that as much as 95% of the world’s food supply is directly and indirectly produced as a result of soil. Given that so much of our food supply is dependent on good-quality soils and with a rapidly-increasing world population, it is imperative not to overlook this non-renewable resource. (Did you know that one centimetre of soil can take hundreds to thousands of years to form from parent rock?)
With Canada’s current agricultural area accounting for just over 64.8 million hectares, the notion of soil conservation in Canada could understandably at first glance be viewed as a non-issue. However, according Statistics Canada’s 2014 publication Human Activity and the Environment – Agriculture in Canada, from 1971 to 2011 available farmland in Canada decreased by 3.9 million hectares, which is equal to an area approximately the size of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. Human pressures on soils due to urbanization are nearing critical limits, even here in Canada, causing a dire need to raise awareness on the importance of conserving and protecting this precious resource.
Canada’s producers have long been at the forefront of adopting practices that aim to improve soil conservation and quality. A key measure that has picked up momentum across the agriculture sector in recent years is no-till cropping in areas where this practice is feasible. While conventional tillage loosens and aerates the soil, allowing for greater air exchange, it also removes residues from the soil surface. This leaves the soil more vulnerable to erosion from wind and water, along with augmenting the decomposition of organic matter.
Statistics Canada’s Human Activity and the Environment reports that no-till practices, which increase organic matter retention and alleviate soil erosion, have increased from 7% in 1991 to 56% in 2011. The same report also noted that as of 2011, 20% of Canadian farmers were performing annual soil nutrient testing and 18% added straw to their land to improve soil conditions. Other measures used by producers to enhance and protect soils include stream, ditch and floodplain management; drought preparedness; and pasture/grazing management.
Despite all of these important measures, ensuring sustainability of Canada’s agricultural index, of which soil is undoubtedly a fundamental component, is a never-ending process that still requires much work. But Canadian farmers cannot do it alone. Canadian consumers can do their part by purchasing Canadian products at the grocery store. The more we support our food system and producers here at home, the more the sector can invest in its future. It supports the efforts of Canadian producers who are continuously working to ensure premium products are available across the country and contributing to Canada’s position as an exporting country.