THE PRICE OF FOOD, THE COST OF STAYING ALIVE – Marilyn Armstrong

This post started out as a comment to Rich’s piece, but it reminded me of all those years when the Fishery Department in New England begged the fisher-folks to hold back on fishing out the spawning areas. St. George’s banks — which is technically both U.S. and Canadian waters — I think the line runs right through the area. George’s Banks are closed, both by Canadian and American authorities because of overfishing.

If they didn’t close them, there wouldn’t be any fish in the future. Almost all our fish these days is imported. Salmon from Canada where it is farmed, and the rest from Asia.

Our food has more than doubled in price. We could buy a week’s food for the three of us for around $150 before the quarantine. Now it costs MORE than $300. We do have some locally grown food just beginning to show up in the markets and ironically, our farms which have been doing poorly are suddenly a very big deal. We can get (easily) eggs, milk, honey, and strawberries. We have tons of blackberries growing in our own back 40, but it’s even more lethal than our rose bushes and before we can get them, the birds eat all of it.
Squash is coming into season. Also cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and with a little luck, we’ll have a good year for peaches. Soon (I hope!) we will also have fresh corn. We don’t grow mountains of corn because we have so little flat land, but what we do grow is delicious.

Everything is organic. Not because we are such believes in organic produce, but because we have such a high water level, fertilizer seeps into the aquifer, and if we kill the aquifer, we are all in big, permanent trouble.

We have no slaughterhouses. I’m sure that the individual farms raise a few pigs and beef cattle for personal use, but it doesn’t go to the stores. There is a huge chicken farm nearby. They have a big restaurant (no open right now, of course), but they also sell it in their shop. It costs twice the imported prices but it is very good and their chickens roam free.

Shooting through a wire fence, these are impressionist chickens. Need eggs?

Anyone with a back that works grows acorn squash (by November I’ve overdosed on squash), tomatoes, and onions. Also round, red potatoes. Some people have started growing jalapenos, too. In this limited rural area, summer is the only time you can get fresh local fruits and vegetables. After September and October (apple season — we have gigantic orchards for apples and they are great apples … and the farmers keep cross-breeding new varieties, albeit our local apples are much more expensive than the imported ones. Probably not THIS year!

The cows in the meadow

Not much fish except via Canada where they farm salmon. We used to have wonderful fish, but they overfished the region and it’ll be decades before we can get fish from the ocean again. Our rivers are good for trout — if you like trout and none of us do — and while down on the Cape they are farming lobster, there aren’t enough of them for more than their immediate areas.

New England had the biggest and best fishing fleets in the world. All gone. The fleets are gone and the areas are now filled with private boats. Which is fine, but they don’t bring in fish.

The fisherfolk were warned yearly to NOT go to George’s Banks because that was where they spawned. Garry covered those stories and he always came back shaking his head at the thick-headedness of the fleets. Yes, they’d need to raise prices and wouldn’t be able to bring in the volume of fish they had before, but if they didn’t stop harvesting the fisheries, there would be no more fish at all.

Eventually, when no one cooperated, they closed down the areas about five years ago (maybe it was longer — has swept by so quickly — before there were no more fish to breed. The coast guard patrols the area and there are all these little wars at sea. If we don’t poison the waters, fish will come back — and that’s if we manage to keep the Canadians and Japanese from trawling the areas.

Seafood, the delight of New England is gone. We do get great eggs and butter, though. The milk is great, but we have a lot of people here who have inspected cows, so they don’t homogenize the milk. Garry loves the cream on the top. I stopped buying it.

After Garry steals the cream, even the dogs won’t drink it.

22 thoughts on “THE PRICE OF FOOD, THE COST OF STAYING ALIVE – Marilyn Armstrong

  1. This is such a fine, if sad, narrative about no fishing in New England. I still associate fishing with the region, which is probably reinforced by my looking at old photographs. I appreciate all the food you do produce for local eating. I guess in southern Pennsylvania we have a combination of locally grown food that goes to corporations and some that is sold locally.

    Thank you for your work.

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    • The worst part of the situation is that they were warned over and over again to cut back on fishing out George’s Bank. They wouldn’t listen. They were sure it would last forever. Of course, nothing lasts forever, especially when resources are limited. What a pity.

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  2. There are still fishing fleets, but they are now for the local market – restaurants and sea food markets on the coast, – no longer a supplier for the world.

    Because of the cold, wet, snow(y (!) spring, our CSA is behind, but we should start getting deliveries in a week. We paid in advance, as with CSAs, and it is a crap shot (crop shoot?) because what you receive for the money is 100% on the growing season… But we will have fresh from the farm again soon…

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    • We are beginning to get early corn, squash, and strawberries. We get about 2 months of local stuff, then apples … and then nothing until May and June roll around again. By mid-winter, I’m lusting for ANYTHING fresh!

      Liked by 1 person

      • We received our first CSA delivery Tuesday – I think two weeks later than usual because of all of the rain and the spring snow. Three months of farm fresh produce, and then back to the grocery store again.

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    • This area was one of the prime fishing regions on earth. Losing it was so unnecessary. The fishermen simply could not accept that they had to cut down even if it meant raising prices. They didn’t listen and now, there are no more fishing fleets because everything has been “fished out.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The yeast shortage seems to be a worldwide thing. I tried for weeks to get some. I could have got a bulk bag but I didn’t want that because it would go off before I’d use it all. Finally, a friend in Geeveston spotted some and sent me a packet.
    We still have a fishing industry but there is a lot of worry about super-sized fishing vessels causing overfishing and also threatening marine life. Australia has banned supertrawlers but some conservationists say that the ban does not go far enough and should include vessels smaller than the currently banned size of above 130ft. We also have a salmon farming industry with fish farms in the Huon and in Macquarie Harbour on the west coast.
    There is still a fishing fleet that operates from the Hobart waterfront

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    • We had George’s Banks which was the breeding ground for almost all the edible fish and everyone went at it like it was an endless supply. It wasn’t endless. Now, NO ONE can use it and while there is fishing, it’s not big trawlers anymore. Back to rod and reel!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This shut down is certainly showing up the flaws in our global system, Marilyn. I think that local farmers should be supported so that countries have some food independence. A lot may change after this pandemic. So far here, if you have the money, food is available. Of course, a large section of our population are daily wage earners who have earned nothing for 9 weeks. Our government is supposed to be paying out a small benefit to these people but I have read there are lots of issues with the payments.

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    • We have 42 million unemployed on the books — and this doesn’t count those who were already unemployed, but no long ON the books. A lot of them haven’t seen a penny in unemployment. Someone has the money, but not the people who need it.

      EVERY country should be able to produce enough food to at least provide the basics. We use to, but corporations bought out all the small farms and most of it gets shipped overseas.

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  5. We have to shop in grocery stores, and he prices keep rising while the size of canned and tinned foods keeps diminishing. We don’t buy those as we eat only fresh fruits and vegetables and some salmon and Spelt bread. Even those go up in price. My daughter and I are light eaters, but our grocery bill is still high.I don’t know how families with children manage it unless they’re making high salaries. Because we are at high risk ages, some friends kindly shop for us, too, when they go.

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    • We buy what we can afford. Every once in a while, we get something special, but mostly, we buy whatever is on sale. Garry and I are very light eaters … Owen eats more, but he’s a big guy and works hard all day. Our food bill has doubled. And the “good” food is even MORE expensive! We are supposed to eat healthy, but healthy is at least double the prices of frozen/canned or otherwise preserved.

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  6. The Grand Banks in Newfoundland were fished out years ago. They literally vacuumed the ocean until there was nothing left. Our food is more expensive too.
    Leslie

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  7. I eat mostly chicken and salmon for protein — our salmon is “wild caught,” which is about twice the cost of farmed fish, but so much tastier and so much better for us! All summer long, it is fresh, not frozen, and varies by type by season. Other meats are more expensive, and there are looming shortages of various foods. Flour and yeast and sometimes even eggs are in short supply right now — people are doing more baking as they have the extra time!

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    • Wild salmon is far more money than we can manage. Also, Garry and Owen don’t like salmon. I do. They like white flatfish which to me is tasteless, so mostly, we don’t eat fish. I miss it!

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