OSCIII Blog: Farming—an essential service

Spring soil amendment application in a Niagara vineyard, May 2018 (Photo: Heather VanVolkenburg).

The term “essential service” is one that most of us have become acutely aware of in the past few months. An essential service refers to an occupation that a government or governing body deems to be necessary for preserving life, health and basic societal functioning. These services are determined to be needed during an emergency as well as when job action is taken in a labour dispute (such as during strikes). Such services must maintain operations during a crisis in order to ensure that society can still function during and after that crisis. Services deemed essential usually include hospitals and healthcare, law enforcement, firefighting, garbage collection, utilities (i.e. water and electricity), and food services connected to the food supply chain.

Determining what qualifies as an essential food service can be complicated. From a consumer’s perspective, we are often only concerned with the availability of food in the grocery store. Some may also think of food services as the prepared salad on the shelf at your local grocery store or a meal purchased from a fast food joint. While these businesses are indeed essential, there is one essential food service that is perhaps the most important: farming. Farming forms the foundation of all food services, providing us with the food and ingredients necessary to survive from day to day. Without farmers, the grocery store where you bought your salad or the fast food joint that served you a hamburger would not exist.

So, before you finish unpacking those groceries or sitting down with that take-out container, take a moment to thank the farmers and those directly connected to agriculture. Also remember that thinking of terms like “farm” or “grocery store” is far too simplistic to truly understand the nature of being essential. Think not only of the farms, but also the workers, fuel providers, truckers, packaging suppliers, grocery clerks, and countless other people that have been involved in the food supply chain along the way. Without these essential food services, and the many intricate pieces involved, we would be a pretty hungry lot!

This blog section will be ongoing throughout the duration of the project with bi-weekly updates provided by Liette Vasseur, Heather VanVolkenburg, Kasia Zgurzynski, Habib Ben Kalifa, and Diana Tosato (see research team). We will be providing research activity updates as well as informative pieces that delve into agricultural concepts and important global issues as they relate to agricultural sustainability and climate change. Stay tuned for regular updates!

Categories: Organic Science Cluster 3 Blog, Updates of the Chair