Heritage Foods: Preserving Diversity I

heritageindexThe diversity in the varieties of crops being grown in Canada has dwindled significantly. Virtually all of the fruits, vegetables, grains, livestock and pretty much every ingredient found on grocery store shelves, is of a variety that has purely been bred for profit. At no time has the importance of maintaining diversity or flavour ever been a concern for the powerful industrial food system that has taken hold of the North American diet.

This series will explore what risks accompany the loss of such diversity while on the other hand, expose the many farmers and organizations preserving Canada’s heritage varieties of food and protecting our food supply from the control of multinational interests.

Part I
On Part I, we resurrect Red Fife Wheat, perhaps the most important wheat variety to Canadians. Red Fife fed Canadians for 40 years, yet disappeared as more export-oriented varieties and hybrids took its place. But Red Fife is making a comeback, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency doesn’t like it. Is this a chance for the people of Canada to reclaim control over our cultural heritage and challenge the industrial food system? Sharon Rempel thinks so.

We also learn more about heirloom (heritage) vegetables. Growing heirlooms is an exciting way to try new and unusual tastes, shapes and colours. But more than that it is an effort to maintain the genetic diversity of our food crops. Many varieties have disappeared forever and there is interest in keeping these older varieties in circulation. Heirlooms, unlike some hybrids, are not grown for their ability to withstand shipping and chemicals or their uniform look at market. They are grown for taste.

Audio recorded by Marinko Jareb (St. Catharines) and Andrea Langlois (Victoria)


Sharon Rempel – AgronomistGrassroot Solutions, (Victoria, BC) – Sharon’s expertise lies in organic production, seed conservation, ‘on farm’ wheat breeding and heritage crops. Sharon was the founder of “Seedy Saturdays” – community seed exchanges held each year across the country. Sharon is the Director of the Heritage Wheat Project. Her most recent project was Canada’s first ever Bread and Wheat Festival, held in Victoria on October 27, 2007.

Linda CragoFarmerTree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm (Wellandport, ON) – At Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm, Linda’s specialty and passion is Heirloom vegetables. Linda offers a tremendous selection of heirloom tomato transplants (over 200 varieties), heirloom pepper and eggplant transplants and more. She operates a CSA program, supplies restaurants, and offers mail order across Canada. Linda grows more than 1000 varieties of veggies on an intensively planted piece of land, and does so organically.


Phil Vernon – MusicianÆthm Music (Salt Spring Island, BC) – The broadcast marks the radio debut of “Red Fife Wheat” – a new song recorded just days before this broadcast first aired. The creator of the song is Phil Vernon, a musician based on Salt Spring Island, BC. Phil has lent his musical farming talents to the program on a number of previous occasions.

Musical Selection (name/title/album/label)
Theme/Soundclips: – Adham Shaikh, Infusion, Fusion, Sonic Turtle (CDN)
Music: – Phil Vernon, Red Fife Wheat, N/A, Aethm Music (CDN)