Saturday, October 13, 2012

SOUPSTOCK: STOP THE MEGA QUARRY


Through a Chefs Collaborative connection I was recently invited by the Canadian Chefs Congress and Chef Michael Stadtländer to attend Soup Stock on Sunday October 21, 2012 in Toronto.

I will admit that although I had heard of this proposed quarry I did not know much about the details and the possible destruction it could cause. The quarry would be the 2nd largest quarry in North America .

The Highland Companies’ has proposed a massive limestone Mega-Quarry in Melancthon Township, 100 kilometres northwest of Toronto.

Backed by a $25-billion Boston MA Based hedge fund, Highland proposes to blast a pit deeper than Niagara Falls from beneath a landscape of great agricultural, cultural and ecological importance.

The Mega-Quarry would permanently destroy more than 2,300 acres of the best farmland in Ontario. It would also require 600-million litres of water to be pumped out of the pit each day — in perpetuity. This water is used by up to one million Ontarians downstream.

In September 2011, after months of public outcry and media scrutiny, the Ontario government ordered that a provincial Environmental Assessment be undertaken of the proposed Mega-Quarry. This would be the first-ever Environmental Assessment of a quarry operation in the province’s history.

The province now awaits confirmation from Highland Companies whether they wish to participate in an Environmental Assessment, or to abandon the controversial project.

The Canadian Chefs’ Congress, David Suzuki Foundation and countless tireless organizers, local farmers and supporters continue to demand that the proposal be rejected outright.

So I'm sure your wondering why my involvement and I too thought about the invitation when I received it and if my voice and participation was something that could help make a difference.

To be fair I studied both sides of the story. And I have always been a huge believer that there are 3 sides to every story, with the third typically being the most accurate.

 The Highland Company has prepared several documents backing their claim that the impact of the quarry would be minimal to none based on their plans. They claim the economic impact on the area would be beneficial to the area and would create more income to the local community than the local farmland currently does. And by reading their web site, I admit that they seem to be saying the right things.

Both sides of the story seemed to have valid points and positive impacts on the community and I encourage you to read as much as you can about this as I think you will come to the same conclusion I did and understand why I decided to support and attend soupstock and back the fight against the mega quarry.

The one thing that struck me right in the face was the fact that this proposed mega quarry is not sustainable. Meaning that once the limestone is gone, so is the quarry. And so are the farms that currently are a source of income for many families, so is the source of food that many Canadians rely upon. Gone are the opportunities that allow chefs to create local food from local resources and gone are the recreation areas that we as humans rely upon to stay connected to our planet.

Also, due to the magnitude of the proposed excavation, and the fact that it lays directly in a highly sensitive water recharge area, any miscalculation, oversight or other error could result in an environmental catastrophe of enormous proportions. Which the Highland Companies can not guarantee will not happen. The proposed quarry site is situated on prime agricultural land, to be excavated invasively 200 feet below the water table in the midst of the headwaters for a number of significant river systems that serve a large portion of Ontario’s population.


As a chef who has focused much of my career on sourcing from my local farms and waters, I ask myself if this was a proposal that would impact my community and my relationships with those that grow the food that feeds us, I know I would be the first in line in opposition of such a proposal. I thought about the Canadian chefs and their connections with the farms in harms way and understand the fear they have about loosing a major part if not the most important part, the source of a food system and the impact it will have through the entire chain.

I am not against hedge funds and the thought of investing my money to watch it grow, in fact if I'm ever in a position that I can invest in a business through a hedge fund and make millions, hell count me in. I too am after the American dream, right? But I will also think about the investments and the business that could harm people. I've said this many times, I truly don't consider myself an enviornmentalist or tree hugger in any essence of the term. But I do consider myself a peopelist , a person who cares about people, especially those that allow me to feed those willing to pay for my food. I am a cook who appreciates the food I use and respect the food I use more than many in my field. I care about being able to continue to cook local food and share this with my cooks and guests for as long as I can hold a pan, therefore I understand why this mega quarry is the center of opposition for Canadians especially those in the food service industry. I understand the impact it can have on the enviornment and respect that side of the story as well.

But as mentioned I cook...so I am proud to support Canadian Chefs and hope that my voice is heard here in Boston....that just because a Boston company is supporting this, doesn't mean a Boston chef does. And hope you will consider sending the same message to the Highland Companies... respect the land that feeds us, respect the families you are putting in jeopardy, respect the food and water system that may not impact you directly but will impact millions of North Americans.

I have an idea...lets invest in a restaurant group that is easily able to be duplicated in markets across North America. The concept..Regional Cuisine that supports local farms, ranchers and fisherman and makes a positive impact on the food system that only a large company with massive amounts of buying power can cause. We will support large farms, small farms and those looking to make an impact on a sustainable food system. Lets work together to regain control of a food system that is in need of repair. And I know whats important to the investors, money. I assure you there is money to be made without impacting the land that feeds us.

So I will make the trip on Sunday October 21, and serve soup at soup stock in Woodbine Park in Toronto, side by side with Chef Michael Stadtländer and 200 of Canada’s best, including Jamie Kennedy, Anthony Walsh and John Higgins, who will concoct original soup creations to celebrate the Melancthon region’s rich agricultural, cultural and natural history. top chefs. I'm proud to show my support, but more excited and to me more important, to meet and learn first hand about the people and culinary community of our Northern neighbors in jeopardy of loosing the land that feeds them.


“We want Torontonians to join us for an epic event in support of stopping the Mega-Quarry,” said Chef Michael Stadtlander. Well Chef...I hope you don't mind a Bostonian in the mix.


3 comments:

Carl Cosack said...

Hello Rich, and a heartfelt "Thank you" for your story and your support. When you are a Soupstock I will look you up and give you a good old Canadian "Bear hug". Look for a white Cowboy hat, I will be right under it.
Carl

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Anonymous said...

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