A couple of weeks ago I wrote of the remarkable growth in the number of immigrant students attending universities in our province. I also described the federal “Study and Stay” program that encourages international students to stay and work in Nova Scotia following graduation, through various support arrangements.
The “Study and Stay” program, which applies to our universities and NSCC colleges, provides career mentoring and access to employment-related events and workshops, and there is also a subsidy to help local employers offset the cost of hiring students for a work-term after they graduate.
Most noteworthy, Cape Breton University (CBU) alone has seen in the past year the addition of almost 2,000 international students, including around 800 from India and 500 from China, truly remarkable numbers.
According to Jonathan McClelland, CEO of the Cumberland Business Connecter, his counterpart in Cape Breton is very encouraged by the economic impact of Cape Breton University’s attraction of international students.
Many of Cape Breton’s foreign students are taking on part time work in the community during their studies. They consider it as a point of personal pride, to have a job in Canada which is consistent with their drive to succeed through hard work.
It is also clear that this trend is not only helping to meet Sydney’s current labour needs but bodes well for the future of the economy on the larger provincial scene since many foreign students want to remain in Canada after graduation. The Cumberland Business Connector has also started discussions with Mount Allison University on possible ways to collaborate and connect foreign students at Mount Allison to job vacancies within Amherst and Cumberland County.
On the healthy eating front, Canada’s revised food guide was recently released, and it has some big changes from previous guidance on healthy eating.
The new guide suggests eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, and choosing whole grains, and a broader variety of protein foods. When picking proteins, the food guide suggests eating more plant-based proteins, like legumes, beans, and tofu more often than those from animal sources, like dairy, eggs, meat and fish.
It’s clear that this focus on non-processed, healthier eating will stimulate future agricultural growth opportunities in our region, but concerns have been raised about the increasing costs of vegetables and fruits in our supermarkets.
While prices are increasing, we should recognise the terrible wastage in the store, and in the home, that is a factor in the high price we pay for so-called fresh produce. It’s estimated that what we actually consume is no more than a half of what is harvested from the fields, the rest ending up in food-store dumpsters and on to municipal garbage dumps and composters via the home kitchen.
It’s suggested that we smarten up by buying more frozen produce, particularly vegetables and fruit which end up being less costly and less wasteful than fresh produce.
As David Hoffman, co-CEO of Oxford Frozen Foods tells it, “We have been promoting frozen wild blueberries for many years, not only for their health benefits and great taste, but also on the basis of ready-to-use, convenient, no waste and the fact that they are available year-round. What is often overlooked is that the very best harvested fruit (not culls) is frozen and that this is done immediately after the harvest, usually within 12 hours, often less.”
He goes on to say that “The flavour and health attributes are flash frozen in the fruit, and we would say that they are “fresher than fresh” because of the long supply chain for unfrozen fresh produce, during which time the quality of fruit is deteriorating. The high degree of waste with fresh fruit is also true. There is minimal waste with frozen wild blueberries or other fruit, and no loss in the health benefits as a result of being frozen.”
All these benefits apply in purchasing the wide range of vegetables you find in the supermarket freezer section. And there is zero wastage to keep production and consumption costs lower.
Can the industry supply additional demand – yes, there have been great advances for example in the know-how of how to grow and freeze wild blueberries in recent years; advances developed right here in Nova Scotia – at the Truro-based Dalhousie School of Agriculture, working closely with Oxford Frozen Foods.
As for other frozen vegetable and fruit product lines, Hoffman says they are running at full tilt in Oxford as it is during the traditional blueberry harvest time from August to November, so they have no current plans to expand beyond their current product lines but could consider it if clear opportunities emerge.
To conclude, for those who feel that animal protein is essential to a robust manhood, it’s interesting to note that wild male gorillas weighing between 350 and 450 lbs feed exclusively on foliage, such as leaves, stems, pith, and shoots, with berries as a key part of their diets.
Alan Walter is a retired professional engineer living in Oxford. He was born in Wales and worked in Halifax. He spends much of his time in Oxford, where he operates a small farm. He can be reached at email@example.com.