Ivan Emke has hosted more than 70 episodes of Fit to Eat
By Diego Flammini
A retired university professor is hosting a podcast shining light on Newfoundland and Labrador’s food and the people affected by it.
Ivan Emke, who taught at Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook for almost 30 years, has hosted more than 70 episodes of his Fit to Eat podcast.
Newfoundland and Labrador has more than 400 farms.
For context, Oxford County in Ontario has more than 1,800 farms.
After connecting with the province’s ag sector during his time in Newfoundland and Labrador, Emke thought someone ought to create a radio show to highlight local agriculture.
When no one did, he took it upon himself to do so.
“People would nod their head and say it’s a great idea, but nobody would do it,” he told Farms.com. “So, about three years ago I recorded my first episode and here we are.”
His guests include local farmers, chefs, hunters and others related to food in the province.
“It’s important for listeners to hear these voices,” Emke said. “I hope they can feel the passion these people have for agriculture.”
The story of Newfoundland and Labrador agriculture can be split into two timeframes: before and after confederation.
Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949, making it the final province to do so.
Prior to that, farmers there were almost self-sufficient, Emke said.
“Up until Newfoundland and Labrador joined, locals were responsible for about 90 per cent of their own food,” he said. “Now, we produce only about 10 per cent of our non-supply managed goods and import the rest.”
Farming on the island presents multiple challenges.
In provinces like Ontario, a huge network exists where farmers can go for goods and services.
That doesn’t exist in Newfoundland and Labrador, Emke said.
“If you want a tractor, you’ve likely got to go to Nova Scotia or New Brunswick,” he said. “And if your tractor breaks down, you’ve got to wait for someone to come from there or figure it out yourself. And the local economies miss out because fertilizer companies or seed companies aren’t set up here. It takes resilience to farm (in Newfoundland and Labrdaor).”
Emke’s guests also include people not from Newfoundland and Labrador.
Guests from Iceland, for example, provide good examples about protecting local agriculture, he said.
“They’ve done a good job at protecting the industry,” Emke said. “Iceland has great pride in its cheese, has about 80 cheesemakers and local dairy farms to supply the cheesemakers. “Newfoundland and Labrador has one cheesemaker, the rest of the milk is shipped off the island, made into cheese and shipped back.”