Jason Aspin sugguests Million acre organic farm for P.E.I.

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Entrepreneur Jason Aspin says Prince Edward Islanders need to start dreaming bigger. Aspin is the CEO of Aspin Kemp Enterprises and moved his entire business operations last year from Ontario to P.E.I.

Island businessman issues challenge to make province environmental leader

Jason Aspin says Islanders need to start dreaming bigger. Some critics suggest he is the one dreaming — based on a number of comments posted to social media following the publication of a story in The Guardian last week. There will always be critics of new ideas and daunting challenges so Mr. Aspin should not be dismayed. A majority of commenters actually supported Mr. Aspin and wished him good luck.

At the heart of the matter is a call from the Island entrepreneur for P.E.I. to switch entirely to organic farming and clean energy, and get its financial house in order. Corporate P.E.I. is not usually known for supporting green initiatives. Mr. Aspin takes the issue from the left margin and puts it squarely front and centre on the Island agenda.

The CEO of Aspin Kemp Enterprises, who moved his business operations to P.E.I. last year, might have expected a hostile reception from business leaders attending the Eastern P.E.I. Chamber of Commerce event but his three-fold challenge was greeted with warm applause.

Critics suggested that Mr. Aspin is positioning himself for a political career, that his company took advantage of government incentives to come here and that his challenges are unrealistic.

Eastern business leaders apparently feel differently. Instead of his challenges being viewed as an attack against agriculture and certain Island businesses, they viewed them as an opportunity to create new jobs and wealth, and transform the province into a productive, environmentally friendly and unique place for people to live, work and play — and provide even more reasons for tourists to come here.

He called on the province to put in place a successful financial model or “we are going to be in trouble.” Switching to green energy solutions could provide the spark for that new model.

Before dismissing Mr. Aspin as a dreamer, one should examine where he’s coming from. He’s obviously a successful businessman, he obviously believes in this province and he obviously wants to make P.E.I. a better place to live and work.

With our major municipalities endorsing and implementing bans on cosmetic pesticides, one-half of the province’s population is already on the road to curtailing pesticides. The agriculture sector would like to move in that direction if at all feasible but it needs help from industry and scientists for that to happen.

Mr. Aspin says the province should set a vision and target dates to harness alternate energy systems, switch to 100 per cent organic farming and create a sound financial model for citizens. Almost everyone would support these ideas if feasible. Attaining them is the hard part but if goals are never set, goals are never reached.

When President John F. Kennedy declared a goal in May 1961 to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, some scoffed but many more were excited. The U.S. harnessed its ingenuity and fulfilled the late president’s dream on July 20, 1969. Many view the Apollo mission as the greatest technological achievement ever accomplished by mankind.

Perhaps the province should set those goals and guidelines suggested by Mr. Aspin and see if we can attain them. We might fail, but we’ll make things better for the trying. Mr. Aspin believes Islanders are up to the challenge because P.E.I. offers the opportunity to be creative and innovative. Solar, wind and tidal power offer increased renewable energy opportunities. Instead of being known as the gentle Island or another little Island, we’ll be famous as the environmentally friendly green Island.

Mr. Aspin should be applauded for articulating those challenges.

Organizations: Island agenda.The CEO of Aspin Kemp Enterprises, Eastern P.E.I. Chamber of Commerce

Geographic location: P.E.I., Iceland, U.S.

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Recent comments

  • Leaning in the right direction
    March 20, 2015 - 15:51

    If you take a look at the new goals put forth in Premiere MacLauchlan's Economic Forum on March 16th, you might think he and his cabinet have not committed to any of the dreams or goals suggested by Jason Aspin. However, I think they surprisingly have and can see a very clever political approach unfolding here which will lead us to a future that does mirror Jason's vision. Jason has outlined many of the benefits of an organic, energy-independent, green P.E.I. ; mainly economic, health, and environmental improvements. MacLauchlan's economic forum focused on goals that would help our population reduce the financial deficit, bring our skilled workers back to PEI, increase exports based on food branding that incorporates the whole island as part of that brand. They did not say a word about the environment or about organic food production. However, it makes little sense for a politician to announce that he/she intends to create a completely different system and way of life here in PEI by taking steps to make it organic and limit the import of goods and services we have come to enjoy (non-organic, imported produce, carbon-based fuel and energy, etc.). That is, because It is far out of any one administrations power and ridiculous to commit to something one government cannot control or oversee for the long term. The Liberal government’s current economic plans, I am certain, are a strategic way to gain the support of local citizens and enhance the infrastructure, business community and culture that will support the evolution of this Island towards a more organic and green future. They may not have dictated this as some overarching, secret plan, but there is definitely the sense of a certain type of underlying vision that is more in alignment with making improvements to sectors that impact both economic and environmental crises of the present and future. If it is hard to see the connection between the Liberal’s economic focus (accompanied by a lack of a verbalized plan for environmental stewardship in current announcements) and Jason Aspin’s vision for PEI, consider these examples. -There are many jobs to be created in the process of monitoring, testing, supporting and ensuring our future "Organic PEI " brand and lifestyle is maintained. Improved PEI brands of food attracts and keeps skilled workers in the province within agriculture, fishing, production, processing, storage and transport with additional jobs created to ensure quality, reliability. -People move away or are discouraged from returning or settling here because of fears about raising their children or growing old in a place that exposes their families to an environment that increases the risks of suffering from asthma or cancer. In the long term, I can see that piece of the PEI Budget Expenditures pie chart for health ($593.7 million, or 36% in 2014-2015) decreasing with every dollar spent on broad improvements to agriculture and environmental practices favoring a 100% organic , green energy producing island. Maybe the dollar amount will remain the same for Health Care, but our population will grow and we will need the expensive, preventable cancer treatment services less. - Finally, MacLauchlan seems to recognize that consumers and travellers enjoy the convenience of knowing certain facts about their purchases and destination without having to do a lot of research. Consumers increasingly make purchases based on their values and it would be very simple to choose a PEI brand if it automatically implied strict (whole –province), high quality production requirements were met. Branding PEI as a top quality food producer helps tourism by creating a unique destination –a real food lover’s utopia. Our prosperous future as a North American, pure, environmentally conscious -well- utopia would be easily expanded upon to include a completely organic agricultural, fishing, etc industry. (I use the word utopia because we have defined borders to help preserve our efforts. It is truly difficult to define, in this day and age, a place other than a national park or wild wilderness where the air, water and soil may be a priority and where a person is least likely to experience the effects of human-produced pollution). For those who wish to remain in more populated areas and look to find an ecological approach to living and travelling within Canada or North America, PEI would become a top destination. Presently PEI sells its image as a getaway that is pure, natural, and wild. However, the residents and increasingly the world are recognizing that this is a facade and it is time to ramp up our efforts to preserve the image and reputation of our PEI brand (PEI is a brand whether we want it to be or not and it can become a negative one very easily), we should do all we can to change our systems to ensure the human and environmental ecology here is sustainable. The quality of life and increased self-sufficiency that such a shift would bring are essential benefits of this economic focus that will turn our Island into the utopia it once was and should be.

  • David MacNearney
    March 04, 2015 - 09:37

    The problem with organic production is the organic certifying bodies and the organic proponents that support them. None of them allow the use of GMOs or GM technology. This is based solely on a belief that they are in some way, shape or form harmful. This "belief" is unsupported by any sound science. There are many arguments to be made that GMOs and GM technology is of real benefit to the environment and thus in line with the stated goals and purposes of the organic movement. I am in favour of a more environmentally friendly island. However I have no faith in a movement that operates on ideology and ignores reality and the robust science that proves that reality.

    • In The Know
      March 04, 2015 - 10:42

      Uh, the whole idea of organics is that people don't want their food being tampered with. There's is NO proof that GMOs are harmless. Studies that are sponsored by the company that stands to gain from them don't count in my books, especially when there are no long term studies done.

  • How It Is
    March 04, 2015 - 05:55

    "Today the organic food market is described by industry analysts as the most dynamic and rapidly growing sector of the global food industry. The global market for organic products, once a small scale niche market, reached a value of almost $US 63 billion in 2011 (Source: International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements). Worldwide, about 37.2 million hectares of agricultural land are certified according to organic standards, and there are about 1.8 million certified organic producers. In Canada, there has been a small but increasing organic agriculture sector since the early 1980s. In recent years, this sector has seen dramatic growth with organic food consumption developing at a faster rate than production." The above is a direct quote from Ag Canada. It will take years to make a change-over. Let's get started so we don't miss the bus.

  • Boyd Rose
    March 03, 2015 - 18:08

    We welcome Mr. Aspin and his company back to PEI. We wish him well with his business which I know very little about; other than he is building electric cabinets for off shore ships. I am a proud PEI farmer and welcome any new ways to grow business on PEI. I don't grow organic produce now but think it's great we have producers that are growing organic produce. The markets for organic produce are small at best and like most farmers, organic producers struggle to make ends meet. In my 30 years of farming I have noticed most of the people growing organic produce do so on a small scale with most having another source of income. We now have a few producers who are able to make a living of organic production on PEI as there sole income and I applaud them. A million acre organic farm needs markets to support which are just not there at this time. 97% of consumers want a perfect product at a cheap price. That is the reality of the world we live in. The food we produce on PEI is the best, the safest and produced in the most sustainable of any in the world. I am proud to be one of those producers and create jobs and economic growth in PEI. I welcome this debate with an open mind and I ask Mr.Aspin have you built your business making products nobody wants or are willing to pay for? I think not. I would hate to ruin the small market for the organic farmers who are doing a good job now by over producing something there are not enough markets for. Build the market first and we will supply what consumers want - we always have!

  • Best Of Luck
    March 03, 2015 - 14:38

    I wish Mr. Aspin the best of luck in changing this Island to a unique, sustainable, healthy place to raise a family. I started gardening organically 30 years ago when such things were thought of as "odd" and "different". Everything worth doing started out as a dream. I hope this dream comes true so our future generations can have pride in PEI. The place is an embarrassment the way it is.

  • Blake Loo
    March 03, 2015 - 13:03

    This is by no means a new vision for PEI but it is a different approach. When my father (Raymond Loo) was alive his vision was for PEI to become Organic. I would like to wish Mr.Aspin good luck and much success on helping our Island work towards becoming organic.

  • It all starts with a dream
    March 03, 2015 - 12:04

    A great challenge. And taking advantage of government initiatives made sense in this case. He is a successful entrepreneur and I welcome him home!!

  • Killing Us All
    March 03, 2015 - 11:39

    All of our food used to be organic at one time, not a chemical pesticide to be found. Back then we lived a lot longer, like on average 22 years longer. Oh sorry that was a mistake we actually now live on average 20 years longer.

    • silly
      March 03, 2015 - 15:50

      Well then we must live longer because of the pesticides then right? Oh sorry, that's just silly.