Parents with Purpose: Tradition Connector Lori McCarthy

Lori teaching a group about traditional Newfoundland foods. Photos by Carolyn Janes

Absolutely Magical. These are the words Lori McCarthy uses to describe the majesty of her home province of Newfoundland. And she wants everyone to see, and experience, that magic. Through her business, Cod Sounds, this mom of two — five and seven — takes people foraging in the local wilderness. Through lessons in the traditions and culture surrounding local foods McCarthy builds appreciation for, and encourages preservation of, Newfoundland’s natural resources. We chatted with McCarthy about her business, and why she believes sustainable harvesting is key to Newfoundland’s future.

Why is it important for you to makes these connections to traditional Newfoundland life?

We push these messages to recycle, reuse, take only pictures and leave only footprints, but in my grandfather’s time that was just how it was, there was no need for those hard messages. We just learned those things passively through being in the woods, picking berries, being in nature. Doing this teaches you a fierce connection to, and appreciation for, what we have.

What happens when we are more connected?

If we are eating this food and paying attention to how it is harvested, we’re going to notice when the government wants to push through changes to fishery and agriculture legislation. We are going to pay attention, and stand up for what we have instead of just letting things happen. This is the reason why I only serve diver scallops on the beach, because I don’t believe in drag trawling. I tell people that when I take them out with me, ”This is what I believe sustainable fishing is. I believe there is a future here we just need to change the way we’ve been doing some things.”

Prepping diver scallops

Is there a future for the fisheries in Newfoundland?

Yes, but there needs to be an openness to looking at things a different way. There’s an aquaculture project that’s been in the news in the Placenta Bay area recently. There are people adamantly against aquaculture here, but the government has a mandate to increase aquaculture by 50%. So there’s a big push for the government to grow aquaculture, but there’s a big push from the Salmon Federation, who are concerned about the wild stocks interbreeding with the farm stocks, and those who are aligned with environmental issues who definitely do not want it to go ahead. And then there’s people saying we need work, and then statistics come out about unemployment rates. There’s a real disconnect.

There are ways that aquaculture can be done safely — how it is already done the world over — that can make everyone happy. We know it, but are we ready to say that we are going to be a leader in zero-impact aquaculture? We are selling Newfoundland to tourists as this pristine environment, but people need to go to work and they need to earn an income. We need to find a balance.

You really think these problems can be solved?

This division that people have about the economy and the environment just isn’t sensible. These problems can be solved, it’s just a matter of political will, social responsibility and money. We can solve the problem of aquaculture in the ocean — we put it on land. It’s going to take 10 times the amount of energy, but it’s going to please the workers, it’s going to please the Salmon Federation, and it will please those concerned about environmental impact. I think it comes back on us, the people, to be paying attention. I don’t have all the answers but I do like to talk about it!

Politics aside, what does your business give you on a personal level?

A lot of pleasure. I want people to see this place like I see it, and when you see that connection through someone else’s eyes it is magic. You might see the ads on TV and see how beautiful Newfoundland looks, but you have no idea what it takes to live here. People have questions about how we live and it’s really nice to be able to have those one-on-one conversations, and share the pleasure of life in Newfoundland.

What are some of the challenges of running your business?

The hardest thing for me is trying to be patient. I registered the business three years ago, and there has been a lot to learn in terms of teaching myself things like social media and product development. I never finished high school and I never went to university so I have to teach myself everything.

How do you manage it along with raising young kids?

I think it is a struggle for all mom entrepreneurs. Great opportunities come up all the time, but I have to weigh them against the impact on my family. Where do you take that time from? I could grow the business much quicker if I didn’t have to consider this all the time. While I’m not ready to sacrifice more time away from my family, this work makes me really happy and I’m a better mom because of that.

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