Category Archives: Guest Blogs

Our Common Future Under Climate Change

Guest blog from Byomkesh Talukder, PhD candidate in Geography and Environmental Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University

In “Our Common Future Under Climate Change” International Scientific Conference, 7-10 July 2015 Paris, France, the scientific community from around the world came together to address key issues concerning climate change in the broader context of global change. The conference offered an opportunity to discuss solutions for both mitigation and adaptation issues, as well as many side events organized by different stakeholders. In the conference, delegates discussed—among many other scientific and social issues—sustainable local communities, sustainable food and agricultural systems, and climate smart agriculture as part of local adaptation and social learning for a transformative low carbon society.

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As one of the doctoral students of Professor Alison Blay-Palmer, I represented and promoted the philosophical views of the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, and presented a paper in the conference in UNESCO entitled “Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) Technique a Tool for Assessing and Comparing Sustainability of Climate Smart and Conventional Agricultural Systems”. During the conference, I also came in contact with many world famous academicians, experts and dignitaries, and had the opportunity to exchange views with Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

Growing Public Food — *NEW* Case Studies

Guest blog from Project SOIL

Project SOIL is a feasibility study that explores the potential of on-site food production for public institutions through arrangements with local producers, particularly where access to farmland is limited and expensive. By encouraging and facilitating these partnerships, we aim to test the potential for growing mutually beneficial relationships, while increasing the production and consumption of fresh food.

With funding from the New Directions program of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, we have started five pilot initiatives, producing food on-site at health care, social service and educational institutions. There is significant interest in the project, and many institutions across the province are contemplating or starting their own food production pilots. However, the pathway from pilot to viable core program can seem lengthy and fraught with challenges.

To support these initiatives, and provide useful examples from which to learn, we have produced four in-depth case studies of existing models that have achieved significant annual production:

These case studies represent food production models that developed over years, and required time, resources and commitment to achieve significant scale. In each case study, we document the history, resources, partnerships and lessons that enabled each to grow and prosper in their own way.

For more information, and to download pdf versions, please visit our Case Studies page, or contact Phil Mount (pmount@wlu.ca) or Irena Knezevic (Irena.Knezevic@carleton.ca).

 

Malthus Revisited

Guest post by Gisèle Yasmeen. First published on iPolitics Nov. 28, 2014.

“Malnutrition is the number one cause of disease in the world. If hunger were a contagious disease, we would have already cured it,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, a week ago.

“Feed the world” was the refrain of a pop song which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. Thirty years ago, I was among a lot of young people who suddenly became aware that feeding the world is a question of politics as much as production. With the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s Second International Conference on Nutrition ending in Rome on November 21, once again the West is being faced with its responsibility to confront the problem of hunger. Read more

World Food Days 2014

By Wayne Roberts, Visiting Scholar, New College, U of T

This year, several United Nations identified agroecology as a strategy of food production that is central to dealing with hunger, human rights and environmental crises. This October, New College added to this discussion by hosting a mini-conference to celebrate World Food Day and ask if agroecology is pushing out agriculture as “the next new thing” in food and equity.

Not to be outdone, I decided to title my October 17 talk in the mini-conference’s final panel session “Cities, The Next New Thing in Agroecology?”.

This title might sound odd, especially in today’s world where half the population lives in cities and the assumption–or perhaps stereotype–is that food is grown in rural areas, so food isn’t very relevant to cities.

This assumption is part of what’s called the “productionist bias” in food policy and analysis, which focuses attention on production and crop yields rather than consumption and the overall social and cultural benefits that come from food.

Read more

CFICE Community Food Security Hub Newsletter

from CFICE Connections blog:

The Community Food Security Hub created the first issue of the CFS Newsletter. This issue contains information about their research projects, and partner projects. Such projects include: the Regina Community Food Assessment,  the Edible Campus: From Showcase to Living Classroom, and the Campus Food Initiative Study.

Download the newsletter on the CFICE Connections blog.

Agriculture 3.0: a New Paradigm for Agriculture

October 29, 2014 (from farmviability.wordpress.com)

Study Topic: As a 2013 Nuffield Scholar, Gayl is seeking to redefine what it really means to be sustainable in food and farming, by asking: ‘If Agriculture 1.0 is subsistence farming that uses traditional farming practices, and Agriculture 2.0 is industrial agriculture, which is creating serious health and environmental concerns in Canadian communities and communities world-wide, then what might Agriculture 3.0 look like, that offers farmers more choice and also addresses the many concerns about feeding 9 billion by 2050?

Findings:
•    Farm direct marketing is active and very much a part of a way of life for Europeans. Local food just is and does not need to be labelled, because it always has been the way of food in these countries, without having to think about it.
•    Despite poverty and employment issues, young farmers in Transylvania believe they are in the best place in the world “should something ever happen” to the global supply system. They also believe in preserving their landscape, one of the most biodiverse regions in Europe.

•    For agriculture to contribute to a healthy world, we need to go back to the basics, with a mission statement of nourishing communities, not feeding the world.

Read more

Is that all there is… to debate?

Vote on Food and Farming analysis

Many have commented since the June 3 Ontario leaders’ debate that little attention was paid to health care, which makes up about 40% of the provincial budget. Food and farming faced the same lack of attention – hardly surprising, given the six ‘representative’ questions that the media selected to guide the debate: ethics, energy, jobs, debt, transit and education.

It’s a shame that the agriculture and food debate –organized by OFA and the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors– was cancelled. This debate might have given some insight into party platforms that don’t get a lot of prime time exposure.

It’s also a shame that there wasn’t a seventh question in the televised debate, asking the leaders to explain how their earlier positions would affect the development of agriculture and food in the province – forcing them to make clear the links between education, jobs, investment, (health!) and agriculture and food policies.

On May 23rd, Sustain Ontario’s Vote on Food and Farming campaign attempted to do just that, by asking party leaders to reflect on questions covering topics as diverse as health promotion, training and cross-ministerial cooperation – as they relate to agriculture and food issues. I went through their answers with interest, looking for points of consensus as well some of the details in their proposed solutions to issues that shape our food systems.

Three parties –the LiberalsNDP and Green Party– submitted thorough responses, while the PC leader sent a form letter with three brief paragraphs about the Million Jobs Plan. As a result, the Vote on Food and Farming Report Card was full of question marks in the PC column. I hunted down the PC white papers (which can’t be accessed from their own website!) in order to fill in that picture.

And what these white papers show is that the PC Party’s agri-food platform is largely silent on many of the issues captured in the Vote on Food and Farming. This is hardly surprising for issues that the party’s current election platform prevents them from acknowledging – such as increasing social assistance to cover the cost of a nutritious food basket, or increasing the reach of the Student Nutrition Program. In other areas, the white papers’ silence reflects low priorities (at least at the time of writing) for the promotion of healthy eating; encouraging ecologically regenerative agricultural practices; protecting pollinators and their habitat; and protecting farmland.

It is also hardly surprising that, on many of these same issues, the other three parties are all pointed in the same direction, differ only in degree, and could therefore –in theory– work with each other. For example, while the Greens advocate universal approaches in student nutrition programming, guaranteed annual income, protection of class 1 farmland and neonicotinoid controls, they would be unlikely to reject Liberal or NDP policy suggestions which move in the same directions.

One set of solutions highlights interesting differences between the parties: how to get beyond the Ministry-level ‘silos’ that often discourage cross-ministerial cooperation and coordination on food issues.

  • The NDP would “develop a coordinated approach that makes sense”;
  • The PCs would “create one-window access to government for farmers and agribusinesses so they can obtain information efficiently and get one straight answer from government”;
  • The Liberals would “convene an inter-ministerial committee to engage stakeholders such as Sustain on an integrated government approach to agriculture, food, nutrition, health, and environment issues”; and
  • The Greens would convene “an Ontario Food Policy Council with stakeholders and members of the public that is ingrained within OMAF, including a representative from each party and the Premier’s Office”

While I don’t want to overstate the significance of a single statement, these replies suggest some fundamental differences in their approaches to governance.

However, differences were not the rule. In fact, all four parties agree on two issues: setting targets for public procurement purchases of local food, and realizing the Community Food Program Donation Tax Credit, which are both sections of the Local Food Act, but are not yet proclaimed. Of course, even universal agreement doesn’t guarantee action in the current legislature: all parties promised to ease the regulatory burden on small and mid-scale processors in the 2011 campaign, and are repeating that promise in this campaign – since nothing was accomplished in the interim.

Often, the reason for lack of action can be found in the details. For example, only the Greens acknowledged that setting targets for procurement of local foods would be unhelpful without also increasing the funding to hospitals and other institutions. It is often such details that turn what appears to be consensus on the campaign trail into division in the legislature.

Another example: while there is a general consensus that the province needs more regionally-based infrastructure to move local food, the Liberals are investigating whether this can be done by giving money to mainstream distributors, and the PCs are suggesting that another food terminal will do the trick. These approaches reflect a fundamental misreading of both the historical lessons of regional food processing, distribution and marketing in the province, as well as the necessary components of a sustainable, regional-scale food infrastructure.

The leaders’ debate could have provided some much-needed details on the factors that shape their parties’ food and farming policies. Before you make your decision on voting day, be sure to take a look at the Vote on Food and Farming Report Card, which provides some of those details.

Phil Mount,

Valens Ontario

Fortnightly Feast vol. 21

This is the Local Food Election!

[…] There was lots of media hype (both positive and negative) about the passage of the Local Food Act late last year, with all parties scrambling to show how they were the most supportive of Ontario’s local food scene, farmers, food access programs, etc.

But as Sustain Ontario’s latest assessment makes clear, only pieces of the Act have been ‘proclaimed’ —and therefore legally binding.

The sections [of the Local Food Act] that have not yet been proclaimed are:
  • the creation of a tax credit for farmers who donate to community food programs and food banks
  • setting goals or targets to aspire to with respect to
– public procurement of local food
– increasing access to local food
I think this would come as a surprise to many who are active in the food access and local food scene —let alone the broader public.  See the full post here.

 

A New RUAF Website!

RUAF is the only global resource centre on urban agriculture with over 15 years of on-ground experience in urban and peri-urban agriculture project implementation, policy design and action-research in over 40 cities in more than 20 different countries in the world. After these 15 years of operation, we considered it timely to renew the RUAF website in order to further enhance its functionality for the continuously increasing number of users (actually close to 1 million unique visitors/year!). Check out the new site!

 

Beyond Honeybees: Now Wild Bees and Butterflies May Be in Trouble

Wild bees and butterflies are out on the landscape, making them difficult to count, and a lack of historical baselines makes it challenging to detect long-term trends. Slowly but surely, though, results from field studies and anecdotal reports from experts are piling up. They don’t paint a pretty picture. Many pollinator populations seem to be dwindling. Full story at Wired.

 

City Regions as Landscapes for People, Food and Nature

It’s time to think ‘outside the urban box’
City Regions as Landscapes for People, Food and Nature is a new take on integrated landscapes that highlights important linkages between cities, peri-urban areas and rural areas. Challenges like poverty, climate change, and growing demand for resources are issues faced across the urban rural continuum, and they all relate to food. With food and agriculture linking the ecosystems, economies, and public health of communities rural and urban, we must plan for food systems on a city region scale in order to meet 21st century challenges and reduce the risk they pose to food and nutrition security. Download the report.

Community Investments

Spring 2014: Volume 26, Number 1 (pdf 2.5 mB)
Special Focus: Collective Action for Community Development

It’s not surprising that the idea of collective action has gained rapid interest and followers recently. The framework, which seeks to produce true alignment of purpose across related sectors working on social, economic, and environmental challenges, offers a great deal of promise for making significant improvements in the life chances for disadvantaged populations.

Ontario’s Environmental Farm Plan and Consumer Sustainability Demands

Guest Blog from Ralph Martin,
Professor and Loblaw Chair, Sustainable Food Production
Department of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph

Consumers are increasingly asking for more information, not only about location of food production, but also about how food is grown on a given farm. It can be difficult for food processors and retailers to verify that food has been sustainably produced. However, farmers who are busy with current management details are not keen to add more record keeping and verification protocols to their to-do list. Nevertheless, many farmers in Ontario are already engaged in the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) and there are opportunities for the EFP to help them show processors and retailers what they are doing. Although the EFP has not been audited by a third party, there are opportunities for it to be upgraded and audited for farmers that determine it will be cost effective for them to pay for such a service to establish market differentiation of their products. The EFP is well known and voluntarily applied on farms in Ontario, unlike more rigorous verification programs in other countries that have very low adoption rates.

For more details, see Potential Role of the Ontario Environmental Farm Plan in Responding to Sustainability Demands of the Agri-food Supply Chain, by Claudia Schmidt, Janalee Sweetland and Al Mussell of the George Morris Centre.  [1.6 MB pdf]

The Good Food Fight in Guelph-Wellington

Guest Blog:  Erin Nelson, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Guelph
Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship / Research Shop

On Monday, June 24th, Nick Saul – co-author of The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement – came to Guelph for the official launch of his book. The event was held at Lakeside Hope House, and was sponsored by the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition, the Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination, the Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table, The Bookshelf, Community Food Centres Canada, and Random House.

It was a steamy evening, but more than 150 people braved the heat to come hear Nick tell the story of The Stop. He spoke passionately about shifting from a charity-based model of fighting hunger to one that recognizes the dignity of all people, and the empowering, healing, and unifying potential of food. He explained how the Community Food Centre movement can help turn that ideal into reality, by creating physical spaces for people to connect over food, by growing it, learning about it, sharing and celebrating it. He also encouraged the audience to politicize food, and advocate for food system change not just as consumers, but as citizens. Using the history of labour rights – such as the weekend – that were fought for and won as an example, he argued that we need to become “food fighters” in order to make change happen in our communities.

The message sparked an engaging Q&A session that probably could have continued all night long had it been allowed to (and had Nick not needed to get home to Toronto). The discussion was moderated by Brendan Johnson, Executive Director of the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition. Brendan is also a member of The Seed Community Food Hub Committee – a Poverty Task Force working group aiming to build a community food hub in Guelph-Wellington. The night served as an opportunity to share some of the work that The Seed has been doing over the past two years to support changes to the local emergency food system, and to introduce the group – and its vision – to the wider community.

After the formal part of the evening was over, people gathered in the Hope House café to continue the conversation (and buy signed copies of Nick’s book). Even without air conditioning the room buzzed with energy until well after 9pm, as people chatted with Nick and with each other about a wide range of topics, including what a community food hub might look like in Guelph-Wellington. Members of The Seed – including the Poverty Task Force, the Food Round Table, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, the Guelph Community Health Centre, and the University of Guelph’s Research Shop – were on hand with information about their work, and with a sign up sheet for people interested in getting involved with the initiative.  Of course there was also excellent food for everyone to enjoy, provided by local businesses Green Table Foods and With the Grain.

By the end of the evening there was no doubt that people had been inspired and energized by the talk, and by the discussions and exchange that happened afterwards. At one point during the night, Nick mentioned that he saw no reason why there couldn’t be a community food centre one day in Guelph-Wellington. Surely many of those who were in the room left thinking about the role they could play in making that happen.

If you’re interested in receiving updates about The Seed Community Food Hub Committee and getting involved in its work, please contact info@gwpoverty.ca.