Master’s Position in Sustainable Food Systems

MA Student Research Opportunity in Sustainable Food Systems in Northwest Territories starting May 2016 (new student opportunity)

The Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, in partnership with Carleton University, are looking for an exceptional candidate to continue to develop their food systems research in the Northwest Territories as part of their Masters program. The student will support on-going community-based research from May-September 2016, when they will then take up their Masters program at either Wilfrid Laurier or Carleton University under the supervision of Drs. Alison Blay-Palmer (Laurier) and Peter Andrée (Carleton).

Required Qualifications: A Bachelor’s degree in a related arts discipline is needed.  Strong interest in sustainability, community development and food systems is required. Knowledge of Participatory Action Research and experience in Canada’s North will be an asset. Excellent verbal and written communication skills are also desired.

To apply for this position, please send a letter of interest, a full CV, unofficial transcript(s), and the names of two references via email to Andrew Spring (aspring@wlu.ca). Informal inquiries are welcome. The candidates will also be required to officially apply for graduate studies at Laurier or Carleton and meet the requirements. The preferred start date for this position is May 2016 and applications will be considered as they are submitted. This project is funded through the FLEdGE (Food: Locally Embedded Globally Engaged) SSHRC Partnership Grant.

From Local Food to COOL Food

This winter,  Theresa Schumilas, one of the Research Associates with the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems is launching a new on-line food market that moves us beyond ‘local’ food systems to truly sustainable food systems. The new ‘COOL’ or ‘CO2L’ market, is a bottom-up solution to help cool the planet. Rather than wait on experts to reach agreements about climate change and come up with plans, these new markets will link consumers with the small-scaled producers around the world who are already cooling the planet through their knowledge and skills.

Buying local is a great thing to do, but, it’s not enough. While it’s good to buy locally grown food for many reasons, ‘food miles’ (the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer) actually make up a relatively small percentage of the overall carbon footprint of food — approximately 11% on average. In comparison, how our food is grown makes up a much larger percentage — roughly 83% of the food’s footprint. The impacts of food on climate depend less on distant travelled and more on the agronomic decisions the farmer makes. But, with the possible exception of certified organic branding, these climate critical on-farm decisions are seldom highlighted in markets selling ‘local’ foods. Consumers need a way to make clear choices about the carbon consequences of the foods they buy, but so far there is no clear marketplace identity for foods that are produced with climate mitigating methods in Canada. That’s where the new ‘COOL’ (or CO2L) comes in.

Open Food Networks dear supermarket adThis new COOL market is built on a new open source platform called “Open Food Networks”. This platform will be initiated in Canada by December, as part of Theresa’s  work to launch Farm 2.0. To do this, she is working to establish SIMPLE criteria for the COOL designation and recruiting vendors to pilot the market in early 2016.

Instead of using complicated and costly criteria and verification systems (which would end up excluding small scale farmers), the COOL market is drawing on the experiences and knowledge of small scaled farmers who have been cooling the planet for centuries.

b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2015-10-15_GrainLVC_videoccen_1

Together, we can cool the planet! from GRAIN on Vimeo.

 

 

They key point is that we know what the main agricultural causes of climate change are, and we know what we need to do to reduce our emissions. We need to think beyond local. We need to learn from, and support small scale farmers around the world. Together we can COOL the planet.

Read the full post here.

If you are interested in getting involved in this –  contact Theresa: tschumilas (at) rogers.com

Announcing Farm 2.0 – A sustainable food hackerspace

OFN break upFarm 2.0 is a new project that explores how internet and communication technologies can be used in Canada’s sustainable food movement to optimize traditional agricultural practices, enable effective networks and facilitate policy change.

Smaller scaled organic and ecological producers are trying to build community around their farms and squeeze out a living in a landscape where farms keep getting bigger, products are more distant, retail is more consolidated and marketing is laden with ‘green washing’. These producers are being supported by ethically-minded consumers, academics and policy-makers. A diverse ecosystem of sustainable food hubs and networks, oriented toward building food systems that are more local, fair and green is coalescing in Canada.

To date, Internet and communication technologies have not figured prominently in forging food system solutions, and the intersection of technology and sustainable food is an under-developed area. One reason for this is that ecological and organic producers have historically favoured low technological, traditional, hands-on and artisanal practices.  But Theresa Schumilas, who recently joined the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems as a Research Associate and Postdoctoral Fellow,  thinks that these  ‘low tech’ and ‘high tech’ worlds have much in common. An organic farmer herself,  Schumilas wonders if there are ways emerging technologies might open up new spaces for us to imagine and realize radically different practices and make shifts to more sustainable food systems.

Theresa is friend-raising and fund-raising to establish a sustainable food and technology ‘hackerspace’ or ‘lab’ that enables connections and collaboration between Canada’s emerging food hubs/networks and designers, programmers and technologists. She calls the project  ‘Farm 2.0’ to signal an extension of ‘Web 2.0’, which generally refers to how the world wide web has transitioned from being a collection of individual web sites with static information, to the web as a network of interactive computer platforms and applications. Farm 2.0 and Web 2.0 alike signal ethics such as democratization, empowerment, citizenship, sovereignty and protection of both the cyber and terrestrial commons.

In the last few years there has been an explosion of primarily proprietary software packages and web-based applications that are designed to help smaller scaled farmers with marketing.  Theresa has been interviewing ecological farmers about their use of these various programs and notes that their experiences are mixed.  “On one hand, farmers appreciate having help with sales logistics like inventory management and invoicing,  but at the same time,  they are looking for something more. This first generation of on-line marketplaces doesn’t seem to reflect the value placed on the commons that motivates many ecological farmers.”  When you think about it,  what has been happening in sustainable food software,  mirrors what has been happening in the seed industry. Technological ‘solutions’ have mined the knowledge built in the sustainable food movement over the past 30 years,  encoded that experience into a variety of internet-based applications, and sold it back to the farmers and food hubs who originated it. While the sustainable food movement has been focusing on seed sovereignty and building the ecological commons, its cyber commons is being privatized.

The foundation for a Farm 2.0 hackerspace that ‘saves code’ just like seeds,  already exists. Two years ago, in Australia, The Open Food Foundation (OFF) established itself  as a registered charity in order to develop, accumulate and protect open source knowledge, code, applications and platforms for fair and sustainable food systems. The Foundation focuses on bringing together farmers, food hubs and developers in a global network that facilitates open-source, non-proprietary technological innovation toward building more sustainable food systems. Their first project was the development and global launch of a technology platform called Open Food Network (OFN), that offers a way for sustainable food hubs, networks, producers and related food enterprises to link and build connections across local, regional, provincial, national and global scales. One of Theresa’s projects is to put this platform to the service of Canada’s growing sustainable food movement.

Open Food Network (OFN) is a non-proprietary, open-source, online platform. Using a set of intuitive and flexible tools, this multi-purpose software serves as a directory, communication hub and logistics platform that enables relationships among farmers, consumers, food hubs and other food enterprises. On one hand, it is an on-line marketplace. At local scales, it helps eaters find, buy, and learn about sustainable food, and helps producers and food hubs with supply chain logistics. However, the platform is more than a set of marketing tools and differs from other proprietary e-commerce platforms in important ways. OFN is a space that helps isolated sustainable food projects link, learn, and build peer-to-peer networks across scales in order to grow and strengthen a global resilient food movement. Under the oversight of the global foundation (Open Food Network), a community of coders, developers, producers, food hubs and others work to continually improve the platform and proliferate its use using charitable funding as well as reinvestment of revenues.

Since the launch of OFN two years ago, food communities around the world have been licensed and mentored by OFF to use this platform. There are now 25 networks using the platform in Australia, 20 in the UK, 2 in Norway, and teams are currently launching in South Africa, France, the US and (with this project) Canada.

theresa in front of canningTheresa will be updating the Nourishing Communities site regularly, but if you want to be involved in her research,  or if you have some ideas to share,  please email her.

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.

11741007_864693063567675_1859881012927374554_o

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.

Building a Food Strategy for Wellington and Guelph

From Phil Mount and Ashley McInnes, Co-Chairs of the Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table:

The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table (GWFRT) and Ontario Public Interest Research Group-Guelph (OPIRG) invite you to the first in a series of events focusing on a Food Strategy for Wellington County and Guelph. Join us for this free event, to help determine our regional food policy, investment and development priorities with a diverse group of stakeholders—including public officials, community organizations, farmers, restaurateurs and engaged citizens—as we begin the process of developing a community-led Food Strategy for Wellington County and Guelph.

In a rapid-fire format, a handful of presenters will answer the challenge question “Why do we need a regional food strategy?” — including speakers from FarmStartThe Seed Community Food HubWellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public HealthTransition GuelphOntario Farmland Trust and Zócalo Organics.

Free childcare is available with registration. Refreshments will be provided. Pick up your coupon for $2 off the ticket price of the Ignatius Ecology Film Series screening of The Family Farm, January 28 or 29 at the Bookshelf!

Further events in the GWFRT Food Strategy Engagement Series — Erin (February 13) and Centre Wellington (3rd week of March)—  will include a free screening of The Family Farm.

Please visit the link below to register, to read a food strategy description, and for more information about the event. Limited space available.

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/gwfrt-engagement-series-building-a-wellington-guelph-food-strategy-tickets-15201466997

food strategy

Food Strategy Poster [pdf 367 kb]

Ile-de-France – A regional strategy for sustainable and local agriculture

In a region that comprises of 49% agricultural land, the regional government of Ile-de-France (where France’s capital city Paris is located) has recently developed a strategy to better protect this land and connect it with local producers and consumers. The Ile-de-France regional strategy for sustainable and local agriculture recognises that in order to have green cities, there must also be access to local and organic agricultural products. In order to achieve this, the strategy consists of three central pillars:

  • Protect farmlands and make them more accessible to agricultural project leaders

  • Encourage the agro-ecological transformation of existing farmlands

  • Develop and promote local industries

Read more

Seeding the Future

SEED CONNECTIONS CONFERENCE

November 7th, 8th, 9th, 2014 
MacDonald Campus of McGill University, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec

The Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers Network (ECOSGN) Seed Connections conference is a fully bilingual event bringing together farmers, seed-savers, seed companies, community gardeners, researchers, and experts on organic seed production to share knowledge, skills, and experience over a packed, 3-day agenda!

Brought to you by ECOSGN, The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security and Seeds of Diversity Canada

 

Seed Facilitation Fund

The goal of the Seed Facilitation Fund is to help build a diverse and resilient seed system by strengthening the capacity of ecological vegetable seed and field crop producers. The Fund provides financial support to organizations and individuals who share the values and goals of our program, and who are undertaking initiatives that help advance the following objectives:

  • To increase the quality, quantity and diversity of ecologically grown Canadian seed
  • To promote public access to seed
  • To facilitate information-sharing and collaboration among individuals and organizations committed to advancing an ecological and diverse seed system in Canada
  • To respect, advance, and promote the knowledge of farmers in seed and food production

Applicants may submit proposals for a maximum of $8,000per project. In total, approximately $200,000 will be allocated across the country in 2015.

TIMELINE
This call for proposals is launched October 6, 2014
The deadline for applications is November 17, 2014
Click here for applications and details

 

Atlantic Canada Regional Seed Bank

from the Herald News, October 20, 2014
A seed of survival was planted at Dalhousie University’s agriculture campus on Monday.

“Up to 10,000 plant species or maybe more are at risk of extinction,” said Stephanie Hughes, regional co-ordinator for the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security.

That said, Hughes and partners Dalhousie, USC Canada and Seeds of Diversity Canada announced the first regional seed bank in Atlantic Canada, to be housed at the university’s plant and animal science department. The bank is intended to help farmers create a stronger local food system, while focusing on high-quality, diverse, local seed that has agronomic, historical and cultural importance to the region.
Read more

 

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

Fortnightly Feast

Growing Food Connections food policy database to help communities strengthen food systems

Municipalities and counties got a big boost today with the unveiling of a searchable database with more than 100 newly adopted innovative, local government food system policies that can be shared and adapted across the country. The Growing Food Connections Policy Database, hosted by the School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo, will assist local governments as they work to broaden access to healthy food and help sustain local farms and food producers.

Growing Food Connections, a federally-funded research initiative to strengthen community food systems nationwide, has compiled over 100 policies governing issues as diverse as public investment in food systems, farmland protection, local food procurement and food policy council resolutions. The database is a comprehensive catalog of enacted food policy. By drawing upon partner resources and networks, the database provides a vast resource of policies that have been implemented and are currently being used by communities. Furthermore, it provides inspiration for communities looking to start building their own food policy. Read more

Candidates weighing in on food and farming

Guelph Mercury, October 21, 2014

Earlier this month, the Guelph Wellington Food Round Table — in collaboration with Sustain Ontario — asked all of the candidates for trustee, councillor and mayor to participate in the Vote on Food and Farming survey. Because food and farming touch so many important areas of our lives, and shape our regional character, economy, culture, and communities, the survey has six broad questions related to the economy, health, the environment, access, education and collaboration — along with key actions that will shape the future of food and farming in this region.

A week after sending out the survey, we have had responses from 26 of the 44 “active” races (not acclaimed) from all eight municipalities in Wellington; from every ward in Guelph; and from 10 mayoral candidates (including four in Guelph). This is the most active and engaged regional response in the province. Read more

Keeping it Local with Nick Weir of Stroudco Foodhub

Stroud Life, October 20, 2014
ONE of Stroudco’s largest suppliers is Stroud Community Agriculture (SCA) which farms 23 acres of land around Hawkwood College overlooking Stroud. SCA was established 14 years ago by a group of volunteers who wanted to provide an alternative to the supermarket system by building a direct connection between the people growing the food and the people eating it. They started off by growing vegetables on less than one acre and sharing produce amongst the small group of supporters who set up the farm community. SCA is now a thriving, community-run social enterprise with over 230 household members around Stroud who collectively pay all the costs of the farm including the wages of three full time farmers. In return the SCA members receive a weekly share of the produce harvested from the farm. Read more

Eat Local Sudbury working to offer more local food in region

Local food hub to offer food to other parts of northeastern Ontario
CBC October 14, 2014
Eat Local Sudbury is in the process of developing a business plan to expand its local food hub to other areas in northeastern Ontario. The new areas to have service include LaCloche-Manitoulin, North Bay, Temiskaming, Muskoka and parts of Algoma. According to Eat Local, a local food hub helps with the collection, storage, processing and distribution of local food.
The plan, called the Eat Local Sudbury Food Hub Business Plan project, is moving forward after the co-op received $17,200 from the province’s Greenbelt Fund. The Managing Director of Eat Local Sudbury, Peggy Baillie said demand for local food continues to grow. “More and more people are gaining interest in terms of local food and wanting access to it, including institutions, schools and public health facilities. This plan is trying to address those needs.”
Read more

Food Banks Canada & RFDA deliver fresh food to First Nations

Thunder Bay’s Regional Food Distribution Association is part of a pilot project to send fresh food north
CBC October 21, 2014

A group of First Nations in northwestern Ontario is getting fresh fruits and vegetable this month, thanks to a pilot project between Food Banks Canada and the Regional Food Distribution Association. Volker Kromm is the association’s executive director. He said statistics show one in five Aboriginal people, living on reserve don’t get enough to eat, and nearly half of those people are children. Kromm said, through the partnership with Food Banks Canada, he was able to purchase $20,000 worth of fresh groceries to take to some First Nations communities that are accessible by road. He said he was transporting everything from potatoes to granola bars to cantaloupe. Read more

WEBINAR

Shared Opportunities on Institutional Lands: Challenges and opportunities of on-site food production

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. EDT
In Ontario, several institutions are already producing food on their properties as a way to generate revenue; supply nutritious fresh food for consumption (by staff, patients, students, etc.); provide skills training and therapeutic benefits; and build social enterprises. This webinar will share how project partners at health care, social service and educational institutions went about getting gardens off the ground at their institutions, as well as some of the lessons we learned in the first year of working with pilot projects across the province. Read more

Diversity and Sustainability of Food Systems

(Diversité et durabilité des systèmes alimentaires)

If you are in France next month, l’Institut des régions chaudes de Montpellier SupAgro will host a multi-disciplinary series of seminars on sustainable food systems from October 9 – 24. Speakers include Nicolas Bricas and Olivier de Schutter. The series is sponsored by the UNESCO Chair in Global Food Systems, Montpellier, SupAgro, member of the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems International Advisory Committee.

For more information, please contact Alison Blay-Palmer at
ablaypalmer@wlu.ca