Agroecology field school sparks important conversations 

January 2019

By Bryan Dale

From August 16th to 18th, 2018, FLEdGE co-hosted an Agroecology Field School and Research Summit that took place in and around Ottawa, Ontario. The three-day event was an excellent opportunity to discuss definitions of agroecology and to explore how it can be expanded within the Canadian context. While agroecology was originally established in the early part of the 20th century as the application of ecological science to agriculture, in recent decades the concept has also become associated with both sustainable on-farm practices and the social movements advocating for food sovereignty.

The first two days of the summit consisted of visits to agroecologically-oriented farms in the Ottawa area and in Outaouais, Quebec. Over 40 farmers, academics, activists, civil society representatives, and Indigenous leaders visited four diverse farms to learn about seed saving, organic vegetable production, and rotational grazing and other livestock rearing practices. Participants also engaged in horizontal knowledge sharing, a key pillar of agroecology, to discuss a wide range of topics—from agroforestry and soil health to land access and the politics of agrarian change. Participants also shared perspectives from their work in countries around the world, including Brazil, Cuba and Nepal.

The third day of the summit was especially focused on the social-movement and political dimensions of agroecology, and approximately 150 people attended the gathering at the Just Food farm. Peter Rosset spoke via videoconference from Mexico about the work of La Vía Campesina member organizations globally, and a dynamic panel of speakers concentrated on the potential links between agroecology and Indigenous food sovereignty in Canada.

The summit was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connections Grant, and by organizations such as Just Food, USC Canada, and Lakehead University. This was the second such research summit to be organized by FLEdGE, and talks are already underway to organize another of these events given the incredibly positive feedback that the organizers received.

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Sherry Pictou of Mount Saint Vincent University speaks to a full house at the Just Food farm about Indigenous food sovereignty. (Photo by Kath Clark, USC Canada)