This document is a living report which summarizes the work that FLEdGE has been involved in, organized into six “Good Food Principles”- principles which can guide people from all walks of life to work together towards sustainable food systems. Evidence from our research is provided in links within the document. The downloadable PDF can be found at the bottom of the page.
Let’s start with the people growing our food. Given there are 30% fewer farms in Canada than in 1961 and the average age of farmers is 55, we need to think not only about how to make farming more viable for existing farmers but also more attractive as a career for prospective entrants. Our research provides some directions forward:
- Our research into new farmer training across North America identified opportunities to expand internships, farmer-to-farmer and formal training and self-directed learning – all important steps for growing the sector.
- In Nova Scotia, FarmWorks, a Community Economic Development Initiative Fund is rebuilding the local food sector one farm and business at a time by leveraging more the $1.7 million in common shares supporting $8 million in annual gross business revenues and provide a fair return to investors.
- Our Pan-Canadian report card Food Counts, gives the lay of the land and provides benchmarks and points to gaps in what we know about sustainable food systems across Canada. It helps us understand what we are doing now and how we can do better.
Our community-based research tells us there are grounds for optimism in better connecting farmers, harvesters, and fishers to regional markets. As we documented in eastern Ontario and with increasing relevance across the country, there are more and more thriving connections between consumers and local producers with the growing availability of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, game, poultry, grains, wines, craft beer and spirits:
- In Ontario, our 2015 sustainable food hub survey and case studies found that total gross income for the sector was over $29 million with farmers projecting potential production increases of over 135% for meat and poultry, nearly 80% for vegetables, and about 30% for fruit.
- To support food hubs, we developed a tool to calculate the dollar amount of product that needs to be picked up from a farm and sold by a hub to breakeven.
- In Toronto, two urban market garden projects were tested in communities designated as areas for improvement both to grow food for sale and build community capacity.
- We help developed a map for FoodShare, a community food organization, to understand food access and income data by neighbourhood so they could make an evidence-based short-list of communities to locate services for improved access to fresh healthy food.
- In eastern Ontario, Project SOIL identified ways to use food gardens on hospital and long-term care facility land for therapy, improved mental and physical health outcomes and to grow food. Through nine projects, they identified evidence for the co-benefits of gardens and developed tools to support these initiatives including resource databases.
- And in Ottawa, researchers documented the role of Just Food as a model not-for-profit that uses a food systems approach focused on sustainable production and access (e.g. community gardening, farmer training, promotion of local producers). Just Food acts as a coordinating body in Ottawa with projects including a regional food hub (to facilitate aggregation and distribution of local food), incubator kitchen, food literacy and community action to address poverty and hunger.
- In Northwestern Ontario, researchers supported the development of the Indigenous Food Circle – a collaborative food policy platform to support food related initiatives developed by and for Indigenous organizations in the Thunder Bay region.
- Raising the profile and clarifying the value of seed banks and seed saving networks is central to work in Atlantic Canada. Building on food movement needs, these seed initiatives are central to preserving and ensuring access to seed heritage and biodiversity needed to preserve food system resilience that has developed over thousands of years.