News & Events

Agroecology field school sparks important conversations 

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. 

 

For additional information: 

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Paul Slomp of Grazing Days Farm discusses rotational grazing of beef cattle and soil restoration. (Photo by Kath Clark, USC Canada) 

 

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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)

Happy New Year from FLEdGE!

Sustainable food has been on the minds and lips of an increasing number of people in 2018. On the international stage, food has become an important part of discussions about climate change and sustainability with more attention being paid to how city-region food systems work across places and scales. Across Canada, sustainable food system researchers and community advocacy groups continue to provide input to the federal government as it develops “A Food Policy for Canada,” while at the same time working to address significant challenges within the food system at the local level.

2018 also saw substantial growth of the FLEdGE network. Our recent report, “Good Food Solutions: Building sustainable food communities for all Canadians” provides a snapshot of the work that we’ve done so far and outlines the five principles that ground our research practice as we work toward more sustainable food systems. We are delighted to be able to share the fruits of our collective research practice with you on our Resources and Results page and will continue to do so through 2019 and for the life of the FLEdGE project.

As 2018 comes to an end, we’d like to take the opportunity to wish you a very happy holiday season and send our best wishes for 2019. From all of us here at FLEdGE, may the New Year bring you health, joy, and good and sustainable food.

 

 

Wild harvest as an urban practice

By Irena Knezevic

Windsor, Ontario, is in that part of Canada that geographically hooks into the US, and is paradoxically located south of the border, just across the river from Detroit. It is sometimes jokingly referred to as “Detroit South.” The moniker is in fact utterly appropriate. Like Detroit, it is a blue-collar town full of immigrants (largely white, European, but more recently also Lebanese and then Somalian) many of whom came to the city to work in the automotive factories that form the backbone of Windsor’s economy. It is also a city that, like Detroit, has a rich arts and culture scene.

In the heart of that city, just three or four blocks from the Detroit River, is an alley. This is where my mom, who lives in a condo overlooking the river and Detroit’s captivating skyline, picks all her grape leaves for dolmatas. We come from Bosnia, and we love stuffing vegetables of all kinds—peppers, zucchini, cabbage, onion, grape leaves. My stepfather is Greek, so dolmatas are a staple food for him too. Dolmatas make sense in their household. But the two of them live a comfortable urban retiree life, and don’t need to pick their food from alleyways where it’s free. My mom’s neighbourhood harvest is not a product of necessity. Yet, the delight in her voice is palpable when I phone her and she tells me about her recent harvest of mulberries in that same alley. The alley also offers nettle, wild strawberries, and dandelion leaves. Not far from there, she picks amaranth leaves (also known as pigweed or callaloo), and a few blocks over, just by the railroad tracks, is where she gets her rosehips for jam and tea. Continue reading “Wild harvest as an urban practice”

Sustain ON tries to engage politicians with varying success

By Harrison Runtz

This past summer I had the privilege of working with Sustain Ontario, a non-governmental organization that works on connecting the needs/policy asks of different stakeholders in Ontario’s food networks. Sustain Ontario’s main goal is to transform our provincial food systems into more sustainable, community-oriented forms. My work was specifically related to the provincial iteration of their VoteONFood campaign. VoteONFood is an election-based effort to inform politicians on crucial areas of policy that are needed to address food systems issues. While my work focused on the provincial level, the campaign is currently targeting prospective municipal politicians. This initiative, which attempts to spread awareness of issues brought forth by experts working in these fields as producers, academics, scientists, and others, highlighted the intensely difficult task of breaking down partisanship and spreading best practices. While the issues of knowledge mobilization are many, I’ll outline two challenges that seemed particularly pertinent to the work in which I was involved. Continue reading “Sustain ON tries to engage politicians with varying success”

City Region Food System Assessment and Planning Toolkit Now Available!

Guido Santini
Programme Coordinator, Food for the Cities Programme
Rural and urban crop systems (AGPML) team
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Plant Production and Protection Division (AGP)

November 19, 2018

We are pleased to announce that the City Region Food Systems (CRFS) assessment and planning toolkit, jointly developed by FAO, RUAF Foundation, and Wilfrid Laurier University’s Centre for Sustainable Food Systems in the framework of the Food for the Cities Programme, is now available online.

The CRFS toolkit aims to help local authorities and other stakeholders strengthen the understanding of the current functioning and performance of food systems in the context of a city region, within which rural and urban areas and communities are directly linked. In particular the toolkit provides guidance on assessing food systems and forms the basis for further planning to reinforce and promote the sustainability of CRFS.  It is meant to be a resource for policymakers, researchers, and other key stakeholders and participants who want to better understand their own CRFS and plan for improvements. Continue reading “City Region Food System Assessment and Planning Toolkit Now Available!”

Can you DIG this video? Setting down roots for a healthy and sustainable food system

Durham Integrated Growers for a Sustainable Community (DIG) focuses on people working together to grow food in a healthy sustainable way. As the new video shows, this is partly about people getting their hands dirty as they grow food in and near Durham Region cities and towns.  However, it is also about supporting communities to grow, process, distribute, and sell food in ways that are best for them. It is about teaching skills around growing food in communities, promoting urban agriculture as a key ingredient for resilient communities and a sustainable food system, and advocating for greater policy support for urban agriculture. Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/08i-NoKaDKs to get a better sense about what DIG digs!