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.

For additional information:

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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)

Agroecology Knowledge Exchange Workshop: Building a South-North Partnership By: Wilfrid Laurier University, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems

This workshop will bring together leaders in agroecology research and practice from Cuba, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica, as well as Ontario.  It will be an opportunity to share stories of innovation, learn some practical skills, and build relationships across boundaries and cultures. The workshop will celebrate diversity, and its goal is to help build the capacity of everyone involved to engage in agroecology as a means of increasing the resilience of our agroecosystems and communities. It is being organized by the Wilfrid Laurier University Centre for Sustainable Food Systems through its FLEdGE (Food: Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged) project.

To Register……

DAY 1: Monday, August 15 – Sharing Stories of Agroecological Innovation

Time: 8am – 5pm

Location: Room 142, Balsillie School of International Affairs, 67 Erb St. W., Waterloo, ON

Presenters on Day 1 will include:

  • Angel Leyva Galán, Biodiversity and agroecostystem evaluation specialist, National Institute of Agricultural Sciences (Department of Sustainable Agroecosystem Management), Cuba
  • Marvin Gómez, Participatory Plant Breeding specialist, USC Canada Seeds of Survival, based in Honduras
  • Laura Gómez Tovar, Participatory organic certification and rural development specialist, University of Chapingo (Agroecology Department), Mexico
  • Gabriela Soto, Organic agriculture and sustainability specialist, Sustainable Assessment Committee, based in Costa Rica
  • Sarah Hargreaves, Farmer-Led Research Program specialist, Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario
  • Thorsten Arnold, Ecological farming-research-networking specialist, Grey-Bruce Centre for Agroecology

There will also be time for group conversation, networking and an expert panel discussion.

DAY 2: Tuesday, August 16 – Learning in the Field

Time: 8am – 5pm

Location: Everdale Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre, 5812 6 Line, Hillsburgh, ON

In addition to a farm tour and overview of the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, activities will include field-based learning on the following topics:

  • Participatory Agroecosystem/Biodiversity Evaluation
  • Participatory Organic Certification and low-input strategies for producing beneficial micro-organisms
  • Participatory Plant Breeding and seed security

DAY 3: Wednesday, August 17: Farm Tours

Time: 8am – 7pm

Locations: Fertile Ground CSA, 1560 Carmel-Koch Rd., St. Agatha, ON (MORNING) andZócalo Organics, 5881 3 Line, Hillsburgh, ON (AFTERNOON)

Day 3 will include:

  • Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) Farmer-led Research Field Tour and Recognition Event hosted by Angie Koch of Fertile Ground CSA
  • A farm tour of Zócalo Organics
  • A planning session for future collaboration
  • A group dinner

*Participants may register for any one, two or all 3 days of the workshop.

*Lunch will be provided on all 3 days. Please contact the workshop organizers if you have any dietary restrictions.

*Group transportation will be provided for the farm visits on Days 2 and 3. Please contact workshop organizers if you DO NOT need a ride.

WHEREWaterloo and surrounding area – Waterloo and surrounding area, Ontario

To Register……