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Entries in food policy (1)

Sunday
Jul042010

The Farm Next Door: Why local food - really local- is back on Alberta's political menu

This article appears in the July / August issue of Alberta Views magazine. It was a lot to fit into a 2000+ word feature, as municipal food policies are being forged right now in both Edmonton and Calgary. It will determine how Alberta's two major cities feed themselves (or don't) for generations to come. Here's a teaser. You'll have to read the rest in a print issue of the magazine.

 “There are two types of power,” says Monique Nutter, co-chair of Greater Edmonton Alliance’s (GEA) local foods team. “There’s organized money—and there’s organized people.” Nutter, a soft-spoken social worker and mother, is explaining how GEA, a grassroots organization barely five years old, managed to mobilize over 550 citizens on a bitterly cold November evening in 2008 to attend a public hearing for Edmonton’s 30-year Municipal Development Plan (MDP), “The Way We Grow.” The mass descent on city hall was a polite protest of a gaping hole in the plan—a lack of an explicit food policy.

The problem, as we saw it—I was one of the 550 citizens—was that the MDP addressed housing and transportation to cope with Greater Edmonton’s population growth (expected to reach 1.7 million people by 2040) but not something equally fundamental: food. Just as few expect that Edmontonians will live and drive in similarly unsustainable ways in 30 years as we do today, few expect that 30 years from now almost all of our food will come from far afield as well.

And yet the MDP made not one mention of protection for the city’s precious 3,200 hectares of urban farmland in the northeast, class 1 soil that lies along the bends and twists of the North Saskatchewan river, a microclimate that offers the most frost-free growing days of anywhere in the province. Good farmland is a dwindling resource in and around Edmonton (as it is across Alberta). Already, 90 per cent of residents’ food is imported from outside the Greater Edmonton region. Neither did the MDP mention any municipal food policy whatsoever. To us, it looked like a blueprint for a massive home renovation that curiously did away with the kitchen.

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