Food in the City – A food blogger explores Edmonton’s Food and Agriculture policyPosted: May 31, 2012
On Friday and Saturday of last week, I attended the Edmonton Food and Agriculture policy conference at the Shaw Conference Center. It was great to be in the same room as so many foodies, and people who, in general, are concerned about where their food comes from.
The afternoon session on Friday started with Jim Hole as the MC. What a local Edmonton food hero!
Next up was Dr. Wayne Roberts as the keynote speaker to start the conference off. His had the intention of getting everyone in the room to think differently about their food, and boy did it ever spark my imagination. He started off by saying that Edmonton is at the tipping point to having a local food system (WOO HOO!) There were a few things that we needed to do before we could get there. One is to survive, and another is to think about food differently. He had a lot of interesting little tidbits that I’d like to share. Here are a handful:
- We don’t let porn shops set up near schools, so why do we let Fast food outlets do the same? Interesting idea!
- Rooftop gardens have a large number of benefits for a city: It cools the city in the summer months, naturally; and it keeps the rain out of city storm drains, reducing costs for the cities. Think about it, people!
- Food is an enabling technology. It circulates money, product; and you cannot have a creative sector without a healthy food sector – He made the quip that MOST (if not all) servers are artists/vice versa. Not sure if this one is true, but it made us laugh.
- Local Festivals should create food localities. For example, if we are having a pancake breakfast as part of a food festival, we should use HERITAGE flour and farmed eggs. Imagine the difference it would make to the local economy if just one food festival made the switch!
- In order to work on a food policy in a city, you have to love that city. I love Edmonton. I am so ready to work on our food policy!
Next up were Dr. Marco Adria, Professor of Communications and Co-Chair of the Centre for Public Involvement at the University of Alberta and Fiona Cavanagh, Project Manager for the Centre for Public Involvement to talk about the citizen’s panel who are engaged in helping contribute to Edmonton Food and Ag. Policy. It was a pretty cool process. Here’s a video on how the panel operates. Super interesting stuff!
The next day, Valerie of acanadianfoodie (who is also the founder and president of Eat Alberta) was the MC. Her passion and knowledge of food is always inspiring. Great to see you again Valerie, and I look forward to Eat Alberta 2013!!
Next up, Janine de la Salle got up to the podium for her keynote speech to discuss the current status of Edmonton’s food and Ag. strategy. I found her discussion on the strategy very refreshing. When asked if the city was planning on waiting and and spending more time trying to figure out what to do with the Prime Agricultural land in NE Edmonton, Janine said – No. It’s time for a strategy.We cannot keep talking and waiting and talking. We need to take action and write the strategy. Way to go girl!
There was one point in her speech where she confused the crowd by using the “Horticulture.” I confess. I wiki’d it right then and there. Never haven used that word before, it baffled me, and I was so relieved when someone asked what she meant when she used that word. Janine used it in the context of mixed agriculture on private property – so in other words, a garden. She then pointed out that language is SO important in a strategy like this, so that everyone understands one another.
I liked how straight forward she was. I have great confidence in her. Edmonton’s Food and Ag. strategy is in good hands.
Next off, we broke off into sessions to discuss various topics of the food and ag policy. I went to “A Stronger, More Vibrant Local Economy” with Bill Reynolds, the Manager of Local Food Policy & Planning at Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. It was interesting; however, I felt that Mr. Reynold did not take the time to delve into any one topic for a long enough period of time, making his speech very disjointed and very confusing.
In the discussion, he brought up food hubs and the failure of Live Local Alberta‘s Good Food Box (AKA, Eat local first). I joined in the discussion by adding my 2 cents on why I thought it couldn’t survive, despite many attempts to better themselves as a business. – I loved what Live Local tried to do; however, they were trying to cater to the wrong population. They were trying to cater to foodies, specifically. In my mind, foodies do not want their food to be delivered to their door. They want to have a personal connection and relationship with their food by heading to the market or a specialty market, touching feeling and selecting their own food. Unfortunately, there are just not enough foodie stay-at-home-moms to warrant a home delivery service in Edmonton. Cool idea, wrong execution. Perhaps Eat Local First could re-incarnate themselves into something along the lines of meals on wheels (or even work with them to supply their food?) It’s a thought!
I had to run after that session, but I found the whole conference super interesting and a GREAT opportunity for all Edmontonians to learn and contribute to Edmonton’s Food and Ag. Policy! I cannot wait to read the strategy and policy once it’s up and running. I am so looking forward to continuing on Edmonton’s local food journey!