Sunday, April 10, 2011

Painting a New Food Canvas

I have read many times how local food policy is not a one size fits all dynamic, that each community has a unique set of data to interpret. However, each report that I read on a local food system assessment contains incredible quantities of similar data, each identifying both the disquieting presence of an embedded industrial food archetype and the extraordinary opportunities that exist in the pursuit of building a sustainable, local food system.

It is therefore no secret that many of us involved in local food policy are encouraged by the ideas presented and advocated from the many jurisdictions represented on this list. We learn of an innovative initiative elsewhere and automatically consider how we can make it work in our own community. Many of us feel a camaraderie for this very reason; that we are all having comparable experiences as we seek to transform our local food environments. A local food meme is firmly entrenched in North America.

Advancing concepts related to creating a superior and deeper understanding of our local food system have a profound impact on long term food production capacity in our communities. A good example of this growing of ideas is the realization that production advocates will be well served to embrace the notion of community farms vis~a~vis community gardens.

Perhaps the most significant step a community can take is to survey and map out the reality of our respective local food systems. Ironically, a great deal of work can go into these studies, with the hope that they will reveal what we already know, a dominant industrial food paradigm. We amass data so we can reinforce our position with decision makers and then persuade and influence policy direction. We often agonize over the scope, scale and methodology of our investigations into our local food system. The important component to focus on is that we are gathering valuable information on local food conditions.

If this distils to a CFA or an FSA, or as Calgary is pursuing, a LIFA (Land Inventory & Food Assessment), then your community has, or will have committed energy, time and resources wisely. The validation is found not so much in the empirical data gathered, but rather the actionable items that allow a community to transition to sustainable production and access to food. In other words, the transitional strategy and associated tactics that your community will implement to create food resilience and security are paramount.

Paul Hughes