New CFIA “local food” definition is suspicious

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) new “local food” definition is suspicious, misleading and disturbing. Its sudden implementation and the misleading advantage it gives to food that isn’t really local but can be marketed as such suggest collusion with the grocery industry.

As Deconstructing Dinner’s Jon Steinman says in this Tyee article: we should “absolutely abandon even recognizing the CFIA as an agency that has any interest in serving us. Let’s move beyond having to rely on those labels and start developing relationships with our food producers and with each other and creating our own names and labels.”

Posted in Buying local, Food inspection, food literacy, Laws and regulations | Tagged , | Leave a comment

13 must-read books on food

I’m honoured to have my book on @Food_Tank’s list of 13 must-read books on food.

Here’s their whole list:

1.    Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan takes back the “single most important thing [to] do as a family to improve our health and well-being”: cooking. A poetic exploration of the beauty and simplicity of preparing food, this book will help readers get off the couch and into the kitchen.

2.     VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good by Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman delves into the benefits – to the environment, to personal health, and to the economy – of reducing meat consumption. Without forbidding or condemning meat, this is a great book for the environmentally-conscious omnivore.

3.     Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food by Frederick Kaufman

Bet the Farm starts with an unnerving statistic: in 2008, “farmers produced more grain than ever, enough to feed twice as many people as were on Earth. In the same year… a billion people went hungry.” Kaufman delves into the problems with our food system and uncovers the financial underpinnings that motivate this dysfunctional system.

4.     Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America by Wenonah Hauter

A farmer from Virginia and an advocate for healthy eating, Hauter explores the “corporate, scientific, industrial, and political” aspects of our food system in an effort to understand the problems with mainstream production and distribution systems, and how to fix them in order to incorporate healthy, mindful eating.

5.     Behind the Kitchen Door by Saru Jayaraman

Exploring the food system from a different angle, Jayaraman points to the deeply troubling labor practices that exist in the food industry. With personal stories and interviews, Jayaraman unveils the low wages and grueling positions that farm and kitchen workers endure.

6.     The Last Hunger Season: A Year In An African Farm Community On The Brink Of Change by Roger Thurow

Thurow spent a year with four women smallholder farmers in western Kenya to document their struggles in supporting and feeding themselves and their families. He evaluates the extent to which the work of initiatives like the One Acre Fund can help these farmers pull themselves up and defeat hunger and poverty.

7.     American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half Its Food (And What We Can Do About It) by Jonathan Bloom

Focusing on food waste in the United States, this book takes the issue beyond big farms and corporations to a very personal level. A great introduction to the ways that our own actions are impacting the food system, and what we can do about it.

8.     The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities by Peter Ladner

According to the World Health Organization, more than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. The Urban Food Revolution looks at the ways in which urban food systems need to change in order to become healthier and more sustainable

9.     Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It by Anna Lappe

Anna Lappe’s Diet for a Hot Planet outlines the ways in which the current food system contributes to climate change, the barriers to a true reform, and what consumers can do to provoke change.

10.   WASTE: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal by Tristram Stuart

Uncovering waste in production and processing, the role of supermarkets in passing on wastefulness to suppliers and consumers, and consumers’ wasteful practices at home, Stuart’s book explores the many pathways of waste that exist in our food system. Even better, his book provides examples of countries where the food system is working, and offers tips on reducing and reusing our food.

11.    The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! edited by Carleen Madigan

The Backyard Homestead tells would-be farmers how to farm on just a quarter of an acre.

12.    The Perfect Protein: The Fish Lover’s Guide to Saving the Oceans and Feeding the World by Andy Sharpless

Sharpless argues that seafood will be the best source of sustainable protein for a rapidly growing global population. And he highlights the importance of protecting the health and biodiversity of wild fish populations.

13.    The Essential Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter and Willow Rosenthal

For those without a backyard, the Essential Urban Farmer is the essential tutorial to begin growing food in cities.

Posted in Food economics, Food security, Urban farmers, Waste no more | Leave a comment

Unapproved GMO Monsanto wheat goes rogue

Unapproved GMO Monsanto wheat goes rogue in Oregon, prompting a lawsuit in Kansas.

This USA Today story describes the implications for US trade with Europe and Asia: No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for U.S. farming. Many countries will not accept imports of genetically modified foods, and the United States exports about half of its wheat crop. Since the announcement, Japan — one of the largest export markets for U.S. wheat growers — suspended some imports. South Korea said it would increase its inspections of U.S. wheat imports.

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Canada’s only farm-centred subdivision.

One of the more promising ways to put agriculture and food security on a more sustainable economic footing is using the proceeds of housing developments.

P1000277When I researched this topic for my book (see chapter on “farming as the new golf”), I visited Prairie Crossing in Illinois and heard about many such subdivisions in the US, but only one, pending and struggling, in Canada: the Southlands proposal in Tsawwassen, B.C.

Now this Toronto Star article discovers Hendrick Farm, Canada’s only farm-centred subdivision in Quebec, just outside Ottawa.

Posted in Farmland preservation, Food economics, Food security, Investing in food | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

High density high tech urban ag coming on strong

High density high tech urban ag is a growing solution to the problems of accessing fresh food year-round, with minimal water and waste. Think 5-mile diet.

Posted in Buying local, Commercial growing, Farmland preservation, Food economics, Hydroponics, Rooftop growing, Urban farmers | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Farmers need help to cope with climate change

For every degree C rise in average earth temperature, expect crop production to decline by 10%.

A new B.C. gov’t study looks at the help farmers are going to need to cope with rising sea levels, salinization of fields, unpredictable weather, new pests…

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Embattled Lantzeville urban farmer gives up

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Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw’s fight with their neighbour– and his friends on the Lantzeville, B.C. council– has worn them down to the point where they’re selling their Compassionate Farm property.

Dirk’s style is not always conducive to compromise, but his integrity, expertise and passion for local agriculture and food security is unmatched.

If he and Nicole end up moving out of Lantzeville as well as moving out of their neighbourhood, the community will lose a real leader in growing local, fresh, organic food.

 

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Urban ag in Seattle: debating zoning for marijuana

Urban agriculture in Seattle has a new twist: debating industrial zoning for marijuana production– big warehouses or not-so-big warehouses?

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Very cool swimming pool converted to aquaponic farm in Arizone

Check out how this young family found food abundance by turning the empty pool in their Arizona suburban home into a solar-powered “interplay of chicken droppings, algae sludge, tilapia fish, miniature goats, greens and clay pellets… a damned fine feast—with 50-70% less money, 90% less water, and about 400% more freshness.”

This video tells their amazing story.

 

Posted in Aquaponics, Backyard animals, Food security, Investing in food, Urban farmers | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Responsible investment conference looks at food

I’ll be moderating a panel on investing in food at the Canadian Responsible Investment Conference June 17-19 in Vancouver. #sioconf2013. I hope to see you there. I’ll be on Tuesday morning:

Environment: Food Sustainability
This session will explore some key trends and issues surrounding the nexus of sustainability, health, livelihoods, and accessibility of food from the local to global level. It will highlight best practices among local companies alongside major global brands, shedding light on key risks and opportunities for investors.

Moderated by: Peter Ladner, author

Panelists: Donovan Woollard, Alterrus; Christine Bergeron, Vancity; Heather Lang, Sustainalytics

Posted in Commercial growing, Food economics, Investing in food | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment