You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘local food economy’ category.
In an earlier post, I laid out my best understanding of Powell River’s somewhat complicated Animal Control Bylaw 1979, 2003. After some months of work behind the scenes, the City’s proposed amendments to this bylaw will be presented for a first reading this Thursday at the meeting of the Committee of the Whole. These amendments come in the wake of the successful ‘Hens in the Hood’ youth employment project back in late 2010, which constructed a number of test sites within city limits and monitored them for problems with odour, pests, noise, and predators. At the same time, the youth in the project conducted a survey among Powell River residents which indicated strong support for increased freedom to raise hens in the city:
- food sustainability was important to 98.8% of respondents;
- 98.4% believed that it is important for City Hall to support local food practices; and
- 96.7% believed that people should be able to raise hens within the municipality.
In the context of the City’s own Sustainability Charter and ever-increasing public awareness of the need to promote local production of and access to healthy food, it’s a bit disappointing to see that the amendments as proposed actually appear to go backwards.
In order to best understand the situation, it might be good to review the earlier post, and especially to pay attention to the zoning map: specifically zone RA1 (which is restricted to parts of Wildwood) and zones R1 and R2 (scattered throughout Cranberry and Westview). It appears that the bylaw amendments will not affect agricultural zones A1 and A2
As I understand them, here are some of the main changes that this bylaw amendment would introduce if passed by Council as is:
- The current bylaw excludes animals other than dogs or cats from all zones except RA1, A1, and A2. The amendments would permit up to four hens on parcels of land zoned R1 or R2, provided that the lot area is 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) or more.
RESULT: City staff, in their report to Council, admit that “By limiting hens to half acre lots, very few R1 or R2 properties in the City would even qualify as candidate sites.” None of the test sites from the Hens in the Hood project would qualify under this new regime.
- The current bylaw refers to “poultry” when setting out limits on numbers of animals that may be kept on parcels of land zoned RA1, A1, or A2. The amendments continue to permit “hens and other poultry” for zones A1 and A2, but hens only in zone RA1. In the City’s staff report it is noted that “The keeping of other poultry such as water fowl and turkeys is not recommended as these birds require different shelter, water, and care arrangements as well as additional space.”
RESULT: Anyone currently raising ducks, turkeys, or other fowl on a parcel of land zoned RA1 will be in violation of the new bylaw.
- The current bylaw permits up to 12 poultry, none of which may be a rooster, or 20 rabbits on a parcel of land zoned Ra1, A1, or A2 having an area of 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) or less; and up to 24 poultry, one of which may be a rooster, or 50 rabbits on a parcel of land zoned RA1, A1, or A2 having an area greater than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres). The amendments allow a maximum of 10 rabbits in an area zoned RA1 provided that the lot area is 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) or more. From the staff report: “Staff do not recommend expanding the keeping of rabbits as these animals multiply at exponential rates
if released or escaped from pens.”
RESULT: No change with respect to raising hens in zones RA1, A1, or A2. But the number of legally permissible rabbits is significantly reduced.
- The amendments state that “All owners of lands accommodating hens must be registered as regards this activity with the City in the form and manner prescribed by the Animal Control Officer.”
The upshot is that things remain pretty much unchanged for agricultural parcels zoned A1 or A2; it will become much more restricted in zone RA1; and there will be relatively no change in any other area of Powell River.
What has happened is that the City has had input from a number of organizations and individuals who see only the potential downside of making it easier to raise hens and other small animals in the City: the Conservation Officer, Bylaw Enforcement, the Human Society, and the local SPCA office. The City has not had any organized pressure from groups or individuals interested in making it easier to raise small livestock. There are serious challenges involved, especially the threat from predators, and some kind of city-wide plan will be required in order to address these challenges. Advocating for a more liberal bylaw regime, and helping the City deal with the potential negative consequences, is something that an existing organization might take on; for example, the Powell River Farmers’ Institute. Or citizens who are genuinely concerned could form an organization to carry out this advocacy work.
This blog isn’t getting the attention it deserves, and that’s probably because I have another personal blog, Slow Coast, to which I post almost weekly. (I’ve put myself on an every-eight-day deadline.)
This week’s post, “Why don’t we have a local food incubator?”, concerns an idea that has come up time and again since I’ve been coordinating the Powell River Food Security Project. We have all kinds of produce in the summertime and fall, but very little local food available during the cool wet months. many people have preserved or revived the traditional skills of food preservation, but many have lost those skills or never learned the in the first place.
It seems to me that we need to work towards this, and probably from a few different angles. We have the skills, materials, and facilities. We just need to put them together to support individuals and small businesses to help us feed ourselves throughout the year.
Anyway, take a look at the Slow Coast post and the Ecowatch post that it links to. Any thoughts? Leave a comment.
Cross-posted from Slow Coast.
What I really want is for people to think for themselves and feel for themselves and to listen to their own land base and to ask that land base, “What must we do?” Start a relationship with the land where you live. Ask that land what it needs from you. Because the truth is the land is the basis for everything. It’s embarrassing to even have to say that, but — and this is something else I think is really important — the only measure by which we will be judged by the people who come after is the health of the land base, because that is what is going to support them.
Bioregionalism seems to be in the air lately. The theme of the BC Food Systems Network‘s annual gathering back in late September was bioregionalism, and this theme recurred just last week at an event that I helped to organize. So, what is bioregionalism, anyway? Wikipedia offers the following:
Bioregionalism is a political, cultural, and environmental system based on naturally-defined areas called bioregions, or ecoregions. Bioregions are defined through physical and environmental features, including watershed boundaries and soil and terrain characteristics. Bioregionalism stresses that the determination of a bioregion is also a cultural phenomenon, and emphasizes local populations, knowledge, and solutions.
This sounds an awful lot like the kind of economic and social relocalization that various groups and initiatives are working towards (e.g., Transition Town Powell River, the 50-mile eat-local challenge, GreenSteps Solutions, Powell River Sustainability Stakeholders). But the concept of a bioregion really gets to the heart of the matter: how do we define the geographical area whose boundaries define what is ‘local’? Are we closer to Vancouver Island or to the Sunshine Coast? Are we our own bioregion? How can we answer these questions?
More from Wikipedia:
The bioregionalist perspective opposes a homogeneous economy and consumer culture with its lack of stewardship towards the environment. This perspective seeks to:
- Ensure that political boundaries match ecological boundaries.
- Highlight the unique ecology of the bioregion.
- Encourage consumption of local foods where possible.
- Encourage the use of local materials where possible.
- Encourage the cultivation of native plants of the region.
- Encourage sustainability in harmony with the bioregion.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But it’s pretty clear that we’re going to have to let the concept of our bioregion emerge over time, as we learn more about the characteristics of this area which unite it with other places and the ones which set us apart. And how do we get started with that kind of work?
Well, last Thursday and Friday, a group of about 25 food-security activists, farmers and friends of the local food economy in the Powell River region and along the Sunshine Coast got together in Pender Harbour to talk about how we might collaborate better together across the Jervis Inlet. This mini-conference, titled “Lund to Langdale”, was funded by the BC Healthy Living Alliance (BCHLA). I was one of the organizers, along with Stacia Leech from Roberts Creek.
Since the fall of 2008, the BCHLA has helped start projects in the various communities, such as the “Garden to Table” workshop series being offered through the Community Resource Centre in Powell River and the Sliammon Community Garden. The purpose of the “Lund to Langdale” conference was to take action on some of the things that the BCHLA folks were hearing as they carried out community consultations along the Sunshine Coast and up our way: specifically, they were hearing that people working in food security wanted more opportunities to learn about community engagement, better collaboration, and strategic planning for policy changes. So we planned a one-and-a-half-day event to bring us all together, get some work done, and make some connections to serve as a foundation for future collaboration.
The most interesting thing to see was the amount of information being shared. It’s amazing, given that we are so close to each other, that we are so ignorant of the work going on one ferry trip away. But as one person said, we Powell Riverites largely see the Sunshine Coast as something to race through on the way to the Langdale ferry terminal. There are a lot of common concerns, though, from the effect of the new meat inspection regulations, to the cost of farmland, to ALR removals, and beyond.
Towards the end of the second day, the group decided that this was a conversation worth continuing, so we are now hoping that we can find a way to hold a follow-up event over on this side of Jervis Inlet sometime before the next growing season. There are so many ways we can be sharing information better, learning from each other, and possibly starting to collaborate directly on food-security projects and policy work. We only scratched the surface of all the ways we could be working together for food security all the way up the Sunshine Coast as far as Lund… or beyond.
So watch this space for future news about more events to bring together some of the hard-working farmers, activists, and policy-makers. I believe that we have a real chance to create a bioregion on the basis of similar terrain, similar ecological systems, as well as a similar sense of isolation and independence from both the Lower Mainland and the island. We’re one baby step along that road now.
[Cross-posted from Slow Coast.]
Anyone who accepts that the threats posed by peak oil (and general resource depletion), climate chaos, and economic meltdown are threats to be taken seriously must wonder how we’re supposed to get from here to there. Here means a society deeply dependent on fossil fuels and committed to endless economic growth. There means… well, that’s the big question, right? Anything other than the status quo — or the status quo only more of it — is hard for us to imagine. Much of the long and complicated work of our local Transition effort will revolve around the re-imagining of the future of this region; and to make that re-imagining happen, we first need to understand that we have the power as citizens to design the future we want to see and then work together to build it.
This is a massive task, and in order to be successful it will require collaboration and the creation of many new projects designed to strengthen our ability to provide food, affordable shelter, water, jobs, education, medical services, and all of the other goods and services which support the life of our region. To the extent that providing these goods and services now depends on excessive use of fossil fuels or other scarce materials, to the extent that they create excessive atmospheric pollutants, and to the extent that they actually undermine the local economy, we will want to create alternatives out from under the current system.
I admit that it’s hard to know what this is even going to look like. And my reading of many of the leading ‘post-peak’ thinkers (e.g., Sharon Astyk, John Michael Greer, Richard Heinberg, Rob Hopkins, James Howard Kunstler, Dmitry Orlov, among others) tells me that none of them knows much more about what to expect than I do. The solutions they are advocating are all about preparing for as much as possible, given some reasonable assumptions about what we can expect to be coming at us. The idea is not to prepare for this or that specific thing so much as it is to become resilient in the face of whatever might be headed our way. And much of that preparation is pretty basic stuff, good common sense, and falls into what Sharon Astyk has written about under the name of “The Theory of Anyway“, which is to say: the things we should be doing anyway, whether or not there are crises forcing us to change our behaviour.
One of the very basic things which we should be doing anyway is being good stewards of all of the assets in our community. That we are not succeeding at this is obvious in every clearcut, every polluted waterway, every improvised roadside dump. We are going to have to reduce the amount and impact of our wasteful and environmentally destructive behaviour as resources become scarcer and more valuable.
One community asset which is currently being wasted more than it ought to be is fruit. There are countless abundant fruit trees throughout the region, and many of them drop their fruit each year because no one cares enough for the fruit to gather it and preserve it. After all, apples, pears, and other fruits are easily available year-round in our grocery stores, and cheap — especially when you consider that often they come from halfway around the world — so there is no huge impetus to make sure that we scavenge every last fruit from every last tree in the area.
But it is sad to see good food wasted, especially when people are going hungry around us. So for the last four years the Powell River Fruit Tree Project, a small but scrappy community initiative, has been working on a next-to-zero budget to see that as much fruit gets saved and used as possible.
Here’s how it works: the owner of fruit (or nut) tree who wants the fruit harvested contacts the coordinator of the Fruit Tree Project, Anne Michaels. Anne arranges for a team of volunteer pickers to go to the property and pick the fruit. The standard arrangement for distributing the fruit is that one-third goes to the pickers, one-third to the owner of the tree, and one-third to a local food pantry or other charitable organization to be distributed to those in need. But that arrangement is flexible, since sometimes the owner of the tree is happy simply to have the fruit picked and taken away, if only to reduce the risk of having a bear come and do it.
Anne is working hard to see this project expand. She is hoping that the Community Resource Centre in Powell River will be home to some fruit-preserving workshops and work parties this year. One of the difficulties in past years has been that the charitable organizations struggle to give away fresh fruit during the summer months, and there has been no way in previous years to can, freeze, or dry the harvested fruit so that it can be stored and distributed year-round. Now that the Community Resource Centre has a fully operational and inspected kitchen, the Fruit Tree Project can use that kitchen to preserve fruit for later use. Anne is planning to dehydrate a lot of the harvested fruit, in the hopes that dried fruit and fruit leather will be a product that can bring a little money into this perpetually cash-strapped project.
Anne also talks about expanding the project to take in more than just tree crops. What if we could arrange for crews of gleaners to swoop in when homeowners have more lettuce, beans, or (most likely) zucchini than they know what to do with? What if those crews could be sure that this fresh local food could get to those in need, via local soup kitchens or food pantries? And what if enough money (or another form of exchange) could flow through this project to pay for a coordinator, for some equipment, or for the use of the kitchen facilities?
What if there were a whole regional network of gardens producing food which could be assured of not going to waste, because all homeowners knew that the community gleaning team were just a phone call away? If the volunteers could be paid either in gathered food or in some other form, such as a local food-backed currency which could be exchanged at any time and not just during the time of harvest? What if more people in the community were able to learn the skills involved in safely preparing and preserving the summer harvest against the long cold wet winter months?
And what if all of this activity were generating true economic value? How could it not? This would be food produced in the region by people who live here, harvested and shared among other people in the region, producing jobs and stores of food for anyone willing to work.
Somehow we have to get from here to there. And the only way to do that is to start with what’s here, now, and try to make it get a little bigger and a little better each time around. So if you’re interested in getting more involved with the Powell River Fruit Tree Project, feel free to contact Anne Michaels at firstname.lastname@example.org or (604) 485-4366. If you have fruit or not trees which you anticipate needing to have picked this year, let her know. If you would be willing to go out into the community as a volunteer picker, let her know. And if you have ideas about how to make this project even better, Anne is looking for a committee of supporters to brainstorm and work on expanding the project. Let her know if you’re interested in being involved.
The Oil Drum is one of the best internet sources for information about peak oil and resource depletion in general, as well as some of the very creative ways that people are planning to cope in a world with declining sources of fossil fuels.
Some of the posts on the Oil Drum are very complex and detailed and may contain too much math and too many graphs for the average reader. (Although the quality of information and discussion that you will find at TOD is as high as anywhere I know of on the internet.) Recognizing this, back in December the editors of the site started up a new department of The Oil Drum, which they called The Oil Drum: Campfire. Here is some of what they said about this new forum:
We intend this forum to be akin to a summer night sitting around a campfire, dreaming, hoping, and tossing around ideas that might bring about positive change. The types of discussions we would like to foster are where there are no right or wrong answers, just shared experiences, advice and wisdom. Topics will relate to wide boundary issues surrounding energy descent, including local food production, small scale energy production, experiments in living with less, or just general information and ideas to be shared with the online community.
On May 20, 2009, Jason Bradford published a Campfire post titled “Ecological Economics and the Food System“, which looks hard at the fossil-fuel consumption of the present system of industrial agriculture. There are some very interesting statistics on the relative levels of carbon-dioxide emission stemming from various food sources (meat, fruits/vegetables, chicken/fish/eggs, etc.) and lots of information about how the various parts of the industrial food system contribute to energy consumption. Here are some of Bradford’s conclusions:
The bottom line is that every measure must be taken to rapidly eliminate fossil fuel consumption and dependency in every component of our lives. The key word is “rapidly.” Don’t passively assume inexpensive alternative energy substitutes will arrive to replace fossil fuels-we may have waited too long to respond to have a smooth transition. Therefore, focus most attention on reducing energy demand rather than substituting a new energy supply. And finally, in the context of ecological economics, fossil fuel depletion and climate change, ask whether what you do in your life, vocation, hobbies, and habits, contributes to the long-term function (or dysfunction) of society.
Here are some of the things we should be doing, or agitating for in our food system, according to “Energy Use in the U.S. Food System: a summary of existing research and analysis”, a paper by John Hendrickson cited by Bradford:
It appears that some of the greatest saving can be realized by:
- reduced use of petroleum-based fertilizers and fuel on farms,
- a decline in the consumption of highly processed foods, meat, and sugar,
- a reduction in excessive and energy intensive packaging,
- more efficient practices by consumers in shopping and cooking at home,
- and a shift toward the production of some foods (such as fruits and vegetables) closer to their point of consumption.
All of this meshes nicely with many efforts underway on the Upper Sunshine Coast. The eat-local movement; workshops on growing, preserving, and preparing healthy local food; preservation of our lands in the Agricultural Land Reserve; Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) and other small-scale urban farming projects such as the various community gardens; the Open Air Market and other markets to give small producers a place to sell their goods — these are all beginning steps towards a local food economy which serves the needs of local producers and consumers and also helps us move towards a radically lower regional carbon footprint.
Bradford moves on to a discussion of Brookside Farm, a one-acre farm in Willits, California, which functions as a working farm with a fifteen-share CSA and strong connections to a local elementary school and the wider community. Here are some of the ways that Brookside confronts the challenge of reducing fossil-fuel inputs and overall energy consumption, conveniently broken down into the various areas in which energy consumption occurs “from farm to fork”:
|Type of Work||Common Fossil-Fuel Inputs||Alternatives Implemented|
|Soil cultivation||Gasoline or diesel powered rototiller or small tractor||Low-wheel cultivator, broadfork, adze or grub hoe, rake and human labor|
|Soil fertility||In-organic or imported organic fertilizer||Growing of highly productive, nitrogen and biomass crop (banner fava beans), making aerobic compost piles sufficient to build soil carbon and nitrogen fertility, re-introducing micro-nutrients by importing locally generated food waste and processing in a worm bin, and application of compost teas for microbiology enhancement.|
|Pest and weed management||Herbicide and pesticide applications, flame weeder, tractor cultivation||Companion planting, crop rotation, crop diversity and spatial heterogeneity, beneficial predator attraction through landscape plantings, emphasis on soil and plant health, and manual removal with efficient human-scaled tools|
|Seed sourcing||Bulk ordering of a few varieties through centralized seed development and distribution outlets||Sourcing seeds from local supplier, developing a seed saving and local production and distribution plan using open pollinated varieties|
|Food distribution||Produce trucks, refrigeration, long-distance transport, eating out of season||Produce only sold locally, direct from farm or hauled to local restaurants or grocers using bicycles or electric vehicles, produce grown with year-round consumption in mind with farm delivering large quantities of food in winter months|
|Storage and processing at production end||Preparation of food for long distance transport, storage and retailing requiring energy intensive cooling, drying, food grade wax and packaging||Passive evaporative cooling, solar dehydrating, root cellaring and re-usable storage baskets and bags|
|Home and institutional storage and cooking||Natural gas, propane or electric fired stoves and ovens, electric freezers and refrigerators||Solar ovens, promotion of eating fresh and seasonal foods, home-scale evaporative cooling for summer preservation and “root cellaring” techniques for winter storage|
There’s more to the article, including a slightly cheeky demonstration that Americans could spare some of their average daily viewing time of four hours and thirty-five minutes (!) to tend a productive home garden and become more self-reliant. Go read the whole thing.
[Cross-posted from Slow Coast]
Those interested in local food security and developing a more resilient local food economy might want to head over to Slow Coast, the new collaborative online source for news and opinion on the Upper Sunshine Coast and environs. The post takes a look at some of the elements of a resilient system, using a local food economy as a source of some examples. I plan to dive into the details in future posts.