I attended the 2016 Vancouver Urban Farming Forum today. You can download their full program at their Facebook page. It was a wonderful experience. I talked to some great people at lunch and lunch was great. I would’ve given you a full report but I left my Gorden House folder there. So here are a few brief comments. I sat in Session A on Indigenous Food Sovereignty and the Urban Farming Movement, Session D on the Diversity of Urban Farms in Metro Vancouver: Exploring Emerging Models, and later, in Session E on Building Networks, Resources, and Support for Small-Scale Farmers.
I can relate to the ideas and philosophies discussed in session A that to the indigenous people, food is not a product but rather they develop a mutually beneficial relationship with it. An example was given by Cease Wyss about eating the fruit of a single tree which in time grew into 30 trees. So I can appreciate there’s a positive give-and-take relationship between the land (including waters), the food, and the indigenous people. Indigenous food sovereignty to them means that they should be allowed freely to hunt, fish, and gather their food off their land and waters. This all happened upstairs.
Now the people downstairs were all about urban farming models as their money making schemes. Food became products again. There was not one single acknowledgement on whose land and waters they are growing their food. Olivia introduced aeroponics, an innovative device that grow vegetables that hang in the air by spraying mists of nutrients intermittently at the roots of the plants but consumes more input resources than its output. It is fancy and trendy and, of course, welcomed by high-end hipster restaurants in Gas Town. I commended her after the session that her presentation was the most futuristic and that when we all have to live on a spaceship some day in the not-so-far future, we’ll need to use her model.
I went upstairs again to sit in Session E. Now they were all about the Ministry of Agriculture, the universities, the Vancouver School Board, and other social organisations offering education and information services, funding, mentorship programs to small-scale farms. The term “farm status” was introduced. Only farms having attained farm status (ie, one under 2 acres and can produce 10K income or those with 2+ acres and can produce 25K income) are eligible for the services, funding, and programs discussed. A woman in the audience was as disenchanted as I was and fired the same question about the disparity between their philosophies and those of the indigenous group in the morning session. The panellists acknowledged that it was a great question but obfuscated by saying that that was not the main focus of their discussion there. Wow! Can you imagined that?