I am now looking forward to building a new consulting service to share what I have learned through many years in the sustainable local good foods movement. This letter is the first in a new series of monthly E-Newsletters to share my thoughts and ideas.
In a nutshell: my ambition is to continue building both the supply and the use of locally produced good foods. I will do this by helping farmers develop ways to provide the consistency and exceptional flavours that chefs, markets and distributors are hungry for. I will also help consumers understand how to work with their chosen farmers who are coping with the challenges of low food prices, high land values and a changing climate. And I am setting out to help educate more people to appreciate the joys of local good foods by supporting urban gardens.
For a summary of the types of projects I plan to be working on, please visit my new website, www.davidcohlmeyer.ca. This site was designed and developed by Jonathan Cohlmeyer jrc9.ca with branding by Cora Butineau corabutineau.com. Both are recent graduates of Sheridan College’s award winning Web Design post graduate program.
On my way back to Toronto, I stopped by to see East Vancouver’s amazing SOLEfood inner city urban farm. My friend Michael Ableman (one of the West Coast’s most celebrated fruit and vegetable farmers) is on-call to provide important agronomic support for this social enterprise. Seann Dory is the 20-something project “driver” who enthusiastically deals with the daily employee, production and delivery issues. He showed me around the winter garden and introduced me to some of the workers who have left the streets for a more rewarding livelihood in the garden. Seann reviewed how the first year’s successes with challenged workers has now led to sufficient new capital to expand the project to three more gardens.
This could be a great model for a Toronto initiative! Urban gardening is not about profitable food production; it is about letting consumers see and experience, firsthand, what growing and eating fresh food is all about. They will become more knowledgeable about food and agriculture and therefore more informed participants in food policy decisions.
Another (quite distinct) attraction of gardening is its extraordinary ability to provide meaningful purpose for mentally challenged individuals. We have long known (but seem to have forgotten) the benefits of prison and mental institution garden projects. These once again deserve a place in our communities.
From 2008 to 2011 thousands of Canadians participated in Food Secure Canada’s Peoples Food Policy Project to recommend a universal, healthful, safe and sustainable food strategy. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture released its own (more limited) strategy in 2011. And now the Conference Board of Canada has initiated yet another process at the 2012 Canadian Food Summit. Although led by Toronto’s former United Way social advocate, Anne Golden, this one is dominated by the views of our largest food industries. They seem to be pointing it in the direction that:
Galen Weston graciously proposed expanding our markets for pulse (lentils and peas) that are already Canada’s most important contribution to world trade; then he suggested some people would die from [unsafe] farmers’ market foods. Michael McCain discussed how humbled he was from his listeria incident; then he went on to say it was only his giant size that allowed him to properly rectify the crisis. The Stop’s Nick Saul expressed the view that our current system looks at food as a commodity; he feels we need to consider food as a public good.
I only hope that all these disparate agendas can come together for a food strategy that will benefit all Canadians. James Whithers of Scotland Food and Drink described the tremendous success their strategy of bringing together all stakeholders (large and small) is bringing to this small northern country.