the agritect

@VELD architect, southwestern Ontario

The Desirable Food System : 2025

In November, I attended a discussion on Sustainable Food Systems the Arts and Cookery Bank(a great venue and enterprise) in West Lorne. Hosted by Roxana Roshon and Tom Schell and the London Training Centre working on an amazing research project on Food Systems. They are taking an cross-system (rather than silo) approach to their research looking at everything from producers’ to feed sales’ to processors and distributor’ economics’ sustainability’ technology’ to the consumer.

One of the main activities of the day was to describe food systems. The room was broken up into groups by age’ young’ middle age’ and senior/retired. The retired group shared stories of what the food system looked like “back-in-the-day”, describing butchering the calf under the apple tree, or getting the fresh milk delivered to the door each day. They described a system that was complex in relationships and simple in worries. But can imagine plowing with a horse?

The middle-aged group are the group who are currently managing and operating our food system. They made up the majority of the room and they described a number of value chains; cash crops, poultry, and beef. Their system was also simple, but in a different way. The middle man distributed such as a feed mill moved goods to consumers and money to producers; simple, right? But we seems to have lost the human touch described by the retired group.

And then there was the new generation; full of hopes and dreams looking to answer the question of ‘what is the desirable food system in 2025’? I happy to be considered young and not middle aged, but after starting our discussion I realized how hard this question was going to be to answer. Our group was made up of two economic developers, one engineer, someone representing immigration, a future producer, and myself. We all had our dreams for a sustainable vision; no dependance on oil, conserve energy, educate the public and producers, and communication lines between all parties involved. We all had our private agendas, use renewable energy, generate economic growth, create a better living for farmers, create access to healthy and inexpensive foods for everyone, etc. And every idea was faced with challenges and difficulties.

After the 5 minute warning we still didn’t have much on the paper in front of us, but we had great visions and ideas.

1. We started with defining ‘sustainable’ as something that can be maintained over long periods of time.

2. Then a sustainable food system was not to rely on oil, starting with reducing energy,  then generating renewable energy.

3. It was then was a matter of communication.  How to get all parties involved, consumers, farmers, processors, suppliers, educated about sustainable practices in the communities and get them talking to each other to create a better system and share information.

As simple as three steps! What is your ideal food system for 2025? How do you contribute to a sustainable food system?

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