Leading the Urban Ag conversation

Fresh is Edmonton’s food and urban agricultural strategy. It is a document that is worth reading and promoting because the City of Edmonton has a commitment to a strategy that is not only about sustainability in an ever growing municipal landscape, it focuses on opportunities that make our city a healthy community and healthy economy.

Here is a snippet of the document that explains how we can start to imagine the future:

“Municipal governments have begun to recognize the enormous opportunity provided by a more thoughtful consideration of food and its relationship to local community development. They are recognizing the importance of food and urban agriculture as an opportunity to increase the sustainability and quality-of-life of their communities, as well as a means for economic development. fresh: Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy, is a result of that consideration and it imagines how new approaches to food and urban agriculture can make Edmonton an even better place to live, work, play and invest.”

Which leads to a few questions about how we can help lead this charge from City Hall.

The Fresh report recommends the creation of an inventory of public and private lands that can be used for urban agriculture. This is a great first step. I would like to consider adopting a citywide development policy that promotes strategic land use that urban agriculture initiatives could benefit from.

From there we can engage in something I think we are pretty good at in Edmonton—building partnerships.

I would like to see the City partner with existing programs and non-profit organizations to fulfill the promise of existing programming and to examine the regulatory barriers that are preventing the growth of these programs and development of new initiatives. We can increase access to community gardens in existing communities as part of a modern urban parks strategy and we can look to examples like the Orchards, a Brookfield Development that includes significant community garden space and urban agricultural opportunities in newer development.

The local food economy in our region is growing fast and will continue to evolve. We need to develop broader partnerships with business and community groups, mainly to continue to grow demand thus enabling more start up farms to develop on available and affordable land in our region.

I am proud to say I have played a leadership role with the Greater Edmonton Alliance and organized thousands of citizens to lobby city council to include the City Wide Food and Agricultural Strategy in the 2009 Municipal Development Plan. I have been an active and effective leader for Urban Agriculture in Edmonton and am positioned to be its champion on the next city council.

My first commitment is to make sure Edmonton's new Food Policy Council has the necessary resources to lead this conversation and continue to build on our past work.

 

"Michael has been an important leader in the local food movement. He is a passionate supporter of farmers markets. He led the charge to create the City Wide Food and Agriculture Strategy. He knows how to make city hall work for regular citizens."

  -- Janelle Herbert- Owner, Riverbend Gardens and Local Farmer 

Edmonton is 5-10 years ahead of every other Canadian city when it comes to local food, local economies and urban agriculture. This is thanks to leaders like Michael Walters who have walked the talk and have been effective in creating policies and actions that move our neighbourhoods and our city toward a better future.

  --Jessie Radies- Founder of Live Local Alberta.