We need ALL farmers – urban AND rural

YYC Growers - photo - Karen Anderson

YYC Growers – photo – Karen Anderson

Urban farming has become topical.
Here’s a video by Alberta PrimeTime discussing why. The video features Rod Olson of Leaf and Lyre SPIN farm here in Calgary and Professor Debra Davidson of the University of Alberta and they do a great job of explaining why people are becoming more interested in growing food within city limits and addressing naysayers who believe agriculture is only for rural areas.

There is an idea I’ve heard of late that people who grow food for a living inside a city’s limits are not “real farmers”. There’s a bit of an old boy’s club mentality that you must have grown up on a farm, live on a rural farm, and have the stress of bank loans to be a farmer.

I think we have to get past this way of thinking. It’s not going to serve us as we prepare to feed 9 billion people on our planet by 2050.

I think that we need to appreciate ALL people who grow food for us and that’s what I’ll discuss here.

no farmers - no question of which came first - chicken or egg  photo - Karen Anderson

no farmers – no question of which came first – chicken or egg
photo – Karen Anderson

In Alberta, the average age of a farmer is 58. Where are the young farmers? Why has the next generation left the farms? Where’s the succession planning and recruitment in this industry? Who will feed us… next?

Fat lot of good it’s going to do us making distinctions about where our food is grown if we are missing a whole generation of farmers on our land – wherever that land is located. I think we have to get over set ideas of “place” for farms and farmers and get onto supporting anyone who is willing to learn to grow food for us.

People who grow food for a living – whether they are located in an urban or rural setting – all have the following things in common:

-dirt under their finger nails
-a sore back
-a red neck and sweaty brow
-a weather watching obsession
-incredible optimism
-incredible joy
-incredible disappointment
-a need for people to value what they do and buy food from them.

It's never too soon to learn where food comes from photo - Karen Anderson

It’s never too soon to learn where food comes from photo – Karen Anderson

This article that I just researched and wrote for City Palate magazine goes into much greater detail about Calgary’s efforts to address the city’s need to find a sustainable way to feed our population.
Calgary’s Green Growth Spurt

I learned a lot about what’s “growing on” in my city after writing this piece. But here’s the main conclusion I’ve come to when the question of rural vs urban farmers comes up.

The answer to the question will not likely be to pit any farmer against another. The answer is that we need all farmers and the issue is not where someone farms but is more likely – why aren’t more people supporting all local farmers?

If we all bought even a small percentage more local product and all of our farmers could sell out of their products each week, we’d have a much more stable and steady supply of local food and a great Alberta economy to match.

It might be good to put the issue and discussion on where it really needs to be. I think that is, How can we support ALL of our farmers more? How can we engage our culture in recognizing the value of local food? How can we make growing food to eat and farming with that purpose attractive to a new generation of Alberta farmers?

These are big questions. I’m excited to see innovative ideas grow up to answer them. Meanwhile we can all vote with our dollars.

Buy local first.

Get to know who grows your food.

Support your growers and keep them in business.

Enjoy your food for the miracle it is.

Savour it all.

shopping at the source  photo - Karen Anderson

shopping at the source
photo – Karen Anderson

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