Given it was about the only sunny evening so far this year, a crowd of about 45 who attended the Revy Foodies inaugural event on June 21 showed there is a healthy appetite to continue building a local food movement in Revelstoke.
The keynote speaker was Vancouver-based urban food and agriculture specialist Janine de la Salle.
De la Salle, an Agriculture Systems Specialist with HB Lanarc-Golder, was named Young Planner of the Year by the Canadian Institute of Planners in 2010. She has published articles in planning and popular media and in 2010 published Agricultural Urbanism: Handbook for Building Sustainable Food Systems in 21st Century Cities.
We’re all familiar with the basic concepts – food security and the 100 Mile Diet, for example – which are all tied together into a larger local food movement that’s swept across popular culture in the past five years. “I prefer the term food resiliency,” de la Salle told the audience.
The focus of the presentation and discussion was how to build on the movement and integrate it into city plans. And the movement, no doubt, has been in Revelstoke for years. Those in the audience included Rob Jay and Terra Park of Terra Firma Farms, Christy Shaw of Mountain Goodness Natural Foods, Revelstoke Community Garden designer Kate Walsh, local food processor Conor Hurley of Stoke Roasted Coffee and Josee Zimanyi of the Modern Bakeshop & Cafe – to name a few.
De la Salle said focusing on the municipal level is key, saying provincial-level action can be frustrating. “You’re not in a real change-place anymore,” she said.
Even though she’s a planner herself, de la Salle recommended grassroots action, encouraging activists to organize and create “a groundswell that trickles up.”
“There’s a lot of other things you can do before you get to policy,” she said.
Going a bit against the grain, the food systems expert told the audience that the extreme of a local-food-only utopia as espoused by some was a misnomer; we’re always going to rely on imports to a large extent, especially given our local agriculture reality. Creating a more sustainable food system requires a multi-faceted approach.
One local initiative de la Salle recommended was creating a food charter. De la Salle has been heavily involved in food systems planning in Vancouver. That city adopted their Vancouver Food Charter in 2007. The charter is based on five guiding principles – community economic development, ecological health, social justice, collaboration & participation and celebration. She feels that food charters are a great first step in small towns.
“What about food and agriculture is important to you?” she asked – something to be considered when creating a food charter.
The movement can’t run on enthusiasm alone, she said. There are lots of sources of food initiative funding. She recommended sources like the Columbia Basin Trust, the Real Estate Foundation of B.C., Interior Health, credit unions and the local Community Futures branch as a source of funding for job-creating initiatives.
Much of the discussion focused on local issues, zeroing in agriculture. The local climate and lack of agricultural land were both cited as major hindrances to local agriculture. On the other hand, green thumbs have eyed out lots of small, local plots that are fallow every year. De la Salle encourages changing local policies to encourage urban farming. such as allowing farm sales from urban farm plots.
Another topic of discussion is the City of Revelstoke’s Integrated Community Sustainability Plan. The contract was tendered by the City of Revelstoke in April of this year and the plan is in early development phases. It explores all things social, environmental and economic – of which the local food system is a big part. City environmental sustainability coordinator Penny Page-Brittin (who recently had her contract extended for three more years) explained to the group that there would be significant overlap between the food initiatives and the ICSP.
So, what’s next? Participants seemed inspired, but there wasn’t any direct next step planned, other than to maintain existing programs and digest the possibilities.