Doin’ it in the city: Urban farming is growing on us

A group of eager Calgarians gathered at the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Centre Feb. 5 for an Urban Agriculture Workshop Series dubbed  ‘Doin’ it in the City.’

About 75 people gathered to hear five local farmers and decision makers discuss issues related to creating sustainable food systems in the city.

“Local 301: Urban Agriculture Workshop Series is a series of hands on workshops we are running to try and build local food systems, strengthen our hands on skills, and our language and the way we talk about urban agriculture and sustainable food systems,” said Cate Ahrens, who works with the Community Food Program at the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association.

Doin It: Calgarians gather to attend an Urban Agriculture Workshop at the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Centre in Calgary on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. The panelists discussed issues related to urban agriculture in Calgary. (Photo by Cara Howlett/The Press)
Doin It: Calgarians gather to attend an Urban Agriculture Workshop at the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Centre in Calgary Feb. 5. Attendees had the opportunity to pose questions to the panelists.(Photo by Cara Howlett/The Press)

“We have to go knocking on the city’s door,” said panelist Renee MacKillop, a member of the Calgary Food Committee and a natural Highland Beef farmer.

MacKillop emphasized that Calgarians have to become more engaged in order for urban agriculture to become more universal in Calgary.

“It’s going to take that person to put their hand up and say, ‘I’m going to do it.’”

Panelist Janet Melrose, community garden resource network and garden animator for the Calgary Horticulral Society, said that urban agriculture shouldn’t be over-regulated.

“In a lot of cities’ community gardens are all administered out of a central government. For [Calgary,] it’s all at the local level. It’s all community driven,” said Melrose.

During the workshop, attendees had the opportunity to discuss urban agriculture issues they felt strongly about, and also write down questions for the panelists to answer.

An idea that came up during the panelists’ discussion, was renting a community vendor table at a farmer’s market.

“Sometimes paying for the rent of a vendor table is too much,” said moderator Alla Guelber.

Guelber said that an easy solution to that problem is to have a community table at a farmer’s market so people can drop off their produce, and check in at the end of the day to see how much of it sold.

“There are lots of simple solutions. Some of them don’t require bylaw changes, they just require a bit of creativity,” Guelber said.

After being asked what an ideal food system would look like in Calgary, panelist MacKillop said that citizens sharing roles creates a vibrant system.

“Not everyone wants to be a farmer, but you may start preserving, or you might be volunteering if you don’t have access to space,” said MacKillop.

“Supporting local farmers is an amazing way to start learning about what it’s like to produce, and you’re playing a very important role.”

Panelist Nicole Schaefer, senior sustainability consultant with the City of Calgary, said that it’s important for the city to know how much demand there is for urban agriculture.

“In order to make something happen, we have to know that it’s a big group of people that want it,” she said.

When asked if urban agriculture is sustainable, panelist Luke Kimmel, an edible landscape and food forest designer with The Leaf Ninjas, explained that it’s only been two generations that society has been living on mostly industrialized food, and to look at the reform that is happening already.

Supporting local farmers is an amazing way to start learning about what it’s like to produce, and you’re playing a very important role – Renee MacKillop

“Urban agriculture is so traditional,” said Kimmel.

“It’s the way things have been done for so long, so I think it just makes sense that people are saying, ‘Hey, we want real food again.’”

“This is just the beginning, and it’s not just a trend.”

For more information on Urban Agriculture Workshops, visit the Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmer’s Market’s website.

Talk it Out: Nicole Schaefer, senior sustainability consultant for the City of Calgary, speaks to her fellow panelists at the Urban Agriculture Workshop at the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Centre in Calgary on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. The five panelists discussed issues related to urban agriculture in Calgary. (Photo by Cara Howlett/The Press)
Talk it Out: Nicole Schaefer, senior sustainability consultant for the City of Calgary, speaks to her fellow panelists at the Urban Agriculture Workshop at the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Centre in Calgary on Feb. 5. The five panelists spoke to an enthusiastic group of attendees. (Photo by Cara Howlett/The Press)
About Cara Howlett 7 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Cara Howlett worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2013-2014 academic year.

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