Researching local food systems
Sustainability of our food system is a crucial issue that has stimulated widespread interest in the re-localizing production and consumption. With potential benefits such as superior freshness and taste, reduced carbon emissions, increased food security, more reliable incomes for small-scale farmers and contributing to overall stronger local economies, it’s no wonder that the local food scene has surged in popularity across Alberta.
According to Dr. Mary Beckie, an associate professor specializing in local and alternative agri-food systems at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension, it’s important to remember that local food systems do have limitations. Alberta’s climate cannot sustainably grow food year-round. Further, the current infrastructure for small to medium-scale processing and distribution is limited, unable to meet increasing demand.
Bringing it all together
As the Western Canada academic lead for the national FLEdGE (Food: Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged) project, Beckie is involved in research efforts to explore current and potential opportunities to move beyond these barriers. They aim to help “our local, regionalized food systems grow and be more sophisticated about how they are structured, integrating everyone involved from growers and retailers to policy-makers.”
FLEdGE has joined forces with Alberta Food Matters (AFM) to co-host Cultivating Connections in February 2017, a province-wide forum that will bring together diverse local food movers and shakers. The forum will encourage collaboration and conversation across silos, including:
- Interactive panel discussions
- Moderated roundtables
- Pecha kucha presentations
- Facilitated breakout sessions
- Partnership speed dating
- Social events
Attendees will forge new relationships, identify opportunities to collaborate, and, Beckie hopes, “inspire new and innovative initiatives and grow vibrant and sustainable local food systems.” Beckie is excited to see how the forum will influence policy and practice in Alberta and inspire innovative approaches to integrating and strengthening local food systems across Canada.
Visit the Cultivating Connections website to learn more about the forum program and key themes.