2. Prioritization of an Urban Agriculture Strategy
We believe that the prioritization of initiatives that support a sustainable and healthy Edmonton food system is crucial for the present quality of life as well as for the future of our citizens.
Urban agriculture involves growing food in and around the city limits. The term can include small-scale strategies like community gardens, edible landscapes, permaculture, farmers’ markets, backyard and rooftop gardens, chickens in the city, and large-scale strategies like farms. Supporting urban agriculture means supporting local businesses and local food. Urban agriculture is also a step towards making cities less reliant on fossil fuels, which also mitigates climate change.
Much of the food purchased in traditional supermarkets travels an average of 2,500km (by conservative measures) from farm to plate (MacLeod & Scott, 2009). Growing food within cities means it has far less distance to travel and therefore requires much less energy inputs, reducing green house gases.
Urban agriculture is also about making cities more resilient. Modern cities feed their citizens with food grown on distant farms (usually from other provinces or countries). In addition, if municipal and provincial transportation networks were disrupted (because of natural or human disasters, etc.), current estimates state that most cities would exhaust their food stores in three days. Vibrant food production within a city means that the city would strengthen their food security and preparedness for extreme weather events. Furthermore, urban agriculture supports local economy, which translates into more direct capital and employment opportunities for Edmonton and area residents (MacLeod & Scott, 2009). Lastly, urban agriculture enhances green spaces within a city. For example, an abandoned lot can be turned into a garden, providing greenery and food sources for the heart of the city, and withdrawing carbon dioxide and pollutants from the air. It is also important that we preserve our parks and green spaces so that we can preserve our status as having “North America’s largest urban green space” (City of Edmonton, 2012), and providing a legacy to future generations of Edmontonians.
One major debate is the agricultural land in Northeast Edmonton. It has incredibly rich soil content (one of the last areas within the city limits with Class 1 soil) and has a micro-climate that nurtures the growth of some of the best growing conditions in the province (Male, 2013). It is under threat from highway expansion and new housing developments that would pave over the extremely productive land and greatly hinder our food security.