Technically, the Food Secure Canada (FSC) conference isn’t a farming conference. This was a “big picture” conference with more academics and project managers in attendance than farmers. There were no production, marketing, or business sessions as there are in most farming conferences. But there were sessions on policy, the state of agriculture nationally and globally, and food systems issues and success stories.
In the farm business planning course we took before starting Broadfork Farm, Bryan and I learned that Policy Risks are just as important to be aware of and prepare for as Production Risks. And so, we made a commitment to educate ourselves on the policies that could affect us, and work towards changing or shaping those policies wherever and in whatever ways we could. Of course, we don’t have a ton of time to devote to that goal, but activities like attending the FSC conference help move us in the right direction.
Food Secure Canada videotaped some of the sessions. I’m embedding 2 of the videos into this blog post because they reflect some of my highlights. But check out FSC’s website for more.
Ok, so onto some of my highlights:
- Vandana Shiva. Her talk was part of both the ACORN conference and the kickoff to the FSC conference. As always, she was amazing. So inspirational. And real. And generous. And present. If you don’t know who she is, she is so worth knowing about and having as a hero! Her talk was videotaped and so you can watch it yourself here (the intros are worth watching but if you’re impatient to get to Vandana Shiva, I’d skip to minute 19).
- New Farmer Roundtable. This was the main reason for my attendance at the FSC conference. As a new farmer, new farmer issues and policy work strike close to home. I’m a committee member of a National New Farmer Coalition (inspired by the National Young Farmers Coalition in the U.S.) and we are currently working on a national new farmer survey that will inform a new farmer policy platform (stay tuned for more details in 2015!). Many of the members of that committee were in attendance and we had the opportunity to get together which was great. A highlight for me was hearing a 10 minute snapshot on the new farmer situation in each region across Canada, in particular, in the Northern Territories, which I rarely hear about!
- Dawn Morrison, indigenous food sovereignty activist and researcher from BC made a point about thinking in terms of ‘foodlands’ rather than ‘farmlands’ (as food isn’t only farmed, but also hunted and gathered…which requires habitat) and also brought up the point that unused (or underutilized) land is a contentious term….land that we see as unused because it’s not being actively farmed can still be a great and valuable source of food (for both humans and other species). Having as much land as possible under human management isn’t necessarily going to provide more food. I felt incredibly grateful for this viewpoint and it has really stuck with me.
- Dialogue with Members of Parliament. This included 2 politicians (one NDP and one Liberal….no Conservatives responded to the invitation) and 4 individuals representing different perspectives in the food system. In particular, a highlight for me was seeing my friend Alex Fletcher, young farmer from Wind Whipped Farm in BC and Youth President of the National Farmers Union speak on behalf of new farmers. This talk was videotaped too. Watch it here.
I really hope that some of the links we’ve included serve to inspire and/or introduce you to something or someone new to you.
I’m so grateful to have a profession that offers me so many learning opportunities (frequently through making my own mistakes but also so much through the generous knowledge-sharing of others).