Cities urged to rethink relationship with food

Notable farmer, author pitches urban farms

Western society needs to embrace urban farms to avoid a food crisis brought on by climate change and rising prices, a renowned farmer said Saturday.

"The cost, quality and secure access to food will become, I believe, the dominant issue of our time," said Michael Ableman, co-founder of Sole Food Farms and owner of Foxglove Farms on Salt Spring Island.

Ableman was the keynote speaker at the B.C. Association of Farmers' Markets 2013 conference, which was held at Hotel 540 in downtown Kamloops.

An audience of 60 people involved in farmers' markets across B.C., heard how Ableman spearheaded the Sole Food initiative in Vancouver's East Side.

The program turns vacant lots into gardens of fruits and vegetables farmed by residents. He said efforts like this need to be undertaken on a grand scale to feed citizens.

"I think we need to rethink how we feed our cities and how we feed the future now before our choices are made for us," said Ableman.

He admits his solutions are radical to some, but Ableman said he believes society needs to rethink its relationship with food and the land.

Every region should establish publicly supported agricultural training centres -working farms - that educate people on the economic and social benefits of farming in the city, he said.

"We can talk about all the wonderful reasons to be doing this work, but until we can demonstrate that farmers can make a living, it's going to be a tough sell, especially to younger people," said Ableman.

He said every neighbourhood in every city should have a compost facility big enough to address the needs of urban farmers and homeowners with gardens.

Instead of hauling rocks out of farmland, cities could provide mobile rock crushers residents could use to crush rock into powder. Ableman said rock is full of minerals and phosphorous integral to good earth.

Lawns should be converted into farms. Ableman said the time will come when homeowners will need to grow their own produce. This will allow large farms to produce grains, beans and other protein sources.

The conference wrapped up Sunday.

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