This Thursday was our most recent CUA meetup, and I was very pleased to see about a dozen hard core participants come to chat about the latest happenings in Calgary. Thanks to everyone who braved blistering winds and subzero temperatures to show up during the busiest time of the year - your commitment definitely brightened up my day. Also, thanks to Grant for coming, as always, to help with the meeting and to push me into learning how to organize groups on my own.
It's December, and despite the freezing weather, a surprising amount is going on with urban agriculture. There are a lot of plans being made, campaigns being formed, and a great deal of interest in making progress. We met a teacher from Rundle who is planning a garden with students, for example. We discussed the reasons why we thought of urban agriculture as an important movement (which I will talk about in my next post.) There was also interest in the facilitation of some workshops in relation to agriculture, which I will be looking into in the coming months. If you, or someone you know, has some area of knowledge or expertise, please feel free to drop me a line. I like to get teachers and students together.
I'm also looking into getting some small funding, to see if there is more than can be done in that area. As usual - if you have any connections, ideas or plans please let me know.
What I do is study Industrial Design, which seems rather contradictory considering the fact that I'm fairly anti-materialism and not a huge fan of the corporationalist turn our democratic/capitalist structure has taken. The reasons for the program I'm in have to do with learning about restructuring our systems of consumption and coming up with alternatives to the marketed lifestyles we find ourselves participating in. I'm also interested in integrating micro-housing and urban agriculture to make a high standard of living more accessible to a wider range of people. That's the nutshell statement anyway.
Urban agriculture is the practice of growing fruit, vegetables, herbs, and other plant resources in urban centres. This can be small scale- like a backyard garden, it can be "revolutionary" like Guerrilla Gardening, it can be rooftop gardens, school gardens, window ledge pots or planter boxes. It can be large or small scale. An excellent example of a city that has harnessed the power of collective Urban Agriculture is Havana, Cuba. I'm not an expert, but I did attend an excellent talk given by Marella Falat at a conference recently. It was quite impressive to see the progress the Cubans have made in such a short period of time.
Here, just read up:)
The real extent of my involvement in Urban Agriculture has been to get others involved in urban agriculture. Besides volunteering at the UBC Farm a few times, I've been most devoted to getting some push behind the movement in Calgary. I worry about my hometown. The state of food security is disconcerting, the small-town values that people used to talk about seem to be disappearing. Neither of these things bother me as much as what I see in light of my research on the building of sustainable cities. The question is, when the oil boom is over, what reason will people have to stay in Calgary? As a car-oriented city, costs of living are high. Housing costs are high. Public transportation is not a priority, things are not built on a human scale and so on and so forth. I feel that Urban Agriculture has the potential to bring people together on a community scale and allows them to work for the security of their future together. It's a very powerful thing, working to meet basic human needs as a community.
Large scale industrialized agriculture certainly has its downsides- largely that it can be done in a non-sustainable way (when I say sustainable, I mean that it can't keep going on as it is forever) and that businesses like the well-known Monsanto are working to undermine farmers' self-sufficiency. But frankly, I think it's more important to focus on the benefits of empowering action that individuals can take to be more self-sufficient.