Come down to City Hall on Oct. 26!

Mark my words: Oct. 26 is going to be the most important day for local food in Edmonton in the past year (and possibly the next year).

We’re asking everyone who’s passionate about supporting local farmers and seeing Edmonton grow more food locally to come on down to City Hall on Oct. 26 (between the hours of 9:30am-5:30pm) for the only public hearing to be held on the city’s new local good strategy.

You will be joining hundreds of other Edmontonians who want City Council to take notice.

If you have been waiting for a moment to lend your voice to the local food movement — this is it. If you agree that having a vibrant local food system in Edmonton is important — be there.

And spread the word. Bring friends.

Here’s what’s happening: the City of Edmonton has just released its Urban Agriculture Report which has some cool things and some not cool things to it. The major not cool part of it is about the loss of some prime farmland in NE Edmonton.

Here’s the background (written by Laura Jeffrey’s – former director of the Greater Edmonton Alliance):

A couple years ago the City adopted a policy that future land development would be contingent on the creation of, and adherence to, an urban agriculture strategy – this was a huge accomplishment in and of itself.
 
That said, the strategy needs some grit…  unless it gives decision makers clear information and explains the tools that can be used to manage prime agricultural lands it will miss the mark. 
 
I say this because without local land, there cannot be local food, and without local food, we cannot have a local food system. Why is the land in North East Edmonton, rather than elsewhere in the region, so important?
 
Here are my reasons: 
  1. the soil is the best! sandy loam that is good for vegetable production (4-5 x what you can grow in soils just outside the city)
  2. access to market
  3. access to irrigation
  4. there are producers in the northeast  that are willing to preserve their land in perpetuity for agricultural purposes and sustain an agricultural community
  5. we have enough development pre-approved to meet edmonton’s growing housing needs for 25 years… we can take our time and plan something innovative and sustainable in the North East. 
The City has released a draft of the City Wide Food and Agriculture Strategy, and on the 26 of October they will have a public hearing about it. It is imperative to have many many people there, showing our decision makers that we care about local food and about land use in our city. This citizens effort has been fundamentally about making land use decisions in the context of good information, and ALSO about creating a sustainable and progressive city (and also about engaging citizens in decisions about how Edmonton develops).
 
Hopefully I’ll have time to give you all a call to ask if you can make it to City Hall that day, but wanted to first send an email with some links to back round articles about the campaign and the issues…  
 
Here are some articles explaining the campaign to preserve Edmonton’s farm land, and commentary on how the draft strategy misses the mark:
 
 
 
 

Much of the issue of farmland loss is tied to the city’s The Way We Grow strategy looking at how Edmonton will expand onto what land and how to balance that with the fact that some of the areas slated for development are also prime farm land. Michael Walters has written an excellent piece on this.

Debbie Hubbard of the Greater Edmonton Alliance came to Green Drinks on October 3rd to talk about the work of Friends of Farmers to preserve the rich farmland north of Edmonton.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/48031487[/vimeo]

Debbie and I snuck out towards the end to record this little video focused on the upcoming public hearing on the city wide Food and Agriculture strategy on October 26th.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOsy62KpQuE[/youtube]

Here are some words from the facebook event for the hearing . . .

Interested in what happens to the remaining agricultural land within Edmonton’s city limits? Urban chickens? Community gardens? Food security? Cost of healthy food? Agri-tourism? Farm-to-table restaurants? Locally grown food in grocery stores?

Let’s make sure the City-Wide Food & Ag Strategy says what the citizens of Edmonton want for the future of our food system.

1. Public Hearing, Oct 26

Come to City Hall for the ONLY public hearing on the draft City-Wide Food and Agriculture Strategy!

This non-statutory public hearing will be before the Executive Committee (Mayor, Leibovici, Sloan, Diotte and Krushell).

If it gets approved, the next week it will be sent to the full City Council for final approval. If it does not get approved by Exec Committee, it could be sent back to the City Administration for revisions. (Either way, there will be no public hearing before the entire Council.)

Please plan to attend for as much time as you can on this day. An hour, half a day, the whole day… whatever you can spare. Your presence and interest will have a big impact on Councillors’ vote.

The Public Hearing is from 9:30am to 5:30 pm (with an hour for lunch between 12 and 1 or so).

Citizens who wish to speak at the Public Hearing can register in advance online (www.edmonton.ca/meetings) and by phone (780-496-8178), or in person the day of the meeting.

2. Online Survey, Oct 1-8

The draft City-Wide Food & Urban Agriculture Strategy will be available for public review starting Monday, October 1, 2012 until Monday October 8. The draft strategy and related materials can be reviewed at www.edmonton.ca/FoodandAg then fill out the survey at www.fluidsurveys.com/s/fresh

 And some words from the Friends of Farmers website:

Any Area Structure Plan prepared for the Northeast Urban Growth Area shall recognize the value of its agricultural characteristics, including micro climate, soil capabilities and moisture content, to contribute to sustainable food and agriculture systems for Edmonton.
The Way We Grow policy 3.2.1.9 (City of Edmonton Municipal Development Plan 2009)

In 2006 farmers in Northeast Edmonton united with the citizens of Edmonton to help protect valuable farmland within our city boundaries.

This relationship grew into a successful campaign to increase the emphasis on and knowledge of our local food economy. It specifically worked to protect valuable local farmland, particularly in Northeast Edmonton, through policies within the Municipal Development Plan. The MDP is a statutory document that provides clear direction for land development and urban growth in the city of Edmonton.

In November of 2008, February of 2009 and June of 2009 more than 500 people came to city hall each time to stand behind a vision where local food, local farm land and local farmers would become major drivers of our local economy, our local culture and the defining features of Edmonton’s future.

Local farmers and food producers, along with the citizen leaders of the Greater Edmonton Alliance, worked for months to ensure that city council agreed to two major pieces within the Municipal Development Plan.

  1. To develop a city wide food and agricultural strategy that looked at ways to increase urban agriculture as well as mechanisms that allowed the city to determine the true value of farmland beyond its development potential,
  2. To ensure the value of agriculture as well as its high soil quality were major considerations in any planning and development that would occur in Northeast Edmonton.

GEA and the farmers were successful in having these two pieces included in the MDP.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Common sense would dictate that before the city allowed any planning to proceed related to northeast Edmonton, which contains the most valuable farmland in Edmonton, they would first complete the Food and Agricultural strategy.

This is as per policy 3.2.1.7 in the MDP that requires that an Area Structure Plan for Northeast Edmonton shall only be approved by council following completion of and adherence with the Citywide Food and Agriculture Strategy

While developing an Area Structure Plan for Northeast Edmonton will increase security of tenure for farmers, area residents and investors and is in the best interests of the City as a whole, there is no reason to rush to develop northeast Edmonton before the City Wide Food and Agricultural strategy is completed.

A 2009 Background Report for the MDP public hearings states, “Edmonton can accommodate [population growth of] over 350,000 people within already approved Area Structure Plans”.  We clearly have time to ensure a good, deliberative visioning and ASP process that comes up with the best possible plan for our City’s and this area’s future.

The reality is that those invested in the land in northeast Edmonton, who have little interest in urban agriculture, or the value of our local food economy, are simply trying to get this done, cash out and move on.

Edmonton needs to protect this land, recognize its potential to help us build a vibrant local food economy.

City Council needs to hear from you.

Our farmers need your help.

Join us to BECOME A FRIEND of the Farmers of Northeast Edmonton.

Some final ‘framing’ thoughts on this issue:

There is a lot of good stuff in this Fresh Strategy.

It contain the seeds of having Edmonton grow as an inspiring progressive hub around local food in the same ways it already is around Arts and recycling.

Food isn’t just a nice piece of cultural expression, it’s the basis of all of our economics. Farmers are the original entrepreneurs. Land being used for farming isn’t under developed. It’s simply developed in a different way – it’s been developed to produce food.

City council is there to serve the the long term interests of the people, not the developers or landowners.  In this case, as far as I know, city council has made no promise to developers. There is no legally binding agreement to develop any of that land. It’s almost certain that they will – it’s only a question of how much. And we’d like to preserve as much of that prime farm land as possible.

The landowners may claim that it’s their land and that it’s none of our business what they do with their private property. But, if that land is developed it will require infrastructure (e.g. roads, water, electricity etc.) and who will pay for that? The tax payer. You will. I will. We all have a stake in this.

But, perhaps the biggest question before the house is, what is the rush here?

There will be no public forums as far as I know on The Way Grow strategy and it seems like it is being rushed through. There is one public forum on the local food strategy. What is the rush?

Make sure you come down to City Hall on October 26th to make your voice heard and hang out with all of Edmonton’s finest foodies and farmers. Let’s encourage city council to slow down and make a decision that our great, great grandchildren will thank us for.

2 thoughts on “Come down to City Hall on Oct. 26!”

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