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FARM FOLK/ CITY FOLK: TOWARD A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF FOOD, AGRICULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT ISSUES IN B.C.

by Herb Barbolet

 

 

Farm Folk/City Folk is a Vancouver-based, not-for-profit society concerned with food, agriculture and the environment. Our members come from all over the province of B.C. and represent a broad spectrum of the community: farmers, market gardeners, health professionals, politicians, bureaucrats, corporate leaders, academics, wholesalers, retailers, restauranteurs, marketers, marketing boards, community organizations, international development organizations, organic producer organizations – and, of course, consumers.;

Inspired in part by Toronto’s Knives & Forks and by New York’s Farmhands/ Cityhands, Farm Folk/City Folk was founded just over a year ago by Janice Lotzkar, an owner of the Raintree Restaurant in Vancouver, and myself. We wanted people to be aware of where our food comes from and to know that food, agriculture, environment and community are all interdependent.

With the dramatic and rapidly growing trend toward corporate concentration – from megastores to buyout by huge corporations of smaller health-oriented companies – B.C. remains one of the few areas in North America where family farms dominate. Elsewhere, buyouts and contract growing make employees of previously independent farmers.

Janice and I knew that a lot of exceptional individuals and organizations were trying to develop more direct links between people and their food by encouraging seed saving, backyard gardening, composting, community and allotment gardens, CSAs, community kitchens and organic certification. However, they either didn’t know about one another or had had few opportunities to work together. Even when they did get together, their efforts were largely unknown in the public arena and consciousness. So we set up Farm Folk/City Folk as a catalyst, to introduce people and groups who are concerned with food, agriculture and the environment to one another.

Farm Folk/City Folk links individuals and organizations through forums and networks, creating an awareness that "We all eat for a living" (Alice Waters) and "Eating is an agricultural act" (Wendell Berry). To do this, we sponsor educational workshops, conferences and seminars; organize farm tours; and host celebrations and feasts. One of our aims is to raise awareness on the part of consumers of where our food comes from and the nature of the food distribution system; we encourage an appreciation for fresh in-season produce from local, bioregional and B.C. agriculture. Another aim is to help farmers and food processors better understand the needs of the local market and be more market responsive.

Farm Folk/City Folk employs the equivalent of three part-time employees (I am one of these) and receives support from members, grants and contracts. The electronic communications we have developed with the assistance of a $20,000 grant from the Green Plan for Agriculture (a federal/provincial program) has provided us with access to an enormous data base of valuable information from many areas of the world. Our growing membership is now comprised of nearly 100 organizations and as many individuals, and in addition to linking up city folk with farmers, we're involved in a number of ventures, such as:

• working toward the development of a food policy for the province of B.C., its regional districts and municipalities in order to eliminate the need for food banks, to support B.C. agriculture and to ensure the safety and security of our food supply.

• Farm Kids/City Kids, a membership organization open to anyone in grade one through 12. Through tours and visits to farms, fish farms, greenhouses, processing plants, wholesalers, retailers (The Supermarket Tour), farmers’ markets and restaurant kitchens, kids can find out more about the food they eat.

• Linking Land and Future Farmers (LLAFF), a concept developed on Vancouver Island by the Victoria International Development Education Association. We hope to start a similar program on the lower mainland to link up people who own farmable land not under cultivation with people who wish to farm but can’t afford the land costs.

Farm Folk/City Folk Society seems to have struck a nerve; we’re in the right place at the right time, judging from the number of phone calls and letters we receive.

For more information or to get involved, contact Farm Folk/City Folk at Suite 208, 2211 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver, B.C. V6K 4S2. Phone: (604) 730-0450 Fax: (604) 730-0451.

 

 

 

Herb Barbolet, co-founder and coordinator of Farm Folk/City Folk, is also a founding partner in Glorious Garnish & Seasonal Salad Co. Ltd. and founding president of both B.C. Association for Regenerative Agriculture (BCARA) and the Cooperative Housing Federation of B.C. He has spent 25 years in community development and community organizing and is a regular speaker on issues of food, agriculture and the environment.

 

 

 

Copyright 1995. Herb Barbolet.

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.


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