May 6, 2010- Farm advoate educates West Coast on thinking like an island

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Renowned farm advocate shared his "laundry list" of ideas on how to establish food security in the face of an ever-changing world.
Michael Ableman gave a talk as Earth Week was winding down on April 25, in both Tofino and Ucluelet, on the subject of island food security and sustainability.
"If we're going to be able to move through and survive the massive changes that are taking place in our world, many more of us are going to find our way back to the art and craft of growing food," he said to about 30 people in Ucluelet Community Centre's community room. "And to do this we're going to have to get more of our young people involved."
Ableman is a farmer, photographer, food activist and author from Salt Spring Island. He's farmed for more than 35 years and travels North America giving lectures, workshops and promoting his books about agriculture.
His talk focused on how to invite people to not only discuss but take action on food security by not painting the picture of a doom and gloom future.
"The best way to do this is to demonstrate that you can make a living in agriculture," he said. "I've realized that pleasure is a much greater motivator than guilt."
About 47 acres an hour in North America is turned into a development, according to Ableman.
"How do we respond to climate change in respect to food production?" Ableman asked the audience rhetorically.
He created what he calls a laundry list (and what the internet calls Ableman's Manifesto) in an effort to provide community guidelines in a movement towards food independence.
Some of the items on his extensive list includes:
- Every island, community and municipality should establish a publicly supported agricultural training session in central and accessible locations. The centres should be based on real working, integrated farms "that model not only the social and cultural and ecological benefits of island farming but the economic benefits as well."
- Reduce what comes on the island and what leaves the island.
- Every community should own a portable rock grinder to be used as a local mineral source, such as phosphorous.
- Every community should support the construction and funding of a permanent, covered, year-round farm and fish food market space in a central location.
- Permits for a home or housing development should require space for a food production component on a scale relative to the number of people living there.
- Every new commercial office, retail building and warehouse should be engineered to have a rooftop food production element such as greenhouses.
- Every community should phase out lawns but provide a neighbourhood training and technical support program for homeowners.
- Redeploy and retrain a percentage of Canada's military force to environmental restoration of degraded wild and farm lands.
"People are so removed from the [food] process that they need to literally see the process," Ableman said.
Currently he's working on a food project that involves converting the top of a parkade to a production site with United We Can in Vancouver.
"Farming is not a spectator sport," Ableman said. "So I've been telling folks to make friends with a farmer, you're going to need them."
He works at Foxglove Farm, which takes up 120 acres to grow organic produce on Salt Spring Island, which also hosts a Centre for Arts, Ecology and Agriculture where people can go on retreats or send their children to farm camp, among other activities.
The Raincoast Education Society and Ecotrust Canada sponsored the event, with support from Clayoquot Biosphere Trust and the EcoAction Community Funding Program.