Calgary Consumer Wants To Turn Farmer

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Urban gardening could soon become more than an urban legend, says a Calgary activist heading to court for raising four chickens in his backyard.

Paul Hughes told the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs that his court date is his way of bringing to a head his political fight for a new food policy leading to the future of sustainable local food systems.

It also gives the new Calgary Food Policy Council a new lever in its lobby to change city bylaws that can put food production and food supplies in the hands of local citizens.

He said Alberta is a perfect base of operations because it has large areas of land in urban areas that easily could be devoted to food production using sustainable practices in close proximity to consumers. Hughes said his concept of food production reverts back 60 years or more when gardens, not lawns, were the focal point of homes and families were self-sufficient much of the year while caring for their neighbours.

Hughes said that today, too many have no idea of where their food comes from or what foreign products such as weed-and pest-control products it contains.

He pointed to a proposed residential project in the Burnaby, B.C. area which includes a plot of land for community gardens and a community farm, both designed to help feed the homeowners who will live there.

Hughes said the 82 per cent of Albertans who live in urban settings rely on big grocery stores and chains to fill their grocery baskets, regardless of who grew it, how it was grown and how far away it was shipped.

Hughes said there is a simple economic reason for a society trying to buy most of their food supply in the local area – that grocery money stays in the local community. He said sustainable agriculture received a major boost from two surprise places this year.

Michele Obama ripped up some White House lawn to plant an organic garden to feed her family and guests, and Queen Elizabeth also planted a garden at Buckingham Palace. Food had not been grown at either location for many years.

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