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More local foods in Alberta


November 16, 2011
By Agri-News

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November 15, 2011 – What
is the best way to develop a robust local food system in the province? That is
what a team at Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) has been
assessing. The team has identified a few barriers, and reviewed successful
systems to see what might apply here.

November 15, 2011 – What
is the best way to develop a robust local food system in the province? That is
what a team at Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) has been
assessing. The team has identified a few barriers, and reviewed successful
systems to see what might apply here.

“Along the way we’ve
learned from Alberta producers and from a literature search what has been
working well in Canada and in the United States,” says Bill Reynolds, at ARD.

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Reynolds is leading the
work on a supportive local food policy at ARD. This project’s outcomes will
assist in providing direction to the Explore Local initiative, which was set up
to help the local food industry connect and to shorten the distance from farm
to plate.

“The steady interest in
‘local’ foods is good news for businesses that are positioned to take advantage
of it,” says Reynolds. “And it’s good for the Alberta agricultural economy,
which benefits from serving a broad customer base in international, domestic
and local markets. Having the capacity to grow in all of these markets is
important for the long-term sustainability of Alberta’s agriculture industry.”

Reynolds says the next
step is to consult with industry. As such, his group will be holding a series
of regional Local Food Policy Engagement sessions in January. “There are
certain issues and successful approaches that seem to come up as we study other
jurisdictions and we’ll be asking people if these ring true here. Workshops,
web surveys, and talking to people individually will be part of the mix in our
consultations.”

The kind of suggestions
that come in – such as the need for the development of local food networks, food
hubs, farm incubators or regionally accessible processing and distribution
infrastructure – remains to be seen.

“What strategies and
systems are needed to make it easier to produce and market local product, and
who could be involved in setting the groundwork – these are the types of things
we want to hear from people,” adds Reynolds. “We want to tap into the diverse
expertise of farmers, processors, distributors and retailers to help us
understand what would support a sustainable local food system.”

Local Food Policy
Engagement Session sites are booked, and registrations will be taken through
the Agriculture registration line, 1-800-387-6030 in December. Locations and
dates are as follows:

  • Edmonton, Jan. 10, 2012
  • Grande Prairie, Jan. 11,
    2012
  • Airdrie, Jan. 24, 2012
  • Lethbridge, Jan. 25, 2012
  • Vermilion, Jan. 31, 2012


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