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kwayeskastasowin wahkohtowin: A 2050 Food System Vision for Treaty Four Territory

The people of Treaty 4 have set things right by respecting the interconnected nature of relationships among people and natural systems.

Photo of Paul Hanley
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Natural Systems Agriculture Laboratory, University of Manitoba

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Researcher Institution

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

• Philip Brass, Practitioner Traditional Land-Based Skills, Peepeekisis Cree Nation. • Priscilla Settee, Professor, Department of Indigenous Studies, University of Saskatchewan. • Brenda Frick, Freelance Organic Specialist. Saskatoon. • Mary Beckie, Director of Community Engagement Studies, Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta, Edmonton. • Martin Entz, Professor of Cropping Systems and Natural Systems Agriculture, Department of Plant Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg. • Takota Coen, Regenerative Farmer, Ferintosh, Alberta. • Miriam Fernandez, Research Scientist, Organic Agriculture and Crop Pathology, Agriculture Canada, Swift Current. • Neil Whatley, Rural Development and Agriculture Specialist, Alberta Agriculture, Stettler, Alberta. • Mark Anielski, Economist, Edmonton. • Trevor Herriot, Conservationist, Regina. • Kye Kocker, Farmer, Calgary. • Paul Hanley, Author, Saskatoon. • Branimir Gjetvaj, Agricultural Researcher, Saskatoon

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

A representative area within Treaty Four Territory, covering 100,000 km2 of the southern Canadian Prairie Provinces.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Treaty 4 was established in 1874 between Cree and Saulteaux First Nations and the British Crown. Representative of the prairie biome, Treaty 4 territory encompasses southern Saskatchewan and portions of Alberta and Manitoba. Several vision team members were born/live/work in this territory. As lead applicant, I was born in Treaty Four territory and continue to live in close proximity and relationship with the place and its people. 

Creating a vision for Treaty 4 territory aligns our food system vision with the process of decolonization and reconciliation between Indigenous and settler populations. We believe that creating a just and sustainable agrifood system is dependent on the unity of the people who contribute to and depend on that system. Treaty Four is a space in which to envision the healing required—among people and with the land—in order to create a common vision for 2050. Treaty 4 territory, specifically, was selected because its size is more in keeping with the size limit for the Prize than other treaty areas our team is associated with. Since Treaty Four territory is larger that 100,000km2, we will focus our vision on a portion of the territory.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Treaty 4 territory presents a variety of challenges in designing a sustainable food system: - An 80C temperature range, with winter lows below -40C. 1% of the world’s population lives in an area this cold. 

- The frost-free growing season is limited to 120 day. 

- It is semi-arid, with annual precipitation in the 350-525mm (14-21in) range. 

- It is prone to drought and flooding. Prior to colonization, the region was mainly grassland ecosystems. It was populated primarily by the nehiyawak (Cree) and nahkawininiwak (Saulteaux), as well as the Métis. 

The current population is approximately 500,000, of which some 15% are Indigenous. Close to half of the Indigenous peoples now live in cities and towns. There are also 35 First Nations reserves. Today, the Indigenous population is resurgent. Growth rates suggest that the Indigenous people will again become the largest single population group by mid-century. The majority of the population are descendants of European immigrants who came to the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to establish homesteads. Recently, there has been a significant influx of immigrants from all corners of the world. 

This biome is considered among the most altered in the world. With European settlement, the grasslands were largely transformed into farms dominated by monocultures of grains and oilseeds for export. Current polices continue to result in the reduction of remnant grasslands. 

Saskatchewan, which encompasses most of Treaty 4, is the world's leading exporter of dry peas, lentils, durum, mustard seed, canola seed, canola oil, canola meal, canary seed, flaxseed, and oats. In 2018, agri-food exports were valued at
 $13.4 billion and over one million head of cattle were exported from the province. 

Although by global standards people here generally enjoy good health and longevity, the incidence of chronic disease associated with a modern Western diet and inactivity is high. The Indigenous population suffers from higher incidence of most illnesses than non-Indigenous residents, the result of 150 years of colonialism. In the past, diet was influenced by the food typically grown here: meat was the centre of each meal, accompanied by bread and vegetables typically grown here. Gardening was common, even in urban areas. Fruits were mainly those that are easily transported and stored. From the 1970s forward, people began to use a much wider variety of imported foods. Local production and gardening became less common. More recently, however, there has been a surge in local food production, community gardens, farmers markets, urban and peri-urban farming, and home gardening. Efforts to produce hardy local fruit varieties have been successful, with the number of commercial orchards increasing. 

While the population was traditionally heavily rural, on farms and villages, the rural population has been hollowed out as a result of the steady increase in farm size and mechanization. Many villages have disappeared.

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

In Treaty 4, farmers and consumers have inherited an agrifood system created in the colonial era, to serve the interests of colonial powers. The extractive system imposes a simplistic industrial model on a highly complex social-ecological system. This orientation contrasts starkly with both the needs of the land and the social requirements of the population, reducing resilience. 

In 2020, the supply side of the agrifood system has become highly dependent on increasingly intensive external inputs—capital for land and machinery, energy, seeds, and agrichemicals. Gross income from farms is largely transferred to the suppliers of these inputs, while most net farm income comes from government supports and off-farm income. Production costs are high and commodity prices low, making the profit margin per unit of production so small that farmers rely on high volume to generate sufficient income. Consequently, the average farm is now 700 hectares, but farms ten times that size are common. Most mall farms have been eliminated and the farm population is hollowed out and aging. 

Large-scale, energy and chemical-intensive farming results in environmental impacts, including a loss of biodiversity, and contributes to climate change. Climate change is impacting food production, with an increased incidence of extreme weather. Typically, policy or technological solutions responsing to these problems involves doing more of the same thing that created the problem. In many cases, new technologies, such as proprietary, genetically-modified, herbicide-resistant seeds, exacerbate the situation. 

Meanwhile, the demand side of the agrifood system is increasingly problematic. Although the area is a major exporter, much of our food is imported. Diet is increasingly based on processed foods, with more meals eaten out, often at fast food chains. Low quality diets result in a high rate of chronic disease; medical care costs now comprise almost half of provincial spending. Often the hardest hit are Indigenous peoples. 

As we move toward 2050, the agrifood system will be heavily influenced by global factors that threaten to further undermine ecological and economic sustainability. These factors will substantially alter the demand for the commodities that are our mainstay. The rising cost and dwindling supply of energy will impact the costs of producing and transporting commodities. The cost of imported food will also increase. 

Emerging issues include the changing composition of the population. Highly significant will be an increase in an Indigenous population that is becoming increasingly adept at demanding and obtaining its rights, including its rights to land and resources. Higher in-migration from around the world will be another factor. The central challenge will be to achieve unity of thought on the vision, values, ideas, and policies that will shape our response to threats and opportunities that lie ahead.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

“Until minds become united, no important matter can be accomplished.” 

Our vision takes shape around the need to address the roots of the challenges we face. These problems originate in the colonial mentality that imposed a mechanical worldview on a living landscape. A key to resolving the problems is to form a new mentality, informed by values, policies, and practices that correspond to the real needs of the people and lands. The hierarchical system transplanted from Britain employed the model of the factory to efficiently extract resources from the landscape. 

In contrast, the Indigenous peoples supplanted by that system were governed by kinship laws that encompassed both human and ecological relationships and accessed the spiritual dimension. Their social-ecological-spiritual order—wahkohtowin—embraced “two-leggeds” and other creatures, as well all other elements of the natural system. All were considered living kin. 

Our vision combines a holistic Indigenous worldview with contemporary social-ecological thinking. It will take advantage of the study of examples of sustainable systems emerging in localities around the world. This process of change will receive its impetus from the force of necessity as we experience local impacts from the disintegration of the global order. 

Key to this will be the deliberate effort to promote public discourse at all levels. In our vision, this begins simply, with a grassroots process of conversation among early adopters and their friends and neighbours, as they look at our current reality, consider how to change it, and take action on a small scale. Through this study-action-reflection process, insights are gained that support effective changes. The discourse must gradually expand to include more people, whole neighbourhoods and villages. It should extend to institutions, from the media to academia to governance. 

Based on this expanding process, we can envision key elements needed to achieve just and sustainable agrifood system: 

- Restoring an equitable relationship between Indigenous people and settler populations through a deeper recognition of treaty rights. 

- Adopting a new system of measuring wellbeing and progress, modelled on such metrics as the Genuine Progress Indicators. 

- The adoption of new policies to: Conserve existing native grasslands and recreate grasslands. Conserve natural tree cover and increase afforestation with native species. Conserve wetland and restore watersheds. Support regenerative farming methods by realigning subsidies, taxation, and insurance programs to prioritize regenerative measures including: Redirecting research funding to support sustainable production methods, such as developing perennial grains and poly-cultures. Using urban wastes to build soil. Supporting farmers and rural communities in establishing renewable energy projects. Support consumers in adopting healthier diets based on local foods.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

A “perfect storm” resulting from multiple global and regional social-ecological crises created conditions that transformed the agrifood system in the Canadian prairies in the period 2020-2050. Reduced demand for commodities, soaring production costs, and high energy prices, along with climate change and other environmental factors, had necessitated a shift from conventional to regenerative agriculture methods and a local- and regionally-focused food system. Central to the process of transforming our relationship to the land was reconciliation between Indigenous people and settlers. A participatory educational movement focused on values, capacity building, and community development elevated social discourse, creating a climate in which concepts and principles that reinforced transformative processes were widely accepted. By 2050, substantial reconciliation between Indigenous and settler populations had been achieved, rural communities were thriving, grassland conservation and restoration activities were flourishing, public health was significantly improved, and prosperity was shared among a diverse and united population.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

It is 2050. We are high above Treaty Four territory, the heart of the northern plains. Today, from our vantage, the dominant impression is of the subtle, endlessly-varied, and fluid contours of the prairie agri-biome. Prominent now are the swales, creeks, and sloughs; the expanses of native grasslands and aspen bluffs, linked by green corridors; the tree-surrounded fields tracing landforms; the well-treed villages. Still faintly visible below is the monotonous checkerboard of fields and grid roads superimposed on the land 175 years ago by colonial forces. While the iconic grain elevators that once marked each prairie town are gone, in several places, bison herds have returned. 

Over the past 30 years, the social-ecological landscape of the prairies has been re-formed. It has been a remarkable and clearly visible transformation from dull monoculture to vibrant diversity; from disparity to common cause; from separateness to unity. Observations on the ground confirm these perceptions: 

• The Indigenous peoples of the prairies, once again the largest single segment of the population, are spiritually, culturally, and economically flourishing. 

• The total area of native and regenerated grassland ecosystems is some 50 percent, doubling that of 2020. 

• The controlled reintroduction of the plains bison had been a key to grassland restoration. 

• The application of regenerative farming systems has restored soil organic matter to pre-settlement levels. The prairie is now a major carbon sink. 

• Local and regional production provides 85% of food for the area. 

• Major public costs for medical care have been greatly reduced and mental health has improved through the adoption of healthier diets and lifestyles, and a closer connection to the land and the cultures it carries. 

Changing Inscapes, Changing Landscapes “The landscapes of our making match and reflect society’s cultural inscapes,” wrote prairie ecologist Stan Rowe. The prairie landscape had long reflected the cultural inscapes of the Indigenous people. Starting with the Dominion Land Survey in the 1870s, the landscape was rapidly reformed to reflect colonial inscapes: a set of values, ideas, attitudes, and relationships focused on resource extraction. To efficiently produce and export grain for the global market, colonial forces remade the prairie to reflect an industrial mode of production. Despite entering into Treaty with the Indigenous nations who occupied the lands, the colonials conducted a genocide to eliminate the people and their culture. Initially triumphant, by 2020 it was understood that the colonial project was fundamentally incompatible with the land and its people. Far from being destroyed, the Indigenous nations and their cultures were resurgent. Meanwhile, deep cracks in the global order had appeared. 

Disintegration and Integration The impetus to re-form the social-ecological landscape of the prairies would come from two opposing forces: the disintegration of an inequitable, unsustainable global order and the rise of the integrative forces shaping a new order. As dramatic and troubling as had been the disintegration of the old, like a prairie fire, it has cleared the way for a flush of new, green growth. A key factor was the decline in demand for our commodities. A radical restructuring of the global food trade was a consequence of high energy and transportation costs and environmental/climate impacts. Throughout the world, nations, regions, and communities refocused on producing food for local markets. As we came to better understand and apply the integrative forces, we applied new principles to design a better prairie agrifood system. 

Looking back on the transformative process, we can identify six areas of critical change: ENVIRONMENT – The worldwide deterioration of climate and ecosystems and the resulting social-economic impacts—contrasted with successful efforts to restore ecological function in multiple spaces—solidified an understanding that prioritizing ecosystem functions produces more wealth over time than resource extraction. Valuing ecosystems above a singular focus on production and consumption, and making this the basis of the agrifood system, ultimately strengthened the economy, bolstering sustainable productivity and improving health. Practices that protect the natural environment also protect human and animal health, thus reducing health care costs. Key areas of focus for ecological restoration included: • Conservation of existing native grasslands and grasslands restoration. • Conserving tree cover and strategic afforestation, using native species. • Wetland conservation and watershed management. • Regenerative farming methods focused on increasing soil organic carbon. • Green payments to farmers for ecological and climate services. • A fair price for food, with a larger percentage going to the farmer. • Redirecting research funding toward sustainable methods. • Breeding of perennial grains and the adoption of perennial poly-cultures. As a consequence of these measures, rural communities became increasingly viable and a vibrant rural culture emerged, creating new opportunities for youth retention. 

DIETS – Understanding the importance of dietary choices increased throughout the early decades of the century, resulting in a slow but steady shift in food demand. A diet of natural, unprocessed foods became the norm. A crisis of faith in industrial suppliers also led to more demand for locally-produced foods. Industrial-style livestock production waned, while small-scale production, using practices like rotational grazing, proliferated. Meanwhile, Indigenous peoples refocused on traditional foods. With the renewal of the prairie and parkland ecosystems, traditional plant and animal foods, as well as medicines, became more plentiful. 

ECONOMICS – Global forces reshaped the agrifood industry in the first half of the 21st century. A key to the adoption of new economic approaches was a change in the way of measuring economic well-being. Multiple initiatives were enacted to build a new economy that delivered on these measures, including: • Reducing the export of commodities to match the carrying capacity of the land. • Prioritizing the local/regional market. • A large increase in population due to in-migration expanded the local market. • Diversifying the agrifood industry stimulated entrepreneurship and employment. • More farmers and rural communities earned income from renewable energy. • Urban and peri-urban agriculture expanded, stimulating employment. • Green payments became an important income source for farms. • With the decline in international tourism, local tourism thrived. 

CULTURE – As we came to understand the relationship between cultural inscapes and physical landscapes, much thought was given to reshaping inscapes. A key principle that informed this discourse was wahkohtowin, a Cree word which denotes the kinship of people and all parts of the natural world. The Indigenous renaissance fostered an appreciation, at the spiritual level, of this worldview. With this came kwayeskastasowin, the willingness to set things right, between Indigenous people, settler populations, and the land. The social-ecological crisis forced us to focus on what was most important. Agriculture was identified as the central economic activity. It was understood that climate regulation and other environmental goals could be achieved through constructive investment in building farmers’ capacity to produce quality food, regenerate land, and sequester carbon. A profound shift in public discourse occurred. Starting with conversations at the community level, this discourse expanded into the media and institutions. Prairie culture now encouraged broad consultative processes to build an effective consensus around transformative change. Supporting this process was the emergence of a grassroots participatory educational movement. This community-based initiative involved activities to empower children and youth, as well as adult relearning. The intent of the program was to build the capacity to understand our reality and engage in community building processes. 

TECHNOLOGY – The agrifood system adopted a sophisticated set of technologies based in the biological sciences. A refined approach to soil fertility aimed to increase soil organic matter/carbon and enhance the soil microbiome. Precision testing to manage soil fertility was widely adopted. Soil enhancements and cultural practices resulted in effective pest and weed management regimes A key to cost reduction was energy self-reliance. Distributed energy production and storage allowed farmers to reduce costs and profit from selling energy. 

POLICY – As global forces created new conditions in which the agrifood system operated, governments began to tailor policy to foster change. Taxation was used to alter dietary habits. Perverse subsidies were eliminated. To create a more equal society, taxation on higher incomes increased. Resources were now focused on supporting pro-social and sustainable activities, including regenerative agriculture, health promotion, and education. As the Indigenous population increased and treaty rights were enforced, Indigenous governments and representation strengthened. Partisan political systems were reformed to reduce the influence of vested interests. Global conditions resulted in ever-larger in-migration. At first, in-migration centred in a few urban centres, but gradually populations fanned out to rural areas, revitalizing smaller communities. Now that agriculture was seen as central to the economy, educating children and youth about the agrifood system was emphasised. Farming became a valued career choice and began to attract youth. 

In 2050, Treaty Four territory was a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable place. kwayeskastasowin wahkohtowin had become the new reality.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Prize partners

Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.

The refinement phase provided many opportunities to hold in-depth conversations with team members and also to reach out to more stakeholders in the agrifood system in Treaty Four territory, across the prairies, and beyond. Twenty reviews of our documents were received and many ideas were incorporated into the vision.

As a result of these meaningful conversations, much relevant research was brought to our attention. Multiple documents were reviewed and digested, and concepts and practices were incorporated into the vision document. 

Responding to the needs of a large region with deep rooted and complex social and ecological problems demanded a vision with multiple lines of action. The exercise of creating a systems map helped order the content in a coherent way.

It was helpful to have an opportunity to participate in zoom seminars offered by the Food Vision partners. These also offered at least a glimpse of what other semi-finalists were envisioning for their communities.

Please provide the names of all organizations you meaningfully partnered with to develop this latest version of your Vision (they contributed at least 10 hours of time to the Vision development during the Refinement Phase).

Faculty of the University of Saskatchewan provided significant support.

Priscilla Settee, Indigenous Studies. Her book, Indigenous Food Systems: Concepts, Cases, and Conversations, “hot off the press”, provided important concepts.

Rachel Engler Stringer, Community Health & Epidemiology. Her recently published research, Towards Improving Traditional Food Access for Urban Indigenous People, was a valuable contribution.

Carrie Bourasa, Indigenous School of Community Health, and Michael Epstein, Integrative Medicine/ECLIPSE, also provided support.

National Farmers Union members and staff also supported the project. 

Darrin Qualman, research leader, provided valuable comments and shared his recent study for the NFU, Tackling the Farm Crisis and the Climate Crisis: A Transformative Strategy for Canadian Farms and Food Systems, which provided significant background material.  

Mara Shaw, Executive Director, National Farmers Union, provided important comments.

Describe the specific steps you took during the Refinement phase to include different stakeholders to develop your Vision, including a description (age, profile, and total number) of the stakeholders engaged, and how you engaged with each.

Thirty-four people, in 20 organizations, were consulted. Key informant interviews and document reviews were requested. In addition to those listed above, input was received from: 

Indigenous experts and organizations

  • Joe Munroe, Indigenous Food Systems Practitioner, Muskoday First Nation
  • Kamao Cappo, Rancher/A­­uthor, Muscowpetung First Nation
  • Philip Brass, Practitioner Traditional Skills, Peepeekisis Cree Nation. 
  • Priscilla St. John, Community Education/Language Specialist, Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre
  • Rhett Sangster, Office of the Treaty Commissioner, Saskatoon
  • Jenni Lessard, Executive Chef, Wanuskewin, Saskatoon

Ag researchers

  • Brenda Frick, Freelance Organic Specialist, Saskatoon 

  • Mary Beckie, Director of Community Engagement Studies, University of Alberta 

  • Martin Entz, Professor of Cropping Systems & Natural Systems Agriculture, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg
  • Neil Whatley, Rural Development & Agriculture Specialist, Stettler, Alberta
  • Miriam Fernandez, Organic Agriculture & Crop Pathology, Agriculture Canada, Swift Current 

  • Branimir Gjetvaj, Agricultural Researcher/Photographer, Saskatoon

Famers and Farm Organization

  • Takota Coen, Farmer, Ferintosh, Alberta 

  • Kye Kocker, Urban Farmer, Calgary
  • Marla Carlson, Exec. Director, Sask Organics
  • Tannis and Derrek Axten, Axten Farms, Minton, Sask
  • Neil Strayer, Farmer/Entrepreneur, Moose Jaw, Sask


  • Trevor Herriot, Conservationist, Author , Regina
  • Jennifer McKillop, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Regina


  • Mark Anielski, Economist , Edmonton
  • Paul Hanley, Author/Journalist, Saskatoon

  • Emily Eaton and Valery Zink, Geography & Environmental Studies, University of Regina 
  • Naomi Beingessner, PhD candidate, Regina
  • Andrew Hatala, Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba
  • Candace Savage, Author, Saskatoon

What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.

 “It is difficult to make predictions,” said Niels Bohr, “especially about the future.” Nevertheless, there are multiple signals and trends that point to possible positive futures for Treaty Four. As these are too numerous to include within this space, please refer to the attached document Signals and Trends, which details 75 signals/trends in each theme area. Four signals of particular interest are shared in this space:

  • A video drone tour of Coen Farm near Ferintosh, Alberta after a 20-year effort in permaculture farming activity. This is a good example of the kind of prairie farming/food system we envision. Coen Farm produces nutrient dense foods sustainably on 250 acres and markets directly to consumers. Farmer Takota Coen is one of our vision team members. Additional information on Coen Farm is available at 
  • The Axten Farm is a 10,000-acre multigenerational farm near Minton, Saskatchewan, in Treaty 4. Derek and Tannis Axten were named Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers in 2017. The Axten farm is an example of the application of many of the lines of action we present in our vision documents on a large-scale farm. A video presentation by the Axtens explaining their farming system is available at More information on their farm is available at 
  • Green Sisters Gardens is an urban farm in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, in Treaty 4. Farmer Kerri Fox earns $68k on 14,000 sq.ft. using the SPIN urban farming system developed in Saskatchewan. Green Sisters is a good example of the kind of urban production we envision for prairie communities in future. Additional information is available at
  • Indigenous Food Systems, edited by Priscilla Settee (a team member) and Shailesh Shukla. Offering in-depth case studies, Indigenous Food Systems reinforces the importance of the revitalization of Indigenous food knowledges for the health and well-being of Indigenous and Canadian populations. This unique collection is a critical resource for students studying food security and food sovereignty in Indigenous studies, public health, anthropology, and social sciences as well as a useful reader for policy-makers, researchers, and community practitioners. Highlights community-based case studies, which demonstrate how Indigenous communities are leading the way to design and implement community-based initiatives in collaborative spirit. The book has been recognized by the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards as an outstanding work in the Food Heritage category. As a 2020 winner, it will compete for Best in World (2021) in the Food Heritage category.

Describe a “Day in the Life” of a key food system actor within your food system in 2050 (e.g., farmer, chef, supply chain actor, food policy actor, etc.).

"Can you believe I actually like to get up early? Hey, I’m 14. Sleep is cool, but my junior youth group is stationed on New Era Coop Farm and I don’t want to miss anything. We start out singing at the devotional gathering—our own songs. Didn’t think I’d like porridge every day, but when you harvest it yourself it's a different animal. They call it Nmax, a mix of perennial seeds that all grow together. We got to operate the combine, an ultralight solar electric. They say it's a perfect food but it tastes better with nuts, berries, and fresh cream. We also picked the berries and nuts, and milked the cows. Then we choose assignments. I like to operate drones. They zoom around, check sensors, and even take soil samples. We use microscopes to check bio-activity. Sounds gross, but we make special compost teas out of cow poop to balance the soil. Sometimes we get to ride the hors(e), an amazing hover bike, to move bison from one paddock to the next. One time I touched an electric fence. Won’t do that again. Oh, and with the drones we also watch wildlife. There’s a lot of it. Martha, one of the old people, she’s 45, grew up on this farm when there were nothing but huge fields of wheat. She helped plant 100km of hedges, which attract lots of birds, deer, and moose. They really look after the swales and wetlands, otherwise it gets too dry here with climate change. People from the nearby reserve are welcome to hunt, and we even joined them. They taught us Cree words for hunting. They joined for a swim in the afternoon. Cool swimming hole, with fish in it. Martha says farmers used to work a lot harder before permaculture. Today there are a lot more people to help, a whole village really. Lots of Africans and Asians moved here during the mass migrations (loving their food!) Every month at the community feast we pray and sing together, consult about issues, and hang out. Next year I start my year of service in the Aspen System, learning to maintain food forests."

Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?

Our Food System Vision includes 140 measures designed to enhance social-environmental sustainability, including 24 directly related to the physical environment.  The majority of these respond directly or indirectly to climate adaptation. Many measures also contribute to the mitigation of climate change. Given agrifood systems are a major contributor of greenhouse gases (GHGs), mitigation measures reduce the pressure to adapt to a warmer world.

On the demand (agricultural) side, a key threat to resilience from climate change is decreased soil moisture. The northern prairies are already semi-arid, with total annual precipitation in the 350-525mm (14-21in) range. Climate change is likely to increase the incidence of drought, with lower than normal precipitation, both rain and snow. And with average temperatures rising, increased evaporation and reduced snow cover are anticipated. Adaptation to drought is thus a key requirement, but it is not so simple: climate change brings more erratic weather, with years—even months—alternating between dry and wet conditions. Climate change causes heavier rainfall events, which results in higher incidence of flooding and erosion. Floods causing hundreds of millions of dollars of property damage have occurred in recent years in Treaty Four. 

Adaptation therefore requires measures that respond to insufficient and excessive moisture. Relevant measures to adapt to and mitigate climate change include:

Regenerative Agriculture/Agroecology – A central concern of regenerative agriculture is the enhancement of soil quality, including fertility and structure. A healthy soil microbiome is key to improving both. Consequently, the forms of agriculture promoted in our vision result in an increase in soil organic matter/carbon. This facilitates better infiltration of precipitation into the soil zone and increases water-holding capacity. This helps mitigate the impact of drought andflooding, offering significant adaptation to climate change. 

As Dwayne Beck, research manager at Dakota Lakes Research Farm, has said, “we do not have a drought problem as much as we have an infiltration problem.” The same might be said about flooding. Research and on farm experiences shows that best practices in soil and crop management can result in vastly improved infiltration of water, particularly in storm events.   

The following practices that are integral to our vision are conducive to building soil organic matter/carbon, contributing to improved soil structure and an enhanced soil microbiome, and/or improving watershed management:

  • Reduction/elimination of regular tillage
  • Continuous ground vegetation and mulch covers
  • Continuous crop rotations
  • Snow management/trapping using stubble and properly designed, porous hedgerow shelterbelts
  • Perennial cropping systems, including perennial grains, agroforestry, and other permaculture systems 
  • Sound watershed management, including retention of wetlands/riparian zones
  • Rotational grazing 
  • Improved management of animal wastes, including composting
  • Transfer of urban organic wastes to farmland

These measures also contribute to mitigation:

  • Together, these practices make it feasible to reduce or eliminate chemical inputs, which are energy/emissions intensive
  • Energy use/emissions are lower as a result of reduced tillage and other measures 

Conservation/Reconstruction Measures

The network of grasslands, aspen parklands, wetlands, waterbodies, riparian zones, and agroecosystems create a vast reservoir of resilient species and spaces that aid in adaptation to climate change. Importantly, our vision is not one of preservation in isolation: these lands also produce country foods and medicines and provide grazing land, contributing to the resilience of the food system while sequestering carbon. Conservation areas contribute to raising consciousness of our relationship to the natural world, as places for environmental education and cultural practices, contributing to critical public awareness of climate change, among other issues. Grasslands and enhanced prairie agroecological systems effectively sequester carbon in soil and biomass.

Demand Side Measures

A second major area of threat is the disruption of imports of nutritionally important foods such as vegetables and fruits. Most food of this type is currently imported. Our vision responds by building a locally-regionally focused food chain capable of producing the majority of all food types. This may require the substitution of local foods for popular imports, such as tropical fruits. We foresee significant diversification of crops, increases in vegetable, fruit, and nut production, urban farming systems, and indoor production of microgreens and other vegetables in winter, including the use of sophisticated green houses. Urban farming and household gardening also provide a reliable supply, particularly in summer.

* For signals and trends see attachment.

Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?

Our vision anticipates a transformation of our understanding and practice of healthcare. Currently, the largest single public cost in Treaty Four is the provision of public healthcare services, some 40% of public expenditures. Research has shown that, despite ever-increasing healthcare spending, the incidence of most diseases continues to increase. Contemporary “health care” practice might more properly be described as “illness care,” the repair of damage caused by unhealthy lifestyles. Our vision anticipates a transition from illness care to preventive care through wellness promotion, primarily through the adoption of better diets and increased physical activity. Comprehensive approaches to wellness are articulated in programs such as the Blue Zones, which show the benefits of nutrient dense foods, regular activity, stronger social relations, etc. 

Of particular concern is the promotion of health among Indigenous peoples, who suffer from significantly poorer health outcomes in comparison to other segments of the population. The reasons for this are articulated in studies such as Clearing the Plains. Research indicates that Indigenous people of the Great Plains were among the healthiest in the world prior to colonization. Poor health resulted from colonization, which brought contagious diseases and resulted in the replacement of diets of natural “country foods” with poor diets of “store foods.” Store foods refer to refined, nutrient poor foods that contribute to high levels of diabetes, cancer, and other metabolic and chronic diseases. 

Some 40 measures outlined in our vision address activities that will improve nutrition, from regenerative agricultural production, urban farming, and foodshed development to educational and cultural elements. Lines of action in our vision include:

  • Progressive transfer of funds from illness care to wellness promotion, particularly diet and active lifestyles.
  • Child and youth education focused on health and outdoor activity, including growing food. Placements on rural and urban farms incorporated in school year and summer breaks. Schoolyards and parks as food sources.
  • Support for Indigenous Food Sovereignty, Indigenous chefs popularizing traditional eating, measures to increase access to traditional country foods, including conservation measures (described elsewhere) to increase habitat. Systems to access these foods in urban areas. Support for Traditional Indigenous Knowledge (TIK) transfer.
  • Regenerative farming shown to increase nutrient content of foods. Increase research in nutrition and targeting agriculture to the production of nutrient rich foods. Support for measures to improve food quality through processing, such as fermentation. 
  • Increased crop diversity to counter monotonous diets, including expansion of local fruits, nuts, herbs, and crop breeding. 
  • Bans on junk food, including sales in schools, advertising, sin taxes
  • Support for neighbourhood food coops and buying groups to counter food deserts and swamps. 
  • Incorporate foodsheds is regional/municipal/First Nation plans, preserving/buying peri-urban land through land trusts to create opportunities for small producers, supporting low to zero emission food supply chains.
  • Reduction of pesticides loads in foods through regenerative techniques

Social determinants of health - The most significant factors influencing health outcomes are income and educational attainment. In general, Indigenous people have significantly lower incomes and education levels. For this reason, our food system vision includes measures designed to ensure equitable wealth distribution, to increase employment, and to make education more attractive, relevant, and available. Specific measures to increase the standard of living and educational attainment of First Nations and Métis peoples include:

  • Natural resource wealth sharing.
  • Measures to eliminate discrimination in school access and employment, including anti racism training. Equal educational spending in Indigenous communities and more innovative educational approaches/incentives to encourage school completion.
  • Layered land tenure arrangements to increase Indigenous access to land. 


* For signals and trends see attachment.

Economics | Where and what will the jobs be that support living wages in your future food system of 2050, and how will these jobs impact gender equality?

This question is considered in the context of the transformation of global and local culture that is anticipated in our vision. By 2050, cultural change has reshaped the economy. Old priorities, like continuous growth, have been abandoned. Materialistic consumerism is passé. Voluntary simplicity is the norm. 

People are now more spiritually oriented. Service has emerged as a central value. The main economic objective is to make sure everyone has what he or she actually needs, that as much as possible everyone is healthy and happy, and that the economy is sustainable. In fact, the welfare of all species is considered.

Our vision proposes 21 lines of economic action, but measures in all areas support new economic priorities:

  • Advances in gender equality, race relations, equality of opportunity and education, psychology, and health care, ensure that most people have a strong sense of who and where they are, and what path of service they will take as they pursue their vocations. Few people are marginalized. The delivery of public goods is supported through progressive taxation of wealth; hundreds of billions of dollars in perverse subsidies have been redirected to pro-social ends; extremes of wealth and poverty have largely disappeared as a result of progressive taxation.
  • Youth are instilled with a twofold moral purpose, to develop their potential and capacities, and to serve humanity. Work done in a spirit of service is now considered a form of worship. While one’s work remains critically important, jobs, in the traditional sense of wage labour, are less important. Measures like job sharing, shorter workweeks, and guaranteed incomes, which gained ground during pandemic and climate shocks, have become the norm. Many people are now “prosumers” devoting time to activities that directly support their families and communities, like producing food, reducing the need for cash income. Guaranteed annual income also ensures that the value of traditionally unpaid work, such as parenting and housework, is rewarded.
  • For Indigenous people, economic opportunities have improved as the process of decolonization advances. Wider recognition of First Nations interpretations of Treaties, a string of legal victories, and the progressive adoption of the principles of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples  (UNDRIP) resulted in policy changes that saw increased resource revenues and jobs flowing to First Nations and Métis people. While the land base of Indigenousreserves is small, the adoption of intensive farming methods provided both jobs and nutritious food. The expansion of conservation lands open to traditional harvesting supported the expansion of the traditional economy, which now provides a small but important portion of the food supply.
  • Ours is no longer a patriarchal society. By 2020, gender equity had already accelerated in most fields. By 2050, women were fully half the workforce and equal pay was the norm. By 2050, all these activities expanded and women are full and equal participants in all aspects of the agrifood system.
  • Canada has become a haven for environmental migrants and the population of the prairie region has doubled, creating new opportunities. Rather than exporting food, we imported people. 
  • With the expansion of the farm and environmental industries, rural communities became more viable and attractive to youth and immigrants, with many remote working opportunities.
  •  By 2020, the clean energy sector already employed 298,000 Canadians in a wide range of jobs: insulating homes, developing clean technologies, manufacturing electric vehicles, and deploying charging infrastructure, building and maintaining wind, solar, and hydro projects, producing renewable fuels and more. As distributed, renewable energy sources replaced conventional sources, jobs multiplied. 
  • Climate action also supports new job opportunities in other sectors: low-carbon concrete, steel and aluminum, the equipment manufacturing sector, sustainable timber, and mining the metals and minerals used in clean technologies.

In 2050, other key areas of employment include:

  • Environmental/climate services and ecological restoration
  • The agriculture and agrifood industry, including rural, urban, periurban farming and food processing, CSAs, farmers markets, cafes and other boutique food businesses. Indoor winter production continued to expand. By reducing external input costs, farming became more profitable
  • Holistic/preventive healthcare, education, social services
  • Research, development, and deployment of new improved technologies in agriculture, buildings, transportation, environment, communications, community design/planning, etc.
  • Arts and cultural industries
  • Local cultural and ecological tourism are important industries as international travel has become limited due to cost and environmental impact


* For signals and trends see attachment.

Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?

While our vision is focused around cultural transformation, cultural traditions in many areas, such as those that include food and food sharing practices, are considered important cultural elements to be preserved, restored, and shared.

People invest food and food practices with social and spiritual significance; more than simply a means to survival, food is a vehicle for expressing meanings and values concerning the place of humans in the world, the association between nature and culture, and the relationship between the human and the divine. Food is commonly a part of ritual proceedings. It is a central element in festivals and celebrations which provide temporal structure to our lives. 

Food sharing is a universal medium for expressing fellowship; it embodies values of hospitality, duty, giving, sacrifice, and compassion. The sharing of food has been a common theme in religious traditions and both the giving and receiving of food are often raised to the level of religious duties. 

Food is extensively used as a means of expressing friendship and respect. The quality and quantity of food offered or shared reflects a common understanding of the closeness of various types of social relationships. Patterns of food preparation, distribution and consumption are expressions of status and social distance, of political power, and of family bonds. 

Food is commonly shared in fellowship in the communal context of a feast. The word feast denotes a special occasion, commonly public, on which food is consumed of a different quality and quantity to that of everyday meals. In many places the feast is a community event with no exclusive guest list; everyone is welcome. In general foods used for feasting are (i) scarce; (ii) high quality; (iii) often expensive; (iv) difficult and time-consuming to prepare. That is, they have high status and are definitely different to everyday fare. For First Nations, also, the feast is a very important aspect of culture. 

In our vision, some twenty lines of action are employed to support cultural changes critical to social and ecological transformation. In some cases, the transformations relate directly to cultural, spiritual, and community traditions and/or practices:

  • We envision a culture that embraces values at the core of spiritual traditions: the rejection of materialism and consumerism in favour of a more simple, unencumbered life; an inner world enriched through a devotional life of meditation, prayer, and fasting; guidance from scriptures, oral traditions, and ceremonies; and the appreciation of nature as a “book of creation” that reveals the Creator. Of course, a spiritual path is a matter of choice: we envision a multicultural society that celebrates all faith traditions, and honours those with no specific faith.
  • Diversity is seen as an asset; as in ecosystems, diversity builds resilience. At the same time, we envision communities with porous boarders between cultures, where cultural traditions are readily shared.
  • One goal of ecological restoration is to make traditional Indigenous foods and medicines with cultural and spiritual significance more available.
  • Country foods are also an important part of settler culture, with ingredients like saskatoons, chokecherries, mushrooms, and wild game popular in kitchens and at church suppers. Settlers brought their favourite recipes with them and did their best to make the old recipes with the ingredients of their new homeland. Many of those family recipes are still cherished today.
  • Fasting is an element of most spiritual practices and is considered a valued practice for health reasons.
  • Just as our materialistic society “trains” us through advertising and other forms of induction into consumer culture and the “rat race”, our vision incorporates grassroots participatory education in universal values, including cultural competency, for children, youth and adults seeking to become proponents of change. 
  • Our vision anticipates moving away from mass commercial culture through a resurgence of local cultural expressions in music, visual arts, and storytelling, with festivals and special events celebrating local culture in towns, villages, and neighbourhoods.
  • The new population of immigrants brings new cultural expressions, including food choices, grown locally when possible. For example, the prairies are already the world’s largest producer of some pulse crops popular in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking and a new source of herbs and spices.

* For signals and trends see attachment.

Technology | What technological advances are needed to transform your food system into one that meets your goals and embodies the values of your Vision in 2050?

The double-edged sword, technology, made the violent domination of the prairies and its peoples possible. Understandably, we are wary of its potential for further harm. In our vision, then, technology becomes the servant of the common good, for people and the ecosphere: “The overall vision guiding pathways of technological development and use cannot come from technology itself; it must be informed by essential ideals, spiritual insight, and actual participatory practice that promote the common good.”[1]

Our vision proposes 24 lines of action in the technological area, mainly in the fields of ecology, biology, soil and plant science, and energy.

  • Farming systems had historically contributed to soil loss in the prairies. By the 2020s, researchers and farmers were collaborating in the development of farming systems that supported healthy and sustainable soil building; by 2050, learning about the soil microbiome was significantly advanced to ensure not only conservation but also regeneration of soils. Advanced soil testing and technologies like composting, fermentation, and application of specific microbes allowed farmers to enhance soil fertility and structure, creating ideal environments for specific crops. Tillage was largely eliminated. Farming systems no longer require the application of synthetic fertilizers. Prairie farms became important carbon sinks. 
  • Plant science also advanced. Farmers were now working with researchers to develop ideal cropping systems, using complex rotations with diverse crops, intercropping, and cover crops. Plant breeders were developing crops with important adaptations to drought and heat. Perennial polycultures were becoming an alternative to annual crops. Cropping systems had allowed farmers to eliminate the use of pesticides.
  • Animal science had also advanced, bringing greater efficiencies in nutrition using pre- and probiotics, rotational grazing, and pasture management. Efforts to eliminate disease meant that antibiotics and drugs were rarely needed. 
  • Integrated pest management (IPM) was highly advanced. As single pest control methods failed, integrating combinations of ecosystem-based control procedures suppressed pests (weed, disease and insect), preventing epidemic proportions. 
  • Precision bioagriculture utilized an array of data-gathering software, satellite technology, and “big data.” Controlled traffic farming helped prevent soil compaction.
  • Electrification of farm equipment helped reduce energy cost. Manufactured from new materials, farm equipment was lighter and more efficient. On-farm and coop solar and wind power supplied most energy needs with excess supply sold to the grid, creating an additional income stream.
  • Novel, plant-based construction materials replaced non-renewables, creating new crop choices and markets for farmers. 
  • Urban farming systems, including winter production via greenhouses, are highly advanced and energy efficient. 
  • Beyond the farm, nutritional science was significantly developed to support ideal diets and healthcare regimes. Sophisticated food processing methods enhance nutritional factors.
  • Local/regional transportation systems were developed to move freight and passengers. Rails systems, once a mainstay, were reintroduced and electrified, with more frequent stopping points.
  • Technologies supporting­­­­­ village integration to the regional/global economy and culture made remote working viable in rural areas.

 * For signals and trends see attachment.

[1] Matt Weinberg, Technology, Values, and the Shaping of Social Reality

Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?

Our vision anticipated 25 lines of action in the policy area to enable our food system.

  • We understand that an equitable and sustainable food system can only exist within a stable ecosphere and climate. In order to ensure the perpetuation of ecological/climate services in which a healthy agrifood system is embedded, our vision is informed by the concept/movement Half Earth/Nature Needs Half, proposed by E. O. Wilson and others. So, a key policy at the federal, provincial, local, and Indigenous governments levels has the objective of conserving existing prairie and parkland ecosystems and wetlands, and restoring systems, to ensure that 50% of land is conserved. 
  • Extractive, productivist farming has resulted in a farm economy that required ever increasing inputs of land, energy, mechanization, petrochemicals, capital, lending, subsidies, and off-farm income. Rising costs mean that farmers retain little of the income they generate, with 95% paying banks and companies that provide inputs. Consequently, farmers are being driven out of business, those that remain are aging, and few young people want to farm or can’t afford to. A key solution is regenerative farming/agroecology, which progressively reduces inputs, making farming more economically and environmentally sustainable.
  • Our vision endorses the Prairie Farm Resilience Administration (PFRA) proposed by the National Farmers Union as one means of supporting both ecological conservation and regenerative farming. Currently, farmers require government subsidies to survive, $110 billion since 1985, some $3 billion per year. Our vision sees these subsidies being transferred to pay farmers for ecological services, rather than being, in effect, transferred to transnational companies for off-farm inputs. 
  • Fossil fuel extraction and mining are other major industries in the prairie region supported by government subsidies. Fossil fuel subsidies to producers total $3.3 billion annually. These industries undermine ecological and climate stability.  Our vision anticipates policies to redirect these subsidies to ecosystem services and other public goods, such as renewable energies and energy efficiencies.
  • We anticipate a set of policies to support decolonization. The extractive, mechanistic paradigm imposed on the prairies by the British/Canadian colonist regime has to be dismantled. While decolonization can be supported by individual and community action, colonialism is a state structure. Our vision proposes a more complex, layered system of land tenure. States can recognize Indigenous land tenure, access, and resource rights regimes through national legislation; and the application of free, prior, and informed consent. Other measures to support decolonization include: advancing knowledge co-production; recognizing different types of knowledge that enhance the legitimacy and effectiveness of environmental policies; promoting and strengthening community-based management and governance, including customary institutions and management systems; and co-management regimes involving Indigenous peoples and local communities. We envision the change process being led by Indigenous peoples.
  • In our vision, conservation is not synonymous with preservation. Renewed ecosystems provide ecological services in general, but also offer opportunities for harvesting traditional country foods, particularly for Indigenous peoples. In order to make traditional foods more available, significant change is needed to eliminate legal barriers imposed by health regulations and wildlife management policies, especially for urban Indigenous people.  
  • Our vision proposes a shift in educational policy that sees youth engaged in “reading their reality” and changing it. This will occur in schools and in more informal grassroots participatory action approaches.  
  • Our vision anticipates a radical shift in healthcare policy. Currently, healthcare is the largest public expense, yet ever-increasing spending is not eliminating disease. Healthcare policy is reoriented to address social determinants of health and support preventive/holistic care, especially in the area of nutrition.
  • Our vision proposes policies to revitalize communities. We see support for the in-migration of environmental refugees on humanitarian grounds, resulting in the growth of new internal markets. We see policies that attract new settlers and youth to help build rural communities, with more careers in small farms, businesses, tourism, conservation management, and remote working. Policies to establish active city foodsheds are another way to diversify and revitalize cities and neighbourhoods.

* For signals and trends see attachmen

Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.

 Our vision of a new agrifood system involves new ways of thinking, a new value set, and a wide range of interrelated policies and lines of action organized in six theme areas. Examples of how the themes connect and influence one another include:

  • Key to our vision is recognition that colonialism is the root cause of many of our social and ecological problems. To make things right, a process of decolonization is necessary. We understand decolonization as a process whereby Indigenous peoples and settlers establish a new, equitable relationship, one that fully acknowledges and extends Aboriginal and Treaty rights. Decolonization also requires a renewal of our relationship with the land, by which ecological function is restored. 
  • Decolonization is led by Indigenous peoples and supported by the settler population, who also find their lives enriched through this process. Decolonization ultimately involves and is achieved through cultural, economic, environmental, cultural, technological, and dietary change. We propose, for example, polices to co-manage land, embrace Traditional Indigenous Knowledge, foster holistic education and healthcare, and build an equitably-shared economy. 
  • Similarly, a key concept underpinning the environmental area—that looking after ecological function first is the foundation of a prosperous, resilient society—informs all other areas. In particular, it shapes our approach to farming and other aspects of the economy, offers direction to our efforts in education and healthcare policy, and informs technology choices.
  • The transformative process can only move forward if it has the support of three proponents: institutions, communities, and individuals. In our vision, this support is generated through a public discourse that begins simply with meaningful conversations and is expanded through a participatory grassroots educational process that involves children, youth, and adults in a deep exploration of the meaning and purpose of their lives. Animating this process is an authentic spiritual awakening. The arts are central to this movement.
  • At the institutional level, polices are envisioned to extend the transformative process through all areas, including education, healthcare, economy, and environment.
  • Development in the use of technology, business, employment, and community life are all informed by the vision of a society motivated by the ultimate goal of farming: the “cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
  • Restoring ecological function through conservation and restoration and agrocecology has a positive impact on the economy, health, and community life. Within the context of this vision, work becomes more meaningful and satisfying, not simply a means to an end.
  • Rather than simply commercial opportunities, technological innovations become the servant of our vision. Innovation is focused on ways to reduce ecological footprint while contributing to sustainable development and health.

Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.

Ours is a comprehensive and, in the true sense of the word, radical vision of social-ecological transformation. As we move forward with this new approach, there will be dislocations. The conventions on which society is currently built will be disrupted. Vested interests may not take kindly to this revolution. Those in positions of power may not want to relinquish it. Examples include:

  • Trade-offs will be most pronounced in certain industries. If, for example, farmers retain a larger share of the wealth they generate by reducing off-farm inputs, the industries that currently capture that wealth will be adversely affected. This could lead to a slowdown and unemployment in those industries.
  • Similarly, a shift to distributed, renewable energy will disrupt conventional energy suppliers. In responding to climate change, there is a perception of winners and losers in the short term.
  • We envision large-scale disruptions in international commodities trade. As we reduce our emphasis on exports this will impact commodity traders, major agrifood corporations, and transportation. 
  • Making things right between Indigenous and settler populations may be perceived by the settler population as a loss of power and privilege. We will have to confront reactionary and racist attitudes to achieve justice and equity. 
  • Farmers may have to adjust to certain limits on ownership rights and adapt to requirements to adopt new approaches that support conservation, biodiversity, watershed management, climate mitigation and adaptation, etc.
  • Consumers may no longer have access to exotic foods, out of season. In one sense, dietary choices will be narrowed. Major food retailers may be challenged by direct farmer-to-consumer marketing. Similarly, lifestyle choices, like international travel and winter vacations may no longer be available. 
  • Immigration will disrupt life, perhaps triggering racist attitudes, as people adjust to more diverse ethnic communities.
  • Unconventional approaches to education and public discourse may be seen as disruptive of social conventions and met with opposition. 
  • In an increasingly secular society, a renewed emphasis on spirituality may be viewed with suspicion.

We should note, however, that change is a constant and always triggers reaction. After all, the current system is built on the radical disruption of Indigenous society and the mass migration of European settlers. There were radical disruptions when agriculture switched from horses to tractors early in the 20th century; when rural areas were electrified; and farmers switched from traditional to chemical farming mid-century. Productivist agriculture forced the expansion of farm size, driving most farmers off the land and eliminating once thriving rural communities. Prairie society and politics were dominated by Anglo-Saxon settlers, but their dominance gave way as our communities became more diverse. Change is nothing new.

3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?

 Milestones we need to reach in the next three years include:

1, Establishing a process to refine and build public awareness of our vision is well underway. Steps in this process would include:

  • Developing resources such as vision documents, website, videos, etc.
  • Holding a vision conference and or a series of community seminars that engage people in shaping the vision and exploring how it can be realized.
  • Creating an inventory of promising activities already in place, such as conservation projects, innovative farms, community-based food security/sovereignty projects, etc.
  • Explore and expand grassroots participatory education activities.

2. Enhance existing process to heighten awareness of Treaty obligations and Indigenous culture and worldviews

  • Enhance existing process to heighten awareness of Treaty obligations and Indigenous culture and worldviews:
  • Support Indigenous food-sovereignty projects 
  • Support efforts such as the Treaty Land Sharing Network

3. Establish a process to create a comprehensive regional land use plan, building on existing work undertaken by NGOs and governments:

  • Establish a process to create a comprehensive regional land use plan, building on existing work undertaken by NGOs and governments:
  • Articulate a vision to achieve Nature Needs Half goals in our region
  • Map existing conservation lands, reserves, riparian zones,  and community pastures

10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?

Milestones we need to reach in the next ten years include:

1. A profound shift in public discourse:

  • This has been supported by the expansion of a grassroots participatory education movement with activities well advanced in at least 100 communities throughout the region.
  • This conversation has triggered action, leading to 1000 successful projects by farmers, consumers, Indigenous communities.

2. Shift in government policy re environment, energy, conservation, subsidies:

  • Progressive taxation in place and transfer of perverse subsidies in agriculture and energy to support pro-social and ecological practices
  • Strong commitment to conservation and climate action
  • Measures in place to increase immigration and rural community settlement

3. Complete a master plan for land management that is endorsed by all levels of government, including Indigenous peoples and the general public

  • Thousands of local projects are underway to achieve elements of the master plan

If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?

  • The majority of funds will be offered as small grants to support practical agrifood and conservation projects in the prairie region, with a priority given to Indigenous food sovereignty projects. Knowledgeable individuals and groups will be consulted to identify promising objectives and projects. 
  • A portion of the funds may be used to promote wider discourse around the vision itself, through seminars, webinars,conferences, and online publications.

If you are chosen as a Top Visionary, The Rockefeller Foundation would like to share your Vision widely with a global audience. What would you like the world to learn from your Vision for 2050?

We would like the world to know that:

  • People in Treaty Four territory and the wider prairie region can live together harmoniously and collaborate to build a sustainable society.
  • Workable solutions exist to social-ecological problems; whatever we need to do to carry forward a sustainable, ever-advancing civilization is already being done successfully somewhere by somebody, and that these diverse experiments in living can inform sustainable development activities everywhere in the region.
  • It is possible to revive degraded landscapes. Ecological restoration can provide new and meaningful opportunities for employment, business, and youth education and service.
  • Regenerative agriculture is a viable approach that facilitates farmers to achieve secure livelihoods while conserving and building their resources and providing nutritious food for all.
  • Indigenous peoples are often on the front-line of resistance to the extractive, productivist model of development. Indigenous paradigms and knowledge can inform a transition to holistic, non-violent models of social-ecological development.
  • Settler and immigrant populations likewise perform meaningful roles in promoting reconciliation, unity in diversityand contributing to societal well-being. 
  • There is every reason to be hopeful about the future of humanity.

Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.

We have produced a systems map which outlines some 140 measures that contribute to our Food System Vision for Treaty 4 Territory.

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Team (3)

Paul's profile
Mary's profile
Mary Beckie

Role added on team:

"Mary is a Professor, Associate Dean Academic and Student Affairs and Director, Community Engagement Studies, Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta. She contributed ideas and comments for the vision."

Takota's profile
Takota Coen

Role added on team:

"Takota is a farmer who has designed and implemented innovative farm landscapes. He contributed ideas and comments that informed this vision."

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Attachments (6)


We have produced a systems map which outlines some 140 measures that contribute to our Food System Vision for Treaty 4 Territory.

Vision for agriculture.pdf

A paper written in 2050 looking back on the process of transformation that took place in the agri-food system in Treaty Four territory and the wider prairie region.


This document provides relevant analysis and vision that supports our submission.


A lovely image of the prairie.


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Photo of Rene Shahmohamadloo

Congratulations for reaching Finals! We are very proud of the Selection Committee's choice and look forward to seeing how each Finalist will transform their region. We wish you our very best.

Kind regards,
René Sahba Shahmohamadloo

FSVP Semi-Finalist, Envisioning a food system based on truly integrative agricultural practices for 2050

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