A Bioregional Food System for Southwest British Columbia, Canada
A regionalized and participatory food system, built on regenerative agriculture, for the bioregion of Southwest British Columbia, Canada
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Institute for Sustainable Food System, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
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?
Southwest British Columbia bioregion is an approximate 40,000 km2 region on Canada’s southwest coast.
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
The Institute for Sustainable Food Systems (ISFS) has been dedicated to advancing sustainable food systems in British Columbia (BC), Canada for 10 over years. The ISFS works collaboratively with local governments, First Nations, community organizations and professional groups to address food system challenges through research and extension programs.
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.
Southwest British Columbia (SWBC) is located in Canada’s province of British Columbia (BC) on Pacific coast, bounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Coast Mountains to the northeast, and the United States border to the south. While these natural features physically outline SWBC, the region is also defined by distinct ecological and socio-cultural characteristics that have developed within the common climate, culture and economic drivers. Although there is no political boundary delineating SWBC, we believe the region’s commonalities - both human and natural- form a distinct “bioregion”. This bioregional scale is ideal for visioning food systems transformation; it is large enough to think comprehensively about the food supply chain, but sufficiently narrow to consider individual community contexts. Additionally the bioregional scale integrates both human and natural elements of place, appropriately reflecting the joint social-ecological nature of food systems.
SWBC is home to some of Canada’s largest and fastest growing urban centers as well as some of its best quality farmland. Metro Vancouver, for example, is the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Canada, and almost 20% of its land base is protected farmland. The physical constraints of the Pacific Ocean, Coast Mountains and U.S. border result in intense land use competition.
SWBC is located on the unceded, traditional and ancestral territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the Squamish, Lil’wat, Sto:lo, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. For thousands of years, the Coast Salish have stewarded these ecosystems, and practiced place-based food traditions honouring salmon, shellfish, and berries among others. Colonization and its disenfranchisement of Indigneous Peoples has removed key cultural and physical links between the Nations and their traditions. Growing recognition of Canada’s colonial legacy at has started conversations working toward reconciliation for Indigenous People. Food sovereignty is one such conversation.
Agriculture in SWBC benefits from fertile soils developed in the floodplains of the Fraser River, a mild climate, long growing season, and access to markets by land and sea. The region is the largest contributor to BC’s farming economy, and a significant exporter of agricultural products. Poultry, dairy, greenhouse vegetables and berries are the most significant production sectors.
Vancouver, the region's largest urban centre, is ranked among the world’s most livable cities, however rising housing prices are increasingly a challenge. Farmland is also impacted by high real estate prices, which incite speculative land ownership. In 2016, the median price of farmland in Metro Vancouver was approximately $300,000/acre, far beyond what is affordable for farmers.
Cultures in SWBC reflect immigration from around the world, particularly from East and South Asian countries. Food practices have roots in Chinese, Japanese, and Indian cultures in addition to European settler culture
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
SWBC’s current food system is a product of a globalized food economy that challenges the wellbeing of people and ecosystems. Local communities have limited capacity to influence the outcomes of such a system. By 2050, the population of SWBC is projected to increase by nearly 50%, and many of the challenges currently experienced will intensify.
The dominant agricultural systems rely on practices that exhaust resources and degrade ecosystems. For example, separating crop and livestock production increases dependency on chemical inputs (e.g. fertilizers), leading to freshwater pollution. Local intensification of dairy production has resulted in manure surpluses that pollute local streams and aquifers. At the same time, crop production occurring in the same area relies on the use of synthetic fertilizers which also contribute freshwater pollution, and associated ecological damage.
Farmers and communities are already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate. Combined, cold, wet springs and excessive rain during harvest shorten the growing season. By 2050, the spring snowpack (an important summer irrigation source) is projected to decrease by 50%. Particularly long summer dry spells have increased concerns of drought in the region, especially among smaller communities reliant on groundwater. Climate change, and other human activities, have significantly impacted traditional food ways of Indigenous Peoples. Coastal salmon, a culturally and nutritionally essential food for the Indigenous people of SWBC and beyond, have declined significantly. The year 2019 marked one of the lowest ever returns for Fraser River salmon.
Fewer people are choosing agriculture as their career path, raising concerns for future agricultural viability. The average age of farmers in BC is the highest in Canada, with 55% of farmers over the age of 55, and less than 7% of farms report having a succession plan. The high cost of land resulting from intense land use competition, land speculation and policy oversight, is both a significant barrier for new entrant farmers, and an incentive for retiring farmers to remove their land from production. By 2050, in the absence of policies to curb speculation and support active use of farmland, agricultural activity in the region could significantly decline.
Today, in SWBC the food supply chain is dominated by a handful of transnational firms that leverage disproportionate market power to dictate prices, wages, working conditions, retail access, etc. In 2016, the top five grocery retailers in Canada received more than 80% of consumers’ grocery dollars.
Communities have little knowledge of food system impacts, both distant and close. Food system literacy is also limited within local governments. Those with the responsibility to plan for the future lack the necessary tools, resources, and skills. This is demonstrated by the limited and often disjointed food system policy that exists across SWBC. If a new approach is not adopted, the food system in SWBC will not reflect the needs of local communities today or into the future, and continue to primarily serve the short-term economic interests of a few entities outside the bioregion.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
The vision for a place-based food system in SWBC addresses current and anticipated challenges faced in the bioregion by advancing three foundational ideas: regionalization, regeneration and participation.
A regionalized food system responds to the biophysical characteristics of the place where it is located. In a regionalized food system, the entire food supply chain is reoriented to prioritize the needs of local communities and respect the ecological and human capacity and constraints. Inputs, including energy, nutrients, and labour are sourced locally to the fullest extent possible. This stimulates food system-focused economic development and leads to new opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses, especially in rural and remote areas. Food production systems are designed to prioritize the dietary preferences and nutritional needs of the local population. In a regionalized food system, food self-reliance increases and there is less dependence on volatile global food markets. In this way money spent on food can re-circulate in the local economy and the approximate $9 billion dollars spent annually on food in SWBC becomes an investment in local community and economic development.
A regenerative food system focuses on rebuilding the social-ecological systems of the SWBC bioregion. Many of the challenges associated with modern, global-industrial food systems can be attributed to the breakdown of societies, ecosystems and the critical linkages between them. A regenerative food system is grounded in agricultural practices that restore and enhance the health of soils, and broader ecosystems. The shorter supply chains in a regionalized food system also facilitates the regeneration of important social relationships across supply chains. Integrating Indigenous ways of knowing, and food traditions are critical component of food system regeneration.
A participatory food system encourages engagement of stakeholders across the system. Global monopolies, and industrial supply chains have left people with limited knowledge or influence over how food systems function, and with few alternatives. Advancing foundational ideas of regionalization and regeneration will help to re-establish critical social-ecological relationships in SWBC, increase transparency of the food system and augment the capacity of regional stakeholders to impact that system. As such, food system awareness across society can increase alongside the influence of stakeholders in decision making and policy development. At a fundamental level, there will be a societal shift from apathy to engagement, with consumers as key movement builders. The food system that emerges is more reflective of the needs of local people, and the ecological capacity of the bioregion.
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.
We envision a regionalized food system for SWBC based on the principles of social and ecological regeneration and participatory democracy. Such a food system is replete with small- and medium-scale businesses, and practices across the food supply chain that promote the wellbeing of people, ecosystems, and the regional economy. The application of traditional Indigeneous knowledge and empowerment of Indigenous Peoples is critical to this food system transformation.
A bioregional food system prioritizes the needs of local communities. The local food economy is characterized by shorter, value-based supply chains, allowing a larger portion of the food dollar to remain inside the bioregion and multiply for local benefit.
A new generation of farmers are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and support networks to establish regenerative agriculture as the dominant production system. These farmers prioritize the health of soils and ecosystem integrity as the foundation for sustainable food production. Regenerative agriculture practiced across the bioregion also contributes to climate change mitigation through increased soil carbon storage. The same practices contribute to climate change adaptation through improved flood and drought resilience. Importantly, a regionalized food system can development region-appropriate responses to new climate realities in SWBC.
Regionalizing the food system gives people more opportunities to influence local decision making. Issues of societal and environmental wellbeing such as wages, environmental degradation, farmland speculation, or animal welfare are not only more transparent, but impacted by locally enacted policy. Stakeholders across the food systems are empowered to participate and collaboratively shape their own food system.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Graphic overview of food system vision and the five axes of change for a regionalized, regenerative and participatory food system 1) bioregional scale, 2) reconciliation with Indigenous communities, 3) comprehensive food system policy, 4) regenerative agriculture, and 5) farmer training and support
Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School, operating by the Institute for Sustainable Food System in collaboration with the Tsawwassen First Nation. An example of practical farmer training programs to teach and support the next generation of regenerative farmers.
A regionalized food system shortens supply chains to connect agricultural production in the bioregion to regional consumers with a network of locally-owned and operated food processing, distribution and retail businesses. This way money spent on food can re-circulate in the local economy, and the approximate $9 billion spent annually on food in the bioregion becomes an investment in local community and economic development.
Ongoing research at the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems on the integration of hogs in organic vegetable production systems to improve soil health.
Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School teaches regenerative agriculture and business skills to aspiring farmers, an integral part of a regionalized, regenerative and participatory food system.
At the onset of our work advancing bioregional food systems in SWBC, the ISFS hosted a series of workshops gathering over 100 stakeholders to identify the region’s food system priorities. Stakeholders included farmers, community leaders, First Nations, planners, government representatives, and academics. The following priorities emerged, 1) increase food self-reliance 2) strengthen food and farming businesses, and 3) adopt regenerative practices to reduce environmental degradation from agriculture. These priorities guided the development of our food system vision.
This vision and the ongoing work of the ISFS seeks to leverage five axes of change, integrating economics, environments, culture, diet, technology, and policy.
1. Bioregional Scale
In SWBC, agricultural production substantially satisfies the nutritional and cultural dietary preferences of local people. In this bioregional food system, food self-reliance is increased while dependence on precarious global markets is decreased. Crops that are particularly well-suited to the climatic conditions in SWBC (e.g. cranberries) are grown in surplus and exported to other regions. Food that cannot be grown in SWBC (e.g. coffee, tropical fruit), can be imported to maintain balanced, varied diets for the local population. These imports supplement a primarily local diet, and are sourced from regions that are similarly committed to enhancing social and ecological well-being. As such, the bioregional food system in SWBC is part of a broader global network of bioregional food systems.
Agriculture in SWBC is practiced in a regenerative way that restores soil health and local ecosystems. Food production is no longer dependent on fossil fuels, instead making use of alternative energy and biofertilizers produced in the bioregion.
Food grown in SWBC is primarily purchased and consumed in the bioregion through a network of locally-owned and operated food processing, distribution and retail businesses that disrupt current national and transnational business dominance. Competitive markets can therefore be restored. Because of this, money spent on food will re-circulate and multiply in the local economy.
Comprehensive, stakeholder-driven food system modeling completed by the ISFS assessed the potential for SWBC to regionalize its food economy and increase food self-reliance. The project estimated that SWBC has the potential to increase its food self-reliance from 40% to approximately 60%, while mitigating environmental impacts through habitat enhancements and appropriate nutrient management.
2. Reconciliation with Indigenous Communities
Fishing, hunting and gathering practices are integral to the traditional foodways of the Coast Salish Peoples. Colonization and settler activities, including agriculture, have greatly restricted access to traditional foodlands for First Nations through a combination of legislated restrictions, forced displacements and environmental degradation. Additionally, Indigenous Peoples in SWBC, as across Canada, have been intentionally excluded from agricultural economies.
Reconciliation mandates important political and societal shifts, to establish a society where First Nations have the right to self-determination and to freely practice their culture and chosen foodways – both traditional and agricultural. As such, the agricultural sector in SWBC must respect and facilitate the foodways of Indigenous Peoples, and exist alongside traditional hunting and gathering practices. The sector must be inclusive of Indigenous persons and recognize Indigenous land rights and Nation sovereignty.
The ISFS works collaboratively with First Nations communities in SWBC. This includes development of the Tsawwassen First Nation (TFN) Farm School, operated by ISFS in partnership with the Tsawwassen First Nation. The TFN Farm School is a 9-month training program that teaches regenerative agriculture and business skills to aspiring farmers from the Tsawwassen First Nation and the public. In addition to education programming, the TFN Farm School aims to support community gatherings and cohesion by hosting meals for TFN Elders, hosting community feasts, and contributing produce to the community food pantry.
3. Comprehensive Food System Policy
This food system fosters participation from residents who recognize both the importance of a regenerative food system, and their potential influence within its regionalized scope. As such, enacted policy is informed by engaged citizens. Across the bioregion, local governments work collaboratively to develop comprehensive food system policy that addresses all dimensions of the system. All domains of planning, such as land use, housing, transportation, economic development, etc., are united through the common goal of advancing a regionalized, regenerative and participatory food system. For example, policies that aim to protect agricultural land are supported by regulatory environments that promote both land access for new farmers, and local retailing opportunities. Food security is supported not only with emergency food distribution centres (e.g. food banks), but also with comprehensive planning to increase economic food access for residents through affordable housing, accessible transportation etc.
In SWBC, citizens are important stakeholders in the development of food policy through the integration of food policy advisory councils that work closely with governments. Recognizing the importance of local people and resources in providing food, stewarding land, and determining the nature of their economy, citizens can contribute to supporting these activities through a more impactful democratic process.
4. Regenerative Agriculture
Regenerative agriculture will be by far the dominant practice in SWBC. In contrast to conventional practices that are dependent on synthetic inputs and fossil fuels to manage soil fertility, regenerative practices work to restore soil health and reduce dependence on inputs from outside the bioregion.
Regenerative agriculture in SWBC uses production practices developed by agricultural societies over centuries. These ancient “technologies” such as cover-cropping, rotational livestock grazing, intercropping etc are adapted to SWBC to improve soil health, restore fertility, absorb carbon, and increase the agricultural resilience in the face of climatic changes.
Farmscapes are carefully designed to protect rivers and streams and provide habitat and shelter for wildlife. This includes strategically planting perennial vegetation along waterways and between fields to prevent water pollution from fertilizer, nutrient and sediment runoff, while providing habitat and shelter for wildlife and pollinators. In this way, regenerating natural ecosystems within the agricultural landscape reduces water pollution and soil erosion to protect aquatic habitat for key species, such as Pacific salmon.
Regenerative agriculture across SWBC is supported by a network of focused research centres and extension agents. These research centres involve partnerships with government, academics, and the private sector. They focus on helping farmers understand how to produce wholesome, nutritious food while respecting the unique ecology of the bioregion. This includes supporting climate change adaptation and mitigation by adopting regenerative and regionally adapted agricultural practices.
5. Farmer Training and Support
In SWBC, farming is respected as a valued profession. There are diverse and well-supported practical training opportunities for people choosing farming as a career. This includes vocational training at established colleges and universities and formal internships on farms. These training programs are inclusive, supporting young people, new immigrants and refugees, second career professionals, Indigenous Peoples, and migratory workers.
In addition, farmers across the bioregion are connected through learning networks for personal and professional development. These networks make effective use of technology to help connect farmers and share resources and information. Networks provide practical support, mobilize the latest applied research to support farmers in ongoing professional development, and to address new challenges such as climate change. Networks also support retiring farmers in the development of succession plans to pass their operations onto the next generation. New farmers are also supported in access to land, and business development through a variety of land tenure models, and low interest, long term loan programs.
The ISFS and the Department for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at KPU are partners in farmer education and training. The Department for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems operates a unique 4 year Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Agriculture, which integrates theoretical and practical foundation in regenerative agriculture. ISFS operates two Farm Schools including the Tsawwassen First Nation Farm School, operated in partnership with the Tsawwassen First Nation. It is an integral part of our vision that training programs with a similar focus be widely accessible to all farmers in order to grow and support new generations of regenerative farmers.
Stakeholder workshops and ongoing collaborative work with government and communities continue to inform this vision by integrating local perspectives and priorities. More than 40 local governments and organizations in the bioregion have formally endorsed the ISFS’ bioregional food system work in SWBC. Collectively, the work of the ISFS advances this vision through regenerative farmer training programs, food policy analysis, regional food economic assessments, agricultural research and extension and beyond, the ISFS continues to advance this vision along multiple fronts to further a regional, regenerative and participatory food system as the foundation for sustainable society and a vibrant, robust future.
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?
Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.
We refined our vision through deeper contextualization and storytelling.
Our vision is built on three core elements: regionalization, participation, and regenerative agriculture. Throughout the refinement process, we distilled how these elements serve as guide wires to direct food system transformation as it relates to environment, culture, diet, technology, policy and economics. We also dove into how our vision can be advanced through 5 areas of change, or “forces”, and how the ISFS can continue to work within these areas of focus.
To better tell this story, we focused on the interdependence and collective strength of those living in our vision. We dream of a future where the interdependence of individuals, communities, and ecosystems is not only deeply acknowledged, but profoundly celebrated. We aimed to communicate this dynamic, not only the stories of our individual food systems stakeholders, but through stories of how their pursuits intersect to reinforce each others’ wellbeing.
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).
The refinement of our vision was informed by ongoing collaboration with the partners in SWBC with whom we work to advance one or many components of our vision. These relationships have been developed over 10 years of applied research and extension work conducted by the ISFS. These partners include:
- Governmental organizations: BC Ministry of Agriculture, Metro Vancouver, Interior Health Authority,
- First Nation governments/organizations: Tsawwassen First Nation, Naut’sa mawt Tribal Council
- Civil/Community organizations: Canadian Institute of Planners, FarmFolk CityFolk, Certified Organic Association of BC, Vancity Credit Union.
Note: Partner details have been submitted with the due diligence questionnaire.
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.
The ISFS generates evidence-based information and outreach programming to support transitions to bioregional food systems. This requires collaboration with private sector, civil, academic, and government partners.
We have engaged hundreds of individuals/organizations in the development of our bioregional food system vision. ISFS has hosted numerous focus group sessions to engage and gather detailed information from 264 key food system stakeholders from across BC. From 2011 - 2016 our SWBC bioregional food system initiative received formal endorsement from 23 local governments and 19 civil organizations. During this time we regularly engaged with these groups to develop project parameters and discuss progress.
During the refinement phase, we reached out to key partners to confirm ongoing support for a bioregional food system vision for SWBC. We are currently engaged in ongoing collaborative work with over 20 partners to tangibly advance our vision.
Over the course of the past 10 years, we have resoundingly heard from communities of the need for robust, place-based food systems that heal earth, provide healthy food for all, create community, and bring the food economy home. Thus our focus has long been to advance a bioregional food system for our life-place. Bioregionalism, in contrast to localism, requires actors to think and act in new ways. As such, it is critical that we purposefully engage and connect partners from different localities within the bioregion, and between bioregions. In doing so we highlight the interdependence of actors in the bioregion, identifying and facilitating ways for them to strategically work together to create a bioregional food system.
What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.
Trend: Citizens in BC have a strong interest in supporting the local economy through food systems (Advanis, 2018). The COVID-19 pandemic reinforces this by highlighting the vulnerabilities of the global food supply chain and awakening governments to the need to regionalize food economies (Hunter, 2020).
Signals: There has been a 62% increase in the number of farmers markets in BC between 2006-2012, representing an annual benefit of $170M to the local economy (Connell, 2012).
Trend: Increasing capacity and political will for food system policy development across levels of government, as well as emerging resources and support for practitioners (APA, 2007).
Signals: In 2019 the federal government released the first ever Food Policy for Canada. Since 2011, three local governments in SWBC have adopted dedicated food system plans. The Food Communities Network, has recently formalized as a nation-wide community of practice for municipal food system practitioners.
Trend: Global awareness for a need to shift to sustainable diets that integrate human and planetary health (Willet et al., 2019).
Signals: In 2019, Canada released a precedent-setting new Canada Food Guide, recommending a diet high in whole, plant-based foods and low in animal protein. Additionally, the Food Policy for Canada, released in 2019, aims to establish Canada’s first national school food program that will ensure all children have access to healthy food at school.
Trend: Increased understanding of the role of agriculture and food systems in climate change mitigation.
Signals: The Canadian government has established a Carbon Sequestration Task Force, and released funding for agricultural carbon sequestration research. The formalization of the Farmers for Climate Solutions, a national farmer-led movement, signals that farmers across Canada are prepared to take action to address climate change and help meet GHG mitigation targets.
Trend: New wave of agrarian interest in regenerative agriculture in BC, comprising diverse new entrants including women and Indigenous peoples (Mitham, 2019; Puri, 2017).
Signals: The resurgence of Farmers Institutes in SWBC providing critical networking and support opportunities for farmers. Additionally, record enrollment in ISFS Farm Schools for the 2020 farming season signals significant interest in regenerative farming as a career.
Trend: Climate change is increasing uncertainty in agricultural growing conditions, raising the need to develop and share scale-appropriate adaptations across farmer networks.
Signals: The Living Soils Symposium (spring 2020, shifted online due to COVID-19), is a new platform to increase access to new knowledge and information to support farmers, and other food system stakeholders in advancing regenerative agriculture and food systems in Canada.
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.).
Mira is an extension agent with expertise in regenerative farming systems. She plays a vital role in connecting everyone in the food system. With support from extension agents like Mira, farmers in SWBC have shifted to regenerative practices, adapting to new climate realities.
Mira starts her day with Priya, a mixed vegetable and livestock farmer. Mira and Priya observe and discuss the farm’s challenges with seasonal droughts. They are shortly joined by Anastasia, a graduate student from one of SWBC’s many universities dedicated to developing skills and knowledge in regenerative agriculture. Anastasia is doing research on the farm, and she walks with them over to her research plots to monitor how different irrigation systems compare in terms of water use efficiency and crop growth and development. They discuss other challenges of the farm related to nutrient management. Mira makes a note to connect Priya with Ellen and Kareem, farmers in the northern part of the bioregion. They have been successfully experimenting with cover crop rotations and the integration of livestock that could be helpful to Priya.
Later, Mira meets with farmers and partners from government and academia to discuss a new webinar series that will share best practices for installing and operating rainwater harvesting technology for crop irrigation. The webinar will also share information about a new incentive program collaboratively established by local governments to assist farmers with the capital costs of setting up these systems.
Mira ends her day with a presentation for the local food policy council to garner support for policy change that would support development of a cooperatively-owned regional processing facility. Mira has been working closely on this with Jeremy, a representative of the local processing sector and fellow food policy council member. Jeremy brings expertise about the processing sector and has helped Mira support her producer group, and craft policy recommendations.
Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?
Challenge: Current climate change projections for SWBC suggest an increase in average daytime temperatures by approximately 3 °C by 2050, and 5°C by 2080 if no action is taken to mitigate climate change impacts (Metro Vancouver, 2016). Other expected changes in the bioregion include decreased alpine snowpack, intensified summer drought conditions, as well as more significant fall/spring flooding due to increased intensity and frequency of precipitation during these critical farming months. These impacts will have consequences for food production, and the functioning of our food system. Keeping the average warming below 2 °C and preventing these impacts requires the development and implementation of aggressive climate change mitigation strategies.
Vision for SWBC: Farmers in SWBC have mobilized as leaders in development of aggressive climate change mitigation strategies. These mitigation strategies focus primarily on reducing emissions by shifting away from fossil fuels and farming methods that deplete soil organic matter. Instead regenerative practices are the norm. These practices sequester atmospheric CO2 in soils, establish and maintain hedgerows, riparian buffers, and woodlots, and eliminate emissions from organic waste with circular management approaches. These measures also serve as adaptation strategies as they improve agricultural resilience in the face of flood and drought conditions, and reduce reliance on external inputs from outside the bioregion. As a result, agriculture in SWBC has reached net zero emissions by shifting to low-input production systems, and widely adopting regenerative farming and landscape management practices, becoming far more resilient as a result. Additionally, development of low emissions food processing and distribution infrastructure further reduces GHG emissions associated with the food system.
Regionalized: By 2050, the food system in SWBC is ecologically sound and operates within the unique ecological context of the bioregion to provide for the wellbeing of people, while stewarding the land, and respecting its environmental constraints. Bioregionalism has become a guiding principle, providing a framework to restore and maintain natural systems to sustainably satisfy basic human needs, and effectively address climate change.
In a regionalized food system, farmers within the bioregion have supported a successful shift from the high input, high emissions paradigm of the past, to the low-input, low emissions paradigm of the future. This includes a shift from relying on imported fossil fuel energy to satisfy on-farm energy needs, to relying on locally generated renewable sources such as hydroelectric, wind, solar, and biofuels. Circular approaches to organic waste management are also adopted across the food system. For example, integrating livestock and crop production allows for waste and nutrient recovery at the farm level, while reducing the potential for animal manure to become an environmental pollutant. At the bioregional level, organic waste from urban centers is recycled as agricultural fertilizer in peri-urban and rural agricultural areas.
Regenerative Agriculture: Farmers have embraced regenerative farming, and support one another to adapt these practices to the unique ecological context of the bioregion in order to restore ecosystems and sustain rural livelihoods and economies. Regenerative agriculture practices in SWBC enhance soil organic carbon (SOC), contributing to carbon sequestration through the use of cover crops, low-till or no-till production methods, and through the application of animal manure and compost (Smuckler, 2019).
Incorporating non-productive perennial vegetation (NPPV), such as hedgerows and riparian buffers, and maintaining critical woodlots throughout the agricultural landscape also contributes to wildlife habitat, carbon capture and climate change mitigation on farms (Rallings et al., 2019). These soils are healthy and maintain their fertility.
Participatory: Within the bioregion, soil is recognized as a public good and a valuable resource. In addition to protecting soil for food production, farmers also provide key ecological services that improve air, and water quality in the bioregion and mitigate the impacts of severe weather, such as flooding and drought on communities. Farmers share openly with the general public about how they steward the soil and agriculture landscapes, and in turn the public economically supports farmers for these efforts. Indigenous communities who steward their traditional lands through sustainable hunting, fishing, gathering and agriculture are also widely recognized and supported for the ecological services they protect and provide, and the leadership they demonstrate.
Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?
Challenge: In 2020, food security and diet related diseases persist in SWBC. Approximately 12% of people in the province are considered food insecure (Tarasuk, 2014). Importantly, food insecurity does not affect all communities equally. Systemic issues of inequality, racialization and colonization have shaped existing food security trends. For example, the rate of food insecurity among Indigenous populations is nearly three times the provincial average, and approximately 30% of Indigenous people living off reserve experience food insecurity (Li et al., 2016).
Additionally, international food system research has highlighted the need to shift consumption patterns globally to effectively address challenges related to human and ecosystem health (Willet et al., 2019). Rising economic inequality in the bioregion, and the disproportionate number of Indigenous and racialized peoples experiencing food insecurity are key issues to be addressed to achieve health and well-being through sustainable diets.
Vision for SWBC: In 2050, the population of the bioregion has doubled to 4.1 million people, the majority of whom live in dense transit-oriented nodes. This densification is in part due to the prioritization of protecting agricultural land in regional growth planning. Despite a significant population increase, food self-reliance in the bioregion has also increased along with community health and economic outcomes. Systemic political and governance reform ensures food security for every person in the bioregion. Integral to this is the respect for Indigenous Nations’ right to self-determination and the establishment of Nation to Nation governance relationships. Within SWBC, food is produced, procured and consumed to satisfy the nutritional and cultural needs of the population to the fullest extent possible. These activities do not exceed the ecological capacity of the region. Farmers in the bioregion now produce food primarily for local residents, significantly decreasing reliance on both imports to satisfy nutritional needs, and exports to prop up the agricultural economy. As a result, the bioregional food system is resilient in the face of shocks and disruption in the global food supply chain.
Regionalized: In a regionalized food system, the diet of the local population has shifted to reflect the ecological capacity, and seasonality of the bioregion. This is driven by farmers in the bioregion producing primarily for local residents, and for strategic trade between bioregions. As a result of inter-bioregional trade, residents of SWBC have access to foods produced elsewhere in BC that are not well suited for production in SWBC, such as grass-fed red meat (Kootenay bioregion), grains (Northern Peace Bioregion), and tree fruit (Okanagan bioregion). In turn, the SWBC bioregion produces a surplus of vegetable crops, poultry, and dairy for export to other bioregions. Local and scale-appropriate food processing and distribution infrastructure is established, allowing for the consumption of locally-grown food and the maintenance of diverse diets throughout the year.
Public institutions, including schools, hospitals and government offices are significant purchasers of locally-produced food. These institutions provide consistent, reliable markets for growers, allowing them to make long-term investments in their farms to increase environmental stewardship efforts. As such, public institutions also increase access to healthy food, especially for youth and individuals in care.
Regenerative Agriculture: Regenerative agriculture supports not only the regeneration of agricultural landscapes and soils, but also a network of foodlands where Indigenous communities hunt, fish and gather. Practices that improve soil health improve the quality and health of aquatic habitats by increasing ground water recharge and reducing pollution from nutrient and chemical runoff. Salmon habitat and populations are restored in the Fraser River system. This culturally and nutritionally critical food source for Indigenous people is restored. Salmon is consumed fresh, cured, smoked, canned and otherwise preserved for year round consumption.
Participatory: Guidelines for planetary health diets to reflect the unique ecological, and cultural characteristics of the bioregion have been developed and adapted. These guidelines have been co-developed with communities and include key consideration for cultural food needs and seasonal availability of foods in SWBC. Guidelines are used to develop food education programs for K-12 schools, and for the development of a universal school food program. Food hubs, community kitchens, and educational centers provide space and programming that support the development of food skills and nutrition education. Food system actors and citizens in SWBC embrace the fact that they have a significant and meaningful relationship with food that far transcends monetary transactions.
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?
Challenge: The economic landscape in SWBC reflects the inequality of the dominant globalized and corporate-driven food system. An estimated $8.5 billion is spent annually on food in SWBC. Most of this expenditure currently leaks from the bioregion as profits accrue to a limited number of actors, often large national, and trans-national corporations that are primarily motivated by increasing shareholder profits. Meanwhile, externalized costs are often borne by local communities in the form of local freshwater pollution, poor diets, unjust working conditions, etc. Canada’s food system is highly concentrated. As an example, 80% of the grocery retail market share in Canada is held by only five retailers (Steinman, 2019). Under such concentrated market conditions, companies leverage oligopolistic control to influence market access for suppliers, product access for consumers, and working conditions and opportunities for employees. In such a system, consumers, farmers, and independent food businesses are easily disenfranchised (Steinman, 2019, USDA, 2018). The commodification of food in a corporate-driven food system means that food is primarily seen for the economic value it generates for the most powerful actors, rather than as an essential source of human health and sustenance (Vivero-Pol, 2017).
Vision for SWBC: In 2050, the food system in SWBC has shortened its supply chains to connect local food producers to local consumers. These supply chains comprise a network of locally-owned and operated food businesses, including farms, processors, distributors, retailers, restaurants, composting facilities as well as equipment and service providers. The landscape previously dominated by corporate businesses that prioritize shareholder profits, is now populated by locally-oriented food businesses. A variety of alternative business structures exist including co-operatives, non-profits, and social enterprise models that include community wellbeing as a critical part of their measure of success.
Regionalized: In a regionalized food system, dominated by locally-owned and operated business, the majority of money spent on food recirculates within local communities. Locally-owned businesses throughout the food supply chain disrupt the oligopolistic conditions to restore free markets, genuine competition, and ensure a level playing field for new businesses. This not only has positive impacts on the quantity of jobs in the bioregion, but the quality, and stability of those jobs. Furthermore, locally-owned businesses, ‘headquartered’ in the bioregion, are better positioned to hire local people for both operations and management positions. As a result, decision-making power and control of food system capital remain in the hands of local people. This yields far greater local business activity, and participation in community and democratic processes (Goldschmidt, 1978).
Regenerative Agriculture: Farming is a valued profession. Producers in the bioregion are adequately compensated for the public benefits they provide in terms of both food provisioning and land stewardship.
This regionalized agriculture and food system creates quality, living-wage jobs for local people. Employment and management opportunities in agriculture are plentiful and inclusive, supporting historically underrepresented people such as new immigrants, refugees, Indigenous Peoples, and women. The numerous farmer and food system workforce training programs across the bioregion ensure that these workers are appropriately prepared for employment in the local food economy.
With a growing number of local workers trained, and skilled in regenerative agriculture, farmers in SWBC no longer rely extensively on temporary foreign workers. While there are still opportunities in the bioregion for these workers, they now supplement a strong local workforce. Temporary foreign workers enjoy the same living wage compensation, benefits, and professional development opportunities as local employees. Furthermore, they are afforded pathways to citizenship. Increased local food demand has also created local employment opportunities across the food supply chain. Everyone knows someone who works in the bioregional food system sector.
Participatory: The regionalized food supply chains foster a transparent and democratic food economy. Citizens understand how food is produced and who is involved. They actively participate in supporting their local economy and community by purchasing local food. Alternative business models, such as co-operatives, ensure that the decision-making power and economic benefits remain in the community. Community members maintain influence in matters of food production, access, marketing, working conditions, wages, etc. They are better positioned to participate in the co-creation of just and equitable economies.
Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?
Challenge: SWBC is located on the unceded, traditional and ancestral territories of the Coast Salish people, comprising numerous distinct nations, bands and communities. For thousands of years, the Coast Salish People have stewarded the land and practiced place-based food traditions including fishing, hunting, gathering, and cultivating. These traditions honor a deep connection to place and to traditional foods, such as salmon, shellfish, and berries, among others. Colonization and settler activities, including agriculture, have greatly restricted access to traditional foodlands for Indigenous Peoples through a combination of legislated restrictions, forced displacements and environmental degradation. Additionally, Indigenous Peoples in SWBC, as across Canada, have been intentionally excluded from colonialist economies, including agriculture.
Vision for SWBC: Settler and Indigenous food systems coexist mutualistically in SWBC to provide healthy, nourishing and culturally appropriate foods for settlers and Indigenous people. The biodiversity and ecological integrity of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems are restored and stewarded collaboratively by both settler and indigenous communities. Regenerative agricultural landscapes are integral to habitat connectivity for, and restoration, of native species. All communities can access food through contemporary agricultural food supply chains. Indigenous rights to self- determination and Nation to Nation agreements to share and steward the land are respected and upheld.
Regionalized: Indigenous communities define and practice their respective placed-based food ways as sovereign Nations. These can include both traditional and agricultural practices. Cultural food traditions and perspectives have inspired and informed the development of a place-based food system for the bioregion, one that responds to and reflects local ecology and capacity.
Within SWBC, the regionalized food system is celebrated by all, and informed by the food traditions of Indigenous and settler communities. Food and regenerative agriculture are central to the bioregional identity of SWBC, and connect communities with the land and people that provide them with sustenance.
Regenerative Agriculture: Across the bioregion regenerative agriculture is advanced by a community of farmers and other food system actors, connected by shared values including an unequivocal commitment to environmental stewardship. The agricultural landscapes tended by farmers helps to restore ecological integrity and native and naturalized biodiversity, supporting Indigenous food ways and place-based cultural practices. The integration of traditional ecological knowledge held by Indigenous communities with Western science works to develop locally-adapted regenerative agricultural practices.
Participatory: Participation is a defining characteristic of the food system in SWBC, as people engage more deeply in the food system to form meaningful and lasting relationships with one another. The vibrant and culturally diverse food traditions of SWBC continue to develop as people immigrate to the bioregion from around the world. An abundance of employment and business opportunities are available to newcomers within the local economy. The unique cultural traditions of these newcomers are infused into the food system as they become farmers, chefs and restaurateurs, retail store owners, and food processors. This food system becomes a cultural touchstone and source of identity for all.
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?
Challenge: Food production systems are facing the challenge of meeting the needs of a growing population in the face of increased competition for land and resources. Additionally, the food system is being called to do so while simultaneously decreasing GHG emissions and other detrimental
environmental impacts. In recent decades, technologies have narrowly aimed to increase agricultural yields. While this technological focus has increased yields in SWBC and abroad, it comes with many costs to farmers and the environment, such as increased reliance on external inputs, agri-chemical pollution etc. Meanwhile, the profits generated from the adoption of these technologies have largely been captured by the corporations that develop and control them, and less so by farmers (Holt-Gimenez, 2019; Qualman, 2017).
Vision for SWBC: Technology is no longer narrowly applied to increase yields. Rather, it now is focused on the development of a regionalized, regenerative and participatory food system. Scientific knowledge, and traditional ecological knowledge are equally involved in the development of new food system technologies in the bioregion. Technologies are ecologically sound and farmers, local food system stakeholders, and an established extension service, play a significant role in the strategic development, and adoption of regionally-adapted technologies across the food system.
Regionalized: In order to increase the availability of locally-produced food, technologies have been developed to extend the growing season and increase access to appropriately-scaled food processing. Improved hoop houses and mobile indoor growing infrastructure have increased productivity in shoulder seasons. Regionally-adapted crops and livestock have been bred to be better suited to local soil and climatic conditions. New shared processing infrastructure and technologies (e.g. mobile canning stations, slaughter units, individual quick freeze equipment) allow growers to preserve products for year-round consumption, while keeping capital costs low.
In a regionalized food system, reliance on external inputs has been greatly reduced and technologies have been developed to increase the utilization of local resources. These include alternative and renewable energy technologies, such as solar, wind, and biofuels to replace fossil fuel energy. Waste management technologies focus on tight cycling of nutrients from organic waste to farms, improving efficiency and quality control in order to make use of a wide variety of urban and agricultural waste resources. Rainwater harvesting technologies reduce pressure on fresh water resources from agricultural irrigation, especially during drought periods.
Regenerative Agriculture: In the widespread shift to regenerative agriculture, farmers have adopted simple and tested technologies that have been developed over time, through careful observation of nature and agro-ecosystem interaction. While these are not necessarily new technologies, they have been specially adapted for SWBC to restore ecological integrity in agricultural landscapes. These methods have been developed and adapted in close collaboration with farmers who determine research priorities and drive innovation as they farm. Technological advancement has also supported this transition through the development of new equipment and practices to reduce tillage, use water efficiently, incorporate cover crops, and ecologically manage pests..
In addition to adapting practices, new technologies in SWBC support understanding the impacts of regenerative agriculture in order to better support the sector. This includes improved tools for the measurement and monitoring of soil health, drainage, carbon sequestration, and nutrient density of foods. Online tools also help farmers readily track and share this information and create new opportunities to understand the impacts of regenerative agriculture at the landscape level. These technologies have improved the ability of farmers to collect and share data on the benefits and outcomes of regenerative agriculture, and formed the basis for the ecological services payment program that has further advanced regenerative efforts.
Participatory: Robust research and extension networks effectively design and implement support systems that prioritize the needs of local producers and stakeholders. Research and extension nodes allow for close collaboration between government, post-secondary institutions, the private sector, and farmers. The dissemination and adoption of new regenerative agriculture knowledge, methods, and technologies is a key function of extension personnel.
The food system in 2050 also makes best use of online technology and networks to connect food system actors. This includes technologies to coordinate compost pick-up and delivery, communicate up-to-date supply and demand information between supply chain actors, and connect those in need of a service with the appropriate local providers.
Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?
Challenge: Food policy in British Columbia and Canada, has historically been developed in silos. Health, nutrition, environmental protection, climate change, food safety, trade, agriculture - all critical aspects of the food system that have been addressed independently at federal and/or provincial levels. The resulting food policy landscape is highly fragmented and does not support the development of sustainable regional food systems. While there is increasing interest in food systems at the local level, existing municipal food policy is limited in scope. This siloed approach to policy development at the provincial and federal levels, and lack of attention paid to food systems in local planning, has resulted in many policy gaps and contradictory outcomes that ultimately undermine food system sustainability and community well-being
Vision for SWBC: The importance of the food system to community and environmental wellbeing is widely recognized and food system policy is a key consideration in local level planning. Food policy is comprehensive and implemented systematically across previously disparate policy domains and jurisdictions. Citizens, recognizing the importance of the food system for supporting the health and wellbeing of their communities, are active participants in the creation of food system policy through democratic processes. As a result food policy is comprehensive, locally-informed, and effectively-scaled. The right to access food is supported through policy and effectively implemented at all levels of government. Comprehensive policy reform works to dismantle systemic inequities in the food system that disproportionately impact Indigenous people and other racialized communities.
Regionalized: Collaborative and comprehensive planning processes develop policy at the bioregional scale. This is achieved by establishing important links between urban population centres and adjacent agricultural regions. For example, by planning collaboratively at the bioregional scale, communities strategically identify and plan for appropriately-scaled food processing and distribution infrastructure to connect rural producers with urban consumers. Local procurement programs in urban institutions support regional agricultural economies. Food waste collection programs connect food retailers, processors, consumers, and farmers. This scale of planning is achieved by local governments across the bioregion working collaboratively to identify food system links, and reinforced by policy at provincial and federal levels.
The regionalized food system, with shortened and regionally-based supply chains, is more responsive to locally-enacted policy, and better adapted to the needs of local communities. In turn, communities have greater ownership and influence in shaping their food system.
Regenerative Agriculture: Policy supports land access for regenerative farmers, values ecological stewardship, and strengthens resources for training the next generation of growers. This policy landscape establishes regenerative agriculture as the dominant production paradigm. Clear directives from the province guide local level policy development and planning in the bioregion to protect agricultural land, support and improve existing farms, ensure land is accessible to farmers (especially new entrants), and ensure farming practices enhance ecosystem integrity.
Regenerative agriculture is also supported by policy that properly values land stewardship activities. Ecological service payments, value-based supply chains, and true costing are all important policy avenues that bring land stewardship into the economics of farming, disrupting the externalization of environmental costs.
Provincial policy and funding supports the development and delivery of practical training opportunities for people choosing farming as a career and efforts to improve their working conditions. This includes vocational training at established colleges and universities and formal internships on farms. Additionally, federal, provincial and local governments collaborate to support a robust network of applied research and extension programming to provide ongoing knowledge mobilization and practical support to farmers and businesses.
Participatory: Because of its many critical policy intersections, food is incorporated as a lens across all policy domains - economic development and trade, health and nutrition, animal welfare, labour rights and beyond. This policy integration is consistent across federal, provincial, and local planning agencies to increase policy coherence. These integrated and mutually reinforcing policies are informed by citizens, who participate actively on food policy councils, and are broadly engaged in the democratic processes that shape their food system. The result is a food system that supports and nurtures the wellbeing of communities, that in turn, supports their food system through a deeper democracy.
Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.
Our vision of a bioregional food system for SWBC is regionalized, participatory and built on regenerative agriculture. These three foundations provide the systems thinking to critically link the six themes.
Regionalized: Food in SWBC is primarily produced to satisfy local diets. This respects the environmental capacity of the region, and is inspired by the place-based perspectives of Indigenous Peoples. Food produced in the bioregion uses local resources responsibly, reduces reliance on fossil fuels, and creates opportunities for local business. Locally-owned and operated food businesses connect producers and consumers. As a result, the $8.5 billion spent on food annually in SWBC recirculates and multiplies within the local economy. Food policy developed in the bioregion links urban and rural communities to more comprehensively address the food system’s interconnected components. A regionalized food system leverages locally adapted technologies to respond to climate change, extend the growing season, facilitate local food processing and distribution, or sustainably manage irrigation and on-farm fertility. These technologies increase the ability of producers to satisfy local, and seasonally diverse diets.
Regenerative Agriculture: Regenerative agriculture prioritizes the restoration and enhancement of soil health and fertility, and contributes to restoration of native habitat and species. This includes species such as salmon, that are both environmentally integral to the functioning of our ecosystems and to the diets and culture of Indigenous People. In SWBC, the importance of regenerative farmers in stewarding the land and providing wholesome, nutritious food is widely recognized. This recognition fosters a culture that celebrates and supports farmers. With a supportive culture, new training opportunities, and policy support from provincial and federal governments, farming is transformed from a high risk profession with uncertain returns, to one that is valued, secure and pursued by many. A diverse community of farmers, and researchers develop and adapt agricultural technologies to increase local food production, supporting the well-being of communities and strong bioregional trade relationships.
Participatory: A regionalized food system, with shorter supply chains is more transparent and responsive to locally-enacted policy. Issues such as food security, wages, environmental degradation, or farmland speculation can be meaningfully addressed in the bioregion in accordance with local priorities. Stakeholders across the food system are empowered to participate and collaboratively shape their own food system by informing and developing policy that addresses local needs and improves social and economic equity. As a result, opportunities in the food system become more diverse and inclusive of previously marginalized and underrepresented groups. Consumers feel integral to and fully vested in the bioregion’s food system.
Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.
Our food system vision significantly shifts current social, cultural, political, environmental and economic norms. Stakeholders must recognize, evaluate, and act to mitigate trade-offs resulting from these shifts.
The regionalization of the food system will bring home many of the environmental costs previously externalized in the globalized, industrial food system. Waste, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and socio-economic inequities must therefore be addressed locally. As diets become more local and seasonal, people may reduce their intake of foods that are currently readily imported from around the world. This will impact the consumption of certain culturally significant foods whose accessibility relies on imports. As strategic trade between bioregions focuses on particular products that are uniquely suited to the bioregion, revenue from agricultural exports will be limited.
Widely adopting regenerative agriculture is a significant, yet necessary shift from the status quo. The financial burden of such a shift will disproportionately be felt by farmers, especially those transitioning from conventional operations. Increased demand from local diets will require expansion of agriculture production in the bioregion which could pose challenges for the protection of wildlife habitat and sensitive ecosystems. Prioritizing agricultural production could also impact other sectors competing for land and resources such as housing, transportation, and recreation.
Significant shifts in governance, and land access and ownership are required in order to respect the right to self-determination for Indigenous peoples and reconcile ongoing colonial disenfranchisement. This will require important, and long overdue, discussions around frameworks such as private land ownership and stewardship of the commons.
A bioregional food system represents a shift in the existing governance structures. Aligning governance and decision making at the bioregional scale will require communities to collaboratively engage across jurisdictions, navigate trade-offs, and maximize collective benefits. This could result in decreased autonomy for individual communities and local governments.
These trade-offs may result in impacts felt most acutely over the short term. Our work must lessen the immediate impacts of these shifts, and build a resilient bioregional food system over the long term. In the short term it will be necessary to share the financial burdens of food system transformation, especially those felt by farmers. Over the long term there is a need for new governance structures that reflect the bioregional nature of the food system, integrating principles of reconciliation and respect for Indigenous sovereignty, land rights and self-governance. Coordinated policy at the bioregional level must secure the agricultural land base, protect ecological integrity, ensure access to food, and promote community health.
3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?
The ISFS will continue to pursue strategic applied research and extension to generate data, inform policy, and support its use. Below are three key milestones to advance select pillars of our food system vision in the short term.
1. Develop food system planning resources and programming, in collaboration with the Canadian Institute of Planners. This will be accomplished by working across local, and national scales to assess the skill and knowledge of planners, examine planning tools and environments, and test food system planning processes at the bioregional scale. This work will yield critical information to advance comprehensive food systems policy and planning, and support practitioners in developing the skills and knowledge necessary to put it into action.
2. Pilot a province-wide regenerative agriculture extension program in collaboration with the BC Ministry of Agriculture and the Certified Organic Associations of BC. This will require a needs assessment across the sector, and identification of existing resources and potential barriers to program development and operation. This work will significantly advance farmer training and support for organic and regenerative agriculture in BC.
3. Establish farm demonstration sites at the Alaksen National Wildlife Reserve. Providing working examples of how farm operations can transition from conventional to regenerative practices will support advancement of regenerative agriculture in the bioregion. This work also illustrates how academic, government and private businesses can work collaboratively to promote regenerative agriculture and economic viability of farms.
The ISFS is well positioned to reach these milestones and make significant strides within the next three years. Considerable work has been done to develop the necessary partnerships and secure resources. Relationships with key partners have long been cultivated and are based on a number of existing successful collaborations and ongoing mutual support.
10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?
During the next 10 years, the ISFS will pursue the following milestones to support the 5 forces of change toward our bioregional food system vision.
1. There is an increase in thriving bioregional food businesses in SWBC: The ISFS has cultivated the connections and performed applied research to support regionally-focused food businesses such as retail coops, processing facilities, and regional distribution hubs.
2. Support Indigenous communities in their chosen trajectories for food system transformations: This may include the collaborative development of community farms, nutrition programs, or co-operative food businesses, as determined by Indigenous communities.
3. Bioregional food systems is a nascent framework for policy development: Ongoing applied research, dissemination, and programming has advanced bioregional food systems across BC. The concept is recognized, and practiced across government jurisdictions as well as among industry and other stakeholders.
4. Farmland protection measures in SWBC have been strengthened, and area of farmland actively used for food production has increased since 2020: ISFS will continue to generate data related to agricultural land use policy and farmland prices. This work has informed policy discussions around the value and contribution of food and farming to community well-being.
5. Novel regenerative agriculture methods have been developed, tested and adopted in SWBC: The ISFS has completed applied research to support the farmers in a successful and just transition to regenerative agriculture in SWBC. There are precedents of producer-led initiatives with support from both government and research communities.
6. Regenerative agricultural training programs are the preferred choice for those choosing a career in agriculture: Regenerative farming is recognized as the farming practice of the future, and the majority of new entrants are choosing programs that teach regenerative production systems, such as ISFS Farm Schools.
If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?
We will continue our precedent-setting work bringing to light the transformative potentials of place-based food systems. This will be accomplished through an ongoing commitment to applied research, extension, and broad engagement. We will strive to support the emergence of a bioregional food system in Southwest BC as a part of a global network of mutualistic, bioregional food systems.
We will leverage this award to secure additional resources, to expand our research and outreach capacity to:
1. Work with planners, policy makers and other SWBC bioregion actors to plan for the development of a SWBC bioregional food system based on our work and vision. This can include planning workshops, design charrettes, policy assessments and determining strategic actions.
2. Collaborate with the UNESCO Chair in Food, Biodiversity and Sustainability, Wilfred Laurier University, to disseminate our bioregional food system concept, information and planning materials, through the Chair’s global network of ‘flagship’ applied food system research centres.
3. Continue to support the work of Indigenous communities, within the SWBC bioregion in actualizing their food sovereignty goals.
4. Conduct additional bioregional food system studies to perfect our tools and methodologies. We have already secured substantial community support for this work in the Kootenay and Vancouver Island bioregions.
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 be grateful if the Rockefeller Foundation were willing to share our vison widely. We would like to convey broadly that, while we believe that our concept is powerful and our work compelling, they do not constitute a silver bullet solution. They are ideas and resources for all to build upon. Food system transformation will require a critical mass to see the potentials, and feel empowered to act. Therefore, we hope that many derive motivation and direction from our vision, as we do from theirs. We are all in this together. We offer our ideas and work in the spirit of sharing, reciprocity and nurturing people and community- concepts central to our food system vision.
Specifically, we would like to convey:
- A way of farming and food provisioning distinctly different from the global-industrial model, that nurtures people and Mother Earth, is not a fantastical notion but entirely possible and scalable.
- Bioregional food systems, by design, link the human economy to the ecological capacities and characteristics of the places we live, a prerequisite to sustainability.
- Our vision work provides concepts, methods and tools for advancing sustainable place-based food systems, and that we stand ready, willing and able to share them and support their use and improvement.
- Empowering Indigenous (food) sovereignty and rights are fundamental to the path forward. This requires recognizing and dismantling colonial systems.
Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.
Please see attachment titled, "ISFS_Full Refined Vision_Bioregional Food System for Southwest_May28".