Thursday, 9 February 2012

Expanding the meaning of "local" food

On Monday night my class, Theories in Place-based Learning: Ecohumanist, Critical and Indigenous Lenses gathered in the garden at dusk to explore the remaining winter crops and discuss the multiple meanings of local food.  Some of our central questions (still unresolved) were:  How do we define local food within a diverse city such as Vancouver ?  Does "local" solely refer  to the land on which food is grown, or to the people who are growing it?  Is it possible to support local food while maintaining food traditions we may bring from distant places?

I am currently working with Gr. 4/5 children for my thesis- almost all of them come from  immigrant families.   As we begin to plant the school garden, I feel great discomfort in ignoring their food cultures and perpetuating Eurocentric plant choices.  There are many considerations for school gardens to be successful- plants need to be low maintenance, need to produce in the fall or the spring, need to be child-friendly, etc.  But rarely do we consider the culturally relevant plants that may be extremely suitable to school gardens.  The conversation of native, non-native, and invasive plants is complex and deeply rooted in assumptions.

Through our work in The Orchard Garden, one of our goals is to open up these conversations- to question our assumptions and bring culture and history into the dialogue.  Our partnership last summer with the Chinese Canadian Historical Society and our planting of an interpretive Chinese market garden was an initial effort.

Here is a related article on the multiple food systems that exist in Vancouver with a focus on the importance of Chinese-Canadian agriculture as also local:’s-other-local-food-system.

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