SFU hosts virtual seminar on food systems

The seminar discussed issues around racism within our food systems and sustainable agriculture

Seven farmers are working in the fields. The image is an aerial shot where the field spans a large distance.
Among Ione Smith’s main concerns is the erosion of BC’s top soil. PHOTO: Aboodi Vesakaran / Unsplash

By: Chloë Arneson, News Writer

On May 25, SFU hosted an online event to discuss the impact climate change has on food systems, farmland, and ecosystems. The session was hosted by Ione Smith, founder of Upland Agricultural Consulting, a cultural consulting company.

She explained the flooding that occurred in the Fraser Valley this past fall led to significant erosion in topsoil. “This has a huge impact because these soils take hundreds if not thousands of years to develop. So as much as I’m concerned about a drought or a wildfire, I’m really concerned about the loss of our topsoil.”

Smith had a plan to renew a sense of positivity and hope on the journey to protect our food systems, which she referred to as “the six R’s” — reconciliation, resilience, research, regeneration, redundancy, and radicalism.

“It’s really important that we address racism within our food systems and we address food sovereignty right off the bat. Without dealing with these issues we are not going to get to climate justice issues or food system justice issues,” said Smith.

Smith opened the conversation by explaining the challenges to the local food systems. “Most of us don’t only eat what’s coming out of our garden or from the local farms in our community. We are often eating products that are based and grown far around the world that have been processed and shipped to us,” she said. “In fact, what most of our food on a day to day basis is reliant on are things like cheap migrant labour, tons of processing and added sugars, salts and fats. And at the end of the day, unfortunately quite a lot of waste.

“As much as climate change is impacting our food system, our food system is also impacting climate change. It’s a give and take relationship,” she said.

The discussion highlighted despite the overwhelming issues presented by climate change and climate doom, there are a multitude of strategies that exist to preserve food systems and climate justice. Smith noted climate change is our new reality — we need to accept our circumstances and do what we can to deal with it. 

Smith explained, “The weather patterns particularly around rain and snow events are changing. We’re seeing a hugely volatile system. We’re seeing a lot more droughts and then a lot more flooding. Nothing is consistent anymore with regards to our precipitation. Not just in BC and not just in Canada, but worldwide.”

One of the projects her company worked towards was helping the Líl̓wat Nation create an agricultural business plan. “They are creating a social movement out of it where they are feeding the families within the community first and foremost. The primary objective is community wellness and they’re selling excess food at the Pemberton farmers market and all of those funds go back into the farm,” said Smith.

Smith and her team have no intentions of stopping there. “We’ve got close to 20 projects on the go right now,” Smith said. Their website states their goal is to work “collaboratively with land use professionals around the province to improve local food systems.”

You learn about Upland Agricultural Consulting and their upcoming projects on their website or follow their Instagram for more updates.