By Colleen Thorpe
Sustainable Food Systems
My Path to this topic...
Some twenty years ago, I learned about a community supported agriculture (CSA) initiative in Montreal. Local farms were supplying fresh organic vegetable each week during the summer and fall to citizens who would pay for the produce in advance. Working as a television journalist at the time, I decided to do a television story on the project. Not so long after, my home became a delivery point for the vegetable baskets and I was going back to school to do a masters in environmental studies. Eventually I went to work for Équiterre, the organization that spearheaded the Family Farmers Network and I became friends with all those farmers.
CSA farming is an almost perfect solution to our broken food system. The agricultural practices used by CSA farmers ensure that the soil stays healthy and stores carbon. No pesticides means more biodiversity on the farm and also healthier food for eaters who also learn to cook with what grows locally. The direct marketing model allows farmers to earn more because there are fewer intermediaries. However, that’s where the «almost» comes in. It’s still very hard to make a living as a CSA farmer, even as a regular farmer for that matter. The scaling up of CSA model as well as other sustainable food initiatives is difficult in an economic system that has transformed food into a commodity. Difficult, but not impossible. A food revolution is now underway.
Colleen's Reading List
Published in 2006, Michael Pollen’s seminal work sparked a national conversation on the industrial food system and is a must read for anyone interested in the subject.
Équiterre and Regeration Canada
This 2019 video production by Équiterre and Regeration Canada shows how we can produce food with a low-GHG impact, an essential shift given that the Canadian agricultural sector is one of those being most affected by climate change
This read answer the question: Can we feed a future population of 10 billion people a healthy diet within planetary boundaries? This report strongly advocates for a plant-based diet that is both healthy for the planet and healthy for the individual. The Canadian food guide proposes a similar diet. Both of the diets were published in 2019.
Addresses the major challenges to our current food system such as food loss and food waste, overconsumption of food, over-harvesting of wood, and deforestation. The report also outlines natural climate solutions, such as restoring ecosystems.
This website presents a national community of innovators in healthcare who influence the culture and practice of food in their organizations and communities through improved menus, more sustainable purchasing, and other initiatives for patient and resident well-being. Équiterre worked on one of these collaborative projects at the St-Justine children’s hospital.
This New York times article by Dann Barber explores the importance of seed security. Barber also wrote an excellent book about this subject and called the Third Plate. Another must read after The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Multidisciplinary artist Marc Séguin produced this provocative documentary to illustrate the barriers faced by young farmers engaging in sustainable farming projects.
About the Author
Colleen Thorpe has degrees in both Environmental Management and Journalism, and speaks multiple languages. In her early career, she lived in Berlin for several years, where she witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and worked as a production assistant for CBC. She has also worked as a television journalist for Global, CFCF and CBC. She then went on to specialize in corporate social responsibility and responsible consumption and joined Équiterre in 2018. She served as senior project manager, director of educational programs and became executive director in 2019.
Colleen has helped develop various sustainable development plans for businesses,
municipalities and institutions. She has also set up and coordinated many projects related to sustainable food systems. Often called upon by French- and English-language media, Colleen has extensive knowledge of the many issues related to environmental responsibility, as well as a flair for explaining them to encourage action.