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Food and Agriculture Institute

Supply and Urban Agriculture

How can we transform urban land into farmland?

The conventional perspective on (and concern for) regional development is that agricultural land near an urban centre will eventually be considered as valuable residential and commercial real estate as the urban development expands outward. This perspective essentially positions farmland as potential residential or commercial space; however, FAI aims to invert this perspective and explore opportunities for transforming urban areas into agricultural space, increasing localization, and shortening supply chains. In collaboration with local government and non-governmental partners, FAI plans to conduct a mapping and modelling project, which examines food security benefits of different approaches to urban agriculture, connecting consumers with producers, indoor farming, infill, and raised-box gardens. This work will employ a broader sustainability perspective, and in addition to modelling food security outcomes, the research will look at other benefits of food assets, such as local employment, community spaces, permeable surfaces and stormwater management properties, etc. Research done toward this question will also create practical tools for planning, such as user-friendly modelling tools and visualizations that can be used in participatory planning and community engagement processes.

 


Projects

The Climate-Biodiversity-Health (CBH) Nexus and Integrated Food Systems Planning
This research aims to advance integrated community planning by developing an experimental framework consisting of three strategic areas critical to sustainable development: 1) climate action; 2) biodiversity conservation, and 3) community health, the climate-biodiversity-health (CBH) nexus. 

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Vulnerabilities and the future of food: Integrated food systems planning and resilience
In collaboration with the FVRD government, this research project will reflect upon the challenges and vulnerabilities that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed about local and regional food systems. This project is funded by SSHRC’s Partnership Engage Grants COVID-19 Special Initiative 2020-2021.

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Low-Tech Urban Agriculture
The purpose of this project was to create a digital handbook that provides innovative strategies to support urban agriculture with very little capital. The strategies are aimed at promoting agriculture in less-developed communities. This project was supported by the UFV work-study program.

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Cultivate Connect: Fraser Valley farmer to market supply
The Cultivate Connect project arose in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting concerns about regional food security in the Lower Mainland. This research is crucial, as the Fraser Valley is the largest agricultural producer in Canada; thus, the effects of COVID-19 on the local food system are extremely relevant to regional and national food security. This project piloted a survey to collect data from Fraser Valley farmers gauging and assessing critical challenges and gaps in local food system infrastructure with insights as to the impacts of COVID-19 on food resiliency. At the end of 2020, almost four dozen farmers producing food for human consumption in Abbotsford and Chilliwack responded to the Cultivate Connect survey. The report highlights selected findinds from the survey with recommendations pertainint to next steps and further research.

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Local food sourcing in the Central Fraser Valley
The Fraser Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in North America and is home to diverse farming operations. There are also several urban centres in the Valley which are both home to numerous restaurants and immediately surrounded by farms. While numerous restaurants in Vancouver list foods sourced from Fraser Valley farms on their menus, there is far less visible evidence of local sourcing in the restaurants of the Central Fraser Valley, and little is known about the extent to which the area restaurants are sourcing from local farms. This research project assessed the current landscape of sourcing relationships between local farms and local restaurants, to understand how local sourcing relationships are formed and maintained, and to identify relevant needs and capacities.


 

Sustaining and growing the Abbotsford Farm & Country Market
FAI worked with the Abbotsford Farm and Country Market to secure funding to study options for an expanded market. Funding was successfully secured from the Abbotsford Community Foundation, and team members consulted with the city and gathered case studies from other regions in order to prepare a report outlining various options for the market. We also made a presentation at the annual meeting of the market society, and a local food educator presented culinary demonstrations at the market. The report was submitted to the Abbotsford Farm & Country Market and the City of Abbotsford. 


Publications

Jost, F. Newell, R., & Dale, A. (2021) CoLabS: A collaborative space for transdisciplinary work in sustainable community development. Heliyon, 7(2), e05997. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e05997

O’Riordan, J., Karlsen, E., Sandford, B., Newman, L., Hotte, N., Martens, L., Strand, M., & McNamara, K. (2013). Climate change adaptation and Canada's crops and food. Burnaby, BC: Adaptation to Climate Change Team (ACT), Simon Fraser University, July 2013.

Powell, L., Lenore, N., & Kurrein, M. (2016). Agriculture’s Connection to Health: A summary of the evidence relevant to British Columbia. Vancouver, B.C.: Provincial Health Services Authority, Population and Public Health Program.

Newell, R., McCarthy, N., Picketts, I., Davis, F., Hovem, G., & Navarrete, S. (2021). Communicating complexity: Interactive model explorers and immersive visualizations as tools for local planning and community engagement. FACETS, 6(1), 287-316. doi: 10.1139/facets-2020-0045

Superle, M., & Bridgefoot, G. (2021). Cultivate Connect: Fraser Valley farmer to market supply research.‌ Abbotsford, BC: University of the Fraser Valley.

Schroeder, Z., Dyck, J., Moore, A., & Fehr, G. (2018). Low-tech urban agriculture handbook: A practitioner’s resource. Abbotsford, BC: University of the Fraser Valley.

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