The First Ever Canadian Summit on Climate Action in Food Systems

Climate Action was a hot topic worldwide over the past month, and especially so in the lead up to last week’s Canadian Federal Elections. But did you know that last week also marked the first-ever Canadian Summit for Climate Action in Food Systems in Kelowna, BC? 

We interviewed Brenda Tjaden, Founder and CEO of Sustainable Grain, who coordinated the first-ever Canadian Summit on Climate Action in Food Systems. Three years ago, Brenda “left conventional agriculture, spent some time looking at organic, and now [is] convinced that regenerative agriculture is the best possible future for the planet, our farmers, and the food system.” After reading The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer (Joel Salatin), Brenda became more interested in researching sustainability protocols and organic value chains while also drawing from a career as a professional grain marketing and policy analyst, educator and farm management expert. 

The Summit on Climate Action in Food Systems brought together a network of farmers, food companies, climate scientists, indigenous leaders and agronomy experts, in order to mobilize support for regenerative organic agriculture. The agenda explored subjects spanning ecology, economic opportunities, social and political issues in agriculture. Examples include a presentation on Regenerative Restaurants by Toronto Chef Carl Heinrich to Soils, Composting and Resiliency with Tannis and Kate Axten, Saskatchewan Farmers, or Climate Scientist Brian Smoliak’s presentation on Agriculture as Perpetrator, Victim and Hero.

Related Post: How to Shop Animal Friendly at Farmers Markets

What is Regenerative Agriculture? 

Regenerative agriculture is not the same as organic farming, since organics focus on adhering to a set of standards-driven by chemistry, whereas regenerative agriculture looks at how plants are growing through a lens of ecology and biology. Regenerative farming can, however, produce organic food- but the flip side is that not all organics you see at the store necessarily come from a regenerative farm.

A key difference between regenerative agriculture and conventional agriculture is the emphasis on soil health. In the Soil Story, non-profit Kiss the Ground explains that everything is made by carbon- and that is not a bad thing. However, “the way we grow our food, fibre and fuel either puts carbon up into the atmosphere or pulls it down into the ground.” Regenerative agriculture aims to draw carbon back into the soil instead of producing more of it, by helping nature to engage in its own natural processes by incorporating low technology methods like intercropping, planned grazing, cover crops, or applying a thin layer of compost to the soil. 

The Canadian Summit on Climate Action in Food Systems: What’s Next?

The Oct 21-22 Summit was during and after last week’s Federal Elections, and discussions in the closing remarks highlighted the need for federal policy changes. Propelled by the network of farmers, food companies and agro experts across Canada, Brenda knows that “we have representation from across the food system at the table, interested and ready to get busy in making this make sense for policymakers.” The movement of regenerative organic agriculture needs policy support in order to make it as attractive an option as possible for landowners to make the shift. 

For a conventional farmer, a shift towards regenerative farming could be as small as experimentation with 30 acres, and still be incredibly valuable: “Small things add up.” And for Brenda, the same principle applies to our own climate actions at home. Her lifestyle has gradually shifted into more local food sources by subscribing to a Community Supported Agriculture box, growing her own food, raising animals and going to the weekly Farmers Market. “One thing that’s really emerging is to grow your own food if you can; it sure influences your perspective on waste.” 

Related Post: Behaviour Matters: Becoming a Sustainability Influencer

an infographic explaining health soil

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