Food Charter is a Positive Way to Link Consumers to Farmers

Food and farming wise, I like what’s going on in agriculturally rich Waterloo region, where people have rallied to create the region’s first food charter. It was accepted by the regional council’s community services committee there Monday.

The charter’s sponsor, the Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable, calls the five-point document “a statement of values and principles that are mutually accepted by food system stakeholders.”

They can back up that claim. Over the past several months, roundtable members have been taking the community’s pulse to see what those stakeholders want out of their regional food system.

The operative words, they concluded, are “healthy, just and sustainable.”

So that’s the foundation for the charter, which the roundtable says will serve as a reference for integrating community efforts towards a coordinated municipal food strategy.

In fact, round table co-chair Brendan Wylie-Toal said he hopes the endorsement guides the regional government’s decisions “on everything from farmland preservation, to waste management, to economic development.”

Waterloo region farmers should be dancing in the streets. Imagine, food production guiding development. Can it get much better than this?

The likelihood of farm-favourable municipal legislation is certainly enhanced if decisions affecting farming are based on food production, as is the recognition of agriculture’s leading role in our economy.

This is more than an attempt to join the local food parade. Waterloo region has a rich history of food production, with some of the country’s top farmers’ markets and local and ethnic food economies.

Waterloo region farmers should be dancing in the streets. Imagine, food production guiding development. Can it get much better than this?

To celebrate that culture, next Monday night, for the seventh year, an event called A Taste of Woolwich will be held at the Breslau Mennonite Church. Forty farmers will come together with what is expected to be a crowd of several hundred people, for three hours of food sampling, conversation and workshops, including one on the food charter.

A Taste of Woolwich is in support of Healthy Communities Month, which traditionally hasn’t meant much to farmers. But this year, the timing’s great. It offers up a chance for farmers to speak to consumers and move to a new level of dialogue.

Bravo, Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable. Other communities (Saskatoon, Kamloops and Medicine Hat, among them) have adopted food charters, or are adopting them now, too. Watch for this approach keep on growing, and events like this one to pop in your area. It’s a great way to engage with consumers.

 

Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts directs research communications and teaches at the University of Guelph, and is president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. You can find him on Twitter as @theurbancowboy

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