A photo of a young woman enjoying some summer reading.
A young woman enjoying some summer reading. Credit: Skylar Zilka / Unsplash Credit: Skylar Zilka / Unsplash

Summer is a good time to catch up on information that might have been set aside during the more hectic months.

Around this time of the summer, I begin scouting for enjoyable resources — some in print, some in audio — to fill out the rest of the season. Inspiring stories keep me going.

I have a few suggestions that you can begin accessing now this summer or save for later.

The first is a podcast series entitled: Who Will Feed Us. This nine-series podcast is produced by young farmers exploring the forces that shape Canadian agriculture and the solutions needed to build a more just and ecologically sustainable food system.

These half-hour podcasts have been created by young farmers who are either landless, renting, or farming on smaller parcels. Some of these farmers do not come from farm backgrounds, but have instead gravitated to farming for any number of reasons, including growing concern over food production issues, sustainability and livelihoods. This podcast series explores topics ranging from the corporatization of food, access to land, through to the climate crisis, seeds, decolonization and more.

The series also covers the historical struggle of Canadian family farmers to create more just systems of food production through cooperatives, supply management and orderly marketing.

The podcasts, sponsored by the National Farmers Foundation, advance to explaining more recent movements and issues related to, for example, food sovereignty. In one podcast a guest interviewee inspires us by explaining the six pillars of the food sovereignty movement.

Food sovereignty :

  • is food produced by and for people rather than for the profitability of agri-food corporations;
  • values food produced to providing livelihoods with economic dignity;
  • promotes localized food systems instead of creating dependency on fragile and lengthy global supply chains;
  • puts control locally in the hands of community members instead of having important decisions made in corporate board rooms;
  • builds knowledge and skills among farmers instead of creating dependency on purchased technologies and inputs;
  • works with nature instead of depleting and polluting our air, water, biodiversity and soils;
  • is a positive vision of power in the hands of people for the benefit of our communities, foods system, and a future world that is going to be a home for us with abundance and a foundation for vibrant cultures, and healthy people and ecosystems.

The “Who Will Feed Us” podcast also covers the issue of land access, the financialization of farm land, land grabbing, and land speculation more generally, whether it be by public pensions funds or corporate investors. Definitely worth a listen this summer whether you are tending your garden, or trying to justify laying on a beach somewhere. Each podcast is definitely an enjoyable learning opportunity.

This series of podcasts, has also lead to my reading another key publication. The producers of the podcast acknowledge the origins of the series title by noting the work of the ETC. Group. The  title of the podcast series is based on the ETC. Group publication of the same name — which debunks many of the myths around small-farm or peasant food production and industrial agriculture. Via well-researched statistical information, this 62-page document answers questions related to the global food web such as who uses the most water, who protects the forests, who produces most of the food we consume, who produces most food per hectare, who farms most sustainability, and more. The  third edition was published in 2017 and maintains its relevance. A summary notes that the publication “compares the industrial food system with peasant farming. Industrial farming gets all the attention (and most of the land). It accounts for more than 80 per cent of the fossil fuel emissions and uses over 70 per cent of the water supply used in agriculture, but it actually produces only about 30 per cent of the world’s food.”

Just a taste of yet another important summer read.

And if we are looking to history for inspiring stories of resilience and what is possible when governments and citizens spring into action to solve problems cooperatively, then Mobilize Food by Canadian Eleanor Boyle, is a new read that might entice. In the book the author asks: “Can whole populations make big changes in the ways they produce and consume food? Can we overhaul national food systems to make them ecological and climate-friendly, healthy, and predictably secure?”

Mobilize Food chronicles the British war effort and its campaign to meet the food needs of its population during World War II. The book details how growing and learning about how to grow food locally became a daily activity in war-time Britain and how a “culture of cooperation” made it possible. It then goes on to make links to the current climate crisis, food activism, and how if governments and citizens work together the possibilities are real.

Essentially, the book underscores that climate change is our war and that food mobilization is necessary to ensure not only sustainability, but also survival.

The book quotes many sources and authors. Of particular note is this quote:

“The climate emergency is our third word war,” writes Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner and former chief economist of the World Bank. “Our lives and civilization as we know it are at stake, just as they were in the Second World War.”

Author Eleanor Boyle also notes, in email correspondence for this column, that the British food campaign had imperfections not to be repeated.

“There are aspects of the British approach that we could emulate — and aspects that we would not want to. The ambitious food programs offer a lot to admire.  But they were also a messy human enterprise with lots of imperfections,” states Boyle. “As well, Britain was a colonizer with authority over numerous other peoples. But while ensuring some food security for its domestic citizens during war, it didn’t do the same for citizens in India, so did not help when there was a wartime famine in Bengal. To me, it’s a reminder that justice, diversity, and equality need to be fundamental in our remade food systems… the ‘food movement’ in Canada, and elsewhere, has attracted diverse activists to ensure indigenous food sovereignty, BIPOC food security, and to try to ensure that new food systems do not perpetuate colonial models. That includes models of excessive corporate control in some sectors of food.”

So there you have it —  lots to read and lots to listen too this summer.


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Lois Ross

Lois L. Ross has spent the past 30 years working in Communications for a variety of non-profit organizations in Canada, including the North-South Institute. Born into a farm family in southern Saskatchewan,...