Calgary Eats! educates city about creating more sustainable food system

Inside Kensington’s Ant Hill building, there was a flurry of Calgarians wanting to eat, drink and learn more about organically and locally produced food on Saturday, Jan. 28. Approximately 1,600 people attended the six-hour long event, Calgary Eats!

Calgarians were eager to sample tempting treats like peppercorn goat cheese and Alberta beef jerky while watching balloons being transformed into animals by representatives from the Calgary Farmers’ Market. Attendees also appeared deeply engaged in the two panel discussions where local chefs, farmers and producers discussed topics such as food sustainability.

The event was organized by the Calgary Food Committee (CFC) in conjunction with the office of sustainability at the City of Calgary. The CFC states their vision is to create a sustainable and resilient food system for the Calgary region.

The Calgary Horticultural Society station grabbed the attention of many attendees wanting to learn how to grow vegetables in the winter season.
Photo by: Thomi Olson

The event was meant to educate Calgarians about our city’s food systems, which looks at issues such as health and safety, environmental impact, balancing food import and exports and energy efficiency. The mission was also to have an open forum for discussion and inquiry about eating, growing and producing locally grown food.

Carolyn Bowen, manager of the office of sustainability, said Calgary Eats! was the first major step towards developing the Food System Assessment and Action Plan, a report which the City of Calgary says will “examine the range of food issues, barriers and existing assets, and provide key baseline information identifying connections and gaps within the good system.” The hope is through this action plan, the city will be able to help farmers connect better with local businesses and in turn, help educate and encourage Calgarians to shop and eat locally. The main objective is sustainability.

“We’ve had a lot of great feedback and input, just in the six-hour event,” added Bowen. “There’s a real positive energy and conversations are happening all over. It’s been really, really great.”

Anita Oudshoorn is no stranger to farm living. Not only did she grow up on a farm, but she has also been farming for over 25 years. The friendly-faced mother and farmer now lives in Fort Macleod on Fairwinds Farm, which produces organic goat products such as yogurt, milk and a variety of cheeses.Fresh produce was in abundance for Calgarians to sample and buy at the Calgary Eats! event.
Photo by: Thomi Olson

Oudshoorn noted how important events like Calgary Eats! are for local farmers, “It gives us a connection to our consumers, they can ask questions directly to us farmers,” she said.

As well, she mentioned that although farming can occasionally be a struggle, there certainly seems to be a growing desire in Calgarians for local and fresh produce, especially from her farm.

Fairwinds Farm’s products can be found scattered all around Calgary in locations such as Sunnyside Market, Blush Lane Organic Market and Sunterra (Britannia and West).

The event also hosted interactive gardening and permaculture displays presented by Calgary Horticultural Society and Permaculture Calgary Guild. Many seemed to be drawn to the Calgary Horticultural Society, where one could learn how to grow vegetables such as peas and pumpkins in a simple plastic milk jug during the winter months.

Those wanting to engage in the conversation about Calgary’s food system are encouraged to visit yycfood.com

tolson@cjournal.ca