Food Security, Food Sustainability, Local Food availability


I spent all of this past weekend in my office mapping (NOT napping), thinking and reading. I am finding much more focus now. The fact is that small-scale farmers can’t afford to live on the income they make from farming alone. With that kind of carrot on the stick, there aren’t going to be a lot of people motivated to farm. Fewer local farms = less local produce = higher prices = more imported food.  And there I am, back where I started, eyes tearing with frustration at having to buy Mexican tomatoes.

Fewer local farms = less local produce = higher prices = more imported food.

So my target is distribution, with my “customers” being small-scale local farmers as primary and “retailers” as secondary (retailers in quotes as these can be anyone from the farmers themselves to smaller grocery stores). The distribution element has come up over and over again as one of the three biggest barriers to accessibility of local food, the others being education (farmers and the public for different reasons) and business acumen.

I will facilitate a workshop with some of the wonderful people I have interviewed over the course of the last few months. They are experts. They know the problem space. I will also include design students whose wide-open thinking can help pull people who are too deep in the problem out of their comfort zone. I will invite a couple of people with food logistics expertise to help inform things from a larger scale…and well see what we can come up with! I plan to work with the many research and facilitation skills I have acquired through the Leading by Design Program and the goal will be to generate as many possible business models as possible.

I’m looking forward to this. I want to see small-scale mixed farming grow the thrive in and around Metro Vancouver. I’m hoping I can be part of the solution.

Food Security, Food Sustainability, Local Food availability

Backing Up the Truck

There are so many issues around making local produce production and supply work.

I’ve been frustrating myself looking at how to get local produce to consumers. Maybe I need to rethink this? My issue at the very start of this project was distribution and I think I’m coming full circle. First of all, what is local? That is a thesis question on its own, but I think working with a 100-mile circle around Vancouver is good start, and Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon already broke that ground. As a reminder, I’m not advocating going without oranges and pineapples if you want them,  but simply not buying food that has been grown thousands of miles away when we can grow it here. It hurts our economy and it hurts the small farmers who grow local food at significant personal cost. It puts that food in trucks which dump carbon into the atmosphere and the time it takes to get it here leeches nutritional value from the food.  ‘Nuff said about that.100 Mile RadiusI want to make local food more accessible and more affordable. So what does accessible mean? Is it convenient? Is it available close to home? And what about affordable? Compared to what? Imported tomatoes from Chile? Subsidized produce dumped here from thousands of miles away? Is that affordable? To a low income family — damned straight it is! On the hierarchy of needs, it’s eat first and worry about the world a little later.

ThinkingSeptember14OneAccessing local produce in North America is — tragically — a first world problem. But I don’t think that should make it a choice only for higher income families. So, how do I connect these local farmers with markets without adding costs to them?

What pre-existing distribution models can I borrow/piggy-back on to make this work? I’m working on that…


Food Security, Food Sustainability, Local Food availability

“…if you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta.”


Food deserts. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. South Central Los Angeles is one big food desert. What is a food desert? It’s a place where you have lower to lowest incomes, fast food outlets everywhere and a not a fresh fruit or vegetable in sight. Ron Finley lives in South Central. He is an artist and, obviously, a big idea guy. He started using city land to grow food and his story is awesome. Here is his TED talk from this past February.

I’m thinking now about how to make gardening more gangsta. We need more local produce. That is becoming clear in my research. We need more to increase supply to meet the growing demand, more to increase competition and keep prices realistic. A challenge I’ve discovered is to how to make it sustainable to be a farmer. If farmers can’t earn a decent living, we won’t have any farmers. How do we balance that decent living with food prices that average people can pay?

“Funny thing about sustainability is that it has to be sustainable.”

Urban farming is a huge piece of the puzzle. It grows food that is accessible to those who need it, often at no cost to them. It teaches youth about where food comes from and what it takes to make it happen. As Ron says, “if a kid grows kale, he eats kale”. I love what Ron is doing. Fresh Roots and Sole Food Street Farm are doing similar things in Vancouver.

Food security is what we call a “wicked problem”. It is like a hydra with whipping tentacles everywhere. It will take people like Ron Finley; Ilana Labow and Marc Shutzbank from Fresh Roots; and Michael Ableman and Seann J Dory from Sole Foods to contribute to slaying this beast. I hope to add my shovel to the battle.

Food Sustainability, Local Food availability

This is Water

I am dazzled by the folks that are making local produce more available in the Metro Vancouver region. But here are some interesting things I have learned this past week:

From a 19-year-old girl helping at a farm stand at Trout Lake Farmers Market this past Saturday, “Local produce would be more available and more affordable if people knew more about local food and why it’s important”. Hmmm. The education element — I hadn’t really factored that in to my possible toolkit, but it could be a huge driver for making it viable for farmers to grow locally.

From Allan Surette at Urban Edibles, a 2-acre shared farm on Steveston Highway in Richmond, “if we want more availability and lower costs for local produce, we need more local farms and farmers. More supply = lower costs.”

More education. More supply. Fabulous insights to kick off my face-to-face research. It reminds me that Susan Worthman, Director of the Leading by Design Fellows Program at California College of the Arts asked us to constantly be in the “beginner’s mind”.

It is important to see what is right in front of me. David Foster Wallace, in his commencement speech to Kenyon College in 2005, said,

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”

“This is water.”


I thought it might be helpful for you to meet me and hear what I’m doing. I should add that I have nothing in particular against importing food if it’s something we don’t grow here. But why do we: put trucks on the road; using fossil fuels we’re running out of; that are eroding the ozone layer and changing the climate on the planet, when we can grow those things right HERE?

I want collaboration with anyone who cares about local food and I invite you to contact me at

Local Food availability

The Mexican Tomatoes Made Me Do It


I was in a chain grocery store about 3 months ago…that would make it April, I guess. I wanted tomatoes. I went to the organic section first — always my first choice if it’s local and organic. No deal, they were from Mexico. That’s too many miles away, harvested too early, grown with I don’t know what kind of organic growing standards. So I went to the regular section, and those were also from Mexico. There they may have been sprayed and fertilized with things I wouldn’t want in my body, let alone my childrens’. And again, harvested too early, and shipped thousands of miles in a vehicle spewing carbon fuel byproducts.

I actually teared up, right there in the produce section.

I could practically throw a rock at the commercial greenhouses growing tomatoes right here in Richmond and yet they couldn’t get them that far in a truck. Those same greenhouses also grow cucumbers, peppers and lettuces and yet, in this store, I found nothing grown even in this province. I was instantly inspired to do something about it.

Enter California College of the Arts’ unique Leading by Design Fellows Program in San Francisco.

“The Leading by Design Fellows Program at California College of the Art (CCA) provides executives and senior professionals the insights, skills, and confidence to lead change that creates lasting, sustainable business and social value.”

I had already been looking for a Design Thinking program that focussed on innovation, and one I could attend with low residency. CCA’s program is unique in this regard. The only other school of its kind is Stanford’s, which would require me to abandon my 30-year-old business to attend, which I’m not willing to do.

So here I am. My goal is to find a way to scale up local produce availability so that local food is available to more people for less money. Seems logical, but I’m certain it will be a challenge. There are all kinds of reasons why it can’t be done. I’m looking for ways that it can. I ask for your follows, your feedback (positive or negative) as I work on this. The end of October this year is my deadline to make a proposal. After that, I hope to make it work in real life.

Thanks for reading!