Growing a better future

Gardening in Taymouth. Photo by Amy Floyd.

Growing a Better Future:  Nashwaak Valley and Fredericton Area Community Food Security Project

This new project launched in January 2020. The team:

  • Project lead: Amy Floyd, UNB Senior Policy Analyst – Community Food Security
  • Graduate student researcher: Jessica Wall, Candidate, UNB Masters in Applied Health Research
  • Susan O’Donnell, RAVEN primary investigator

1 Project rationale

Rural champions have made considerable accomplishments for food security in New Brunswick in the past decade. Dedicated groups have developed school and community gardens, school lunch programs, wholesale food distribution opportunities, created cooperatives, trained mentors and farmers and put more fresh food into food bank hampers. We can be really proud of our work!

We still have a long way to go though. New Brunswick still only produces 8% of the fruits and vegetables we need. We are self-sufficient in only a handful of products: sea food, blueberries, potatoes, fish, and sometimes strawberries. By comparison, a few generations ago almost all the food we ate was produced in our province. Other factors continue to threaten our existing food security: climate change that brings extreme weather events and extended power outages, uncertainty with trading partners (U.S and China), food prices that increase faster than real wages, a declining population and an ageing demographic.

At the same time, New Brunswick has significant assets that can support more local food production and consumption: available farmland, active networks of local food producers and champions, and a rich and living history of farming held by hundreds of New Brunswickers in rural communities. Although the number of small-scale growers is increasing, we know that we can do better.

Agriculture has not always been a viable option for new entrants because of regulations and limited access to infrastructure, making it difficult for producers to create sustainable livelihoods for themselves. Farming is a tough job and consumers, retailers and whole communities need to support farmers. After all, everybody eats.

Our big question is how can we help rural communities in New Brunswick to grow enough food to feed themselves and the rest of New Brunswick? Many projects focus on getting food to low-income groups who are food insecure, but the hard reality is that we are ALL food insecure under our current structures of production and consumption.

We believe our question can be answered by four groups: farmers, consumers, retailers and community organizations. We want to know what are the barriers and opportunities for each of these groups and what solutions we could develop that will be simple, cost-effective and easily picked up by other rural communities anywhere in the province. Of course, all communities have different needs, but we think that we can develop a sound platform to start from.

There are of course existing ideas that can be considered, but the information we can gain from interviews and community conversations will be the real driver of our project.

2 Guiding ideology and practice

 We will:

  1. Operate from an Asset Based Community Development framework.
  2. Focus on supporting positive change at the local level, while keeping in mind actions that will support other communities at the provincial and regional levels.
  3. We will promote environmentally sound and regenerative agriculture.
  4. We will also give careful consideration to how we can accommodate the needs of rural residents.

 3 Getting started

Our first step is to meet with community food security groups we want to understand: 

  • What other work is planned locally for 2020? 
  • Where is there space for collaboration? 
  • Where are there existing/ potential resources?

We invited several groups working on community food security to a meeting in early January to discuss these and related questions.

Friend of RAVEN Brian Beaton wrote a story about our new project, published by our partner the NB Media Co-op. You can read the story here.

Stay tuned for updates! For more information or to get involved, contact the RAVEN project raven.unb@gmail.com or the project lead Amy Floyd amypfloyd@gmail.com