Beyond local production, a response to social issues?
We left a month ago now… This is the beginning of an adventure that will occupy us for the next 2 years! It is with great emotion that we leave France on September 21, 2018 for Canada, with an idea in mind, to find truly sustainable solutions to face the challenges of the food for the near future. A quest that we will conduct on recumbent bike and camera in hand!
Between Vancouver and Portland, we are beginning to see the true potential of urban agriculture.
Very quickly, in our preliminary research, we realized that it was rather illusory to think that cities could be self-sufficient in food production. According to a study of the “Apur” in February 2017, in Paris it would be necessary to cultivate a surface representing 1.5 times the size of the capital to arrive to do it. Even by covering all the roofs of Paris, one would still be far from it.
But then why make a topic about urban agriculture if it can’t feed the cities?
We have discovered that this form of agriculture has a place in our cities and a huge role to play both socially and to sensitize an urban population disconnected from its food.
Vancouver and its community gardens
In Vancouver, the city has been pursuing a large-scale policy since the 2010 Olympics Games to develop shared gardens. There are now more than a hundred across the city. For example, if a real estate developer installs a shared garden on land awaiting construction, he is exempt from taxes on the land until construction. These temporary gardens thus remain several years in place while others are permanent and belong to the city (town hall, schools, parks, hospitals, etc.) They are also frequently found on private properties (in front of houses, on the grounds of private companies and former service stations, etc.). The subscription is annual to cultivate a private plot and remains very accessible (less than $ 50 depending on the size and location).
We went to meet a dozen people enjoying these gardens. Beyond allowing access to fresh vegetables and often organic, we quickly realized that these gardens had a vital role to play in providing a public space for meetings and exchanges between residents of the neighbourhood.
At St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver we met with Kai who is responsible for the shared garden that currently covers the entire roof of the hospital. From a neglected place, they have made a welcoming garden where patients come to get fresh air while the inhabitants of the neighbourhood garden.
Atsumi arrived in Canada 50 years ago. Thanks to this garden, she grows vegetables from Japan, her country of origin, in an organic and local way. Previously, she was forced to buy them in speciality stores that imported them. She also tells us that some patients now come to help her taking care of her plots.
Charged with the positive energy of Vancouver, we take our bikes back to Portland where the Zenger farm is waiting for us! A week of travel between sun and rain in the state of Washington.
Portland and its urban farms
“Keep Portland weird”. We hear about it for several days… We discover a city where original and eccentric is the norm. With our 2 recumbent bikes we cross through completely unnoticed!
But the city has been hit hard by the crisis. Housing prices have exploded as a result of a sharp rise in the population, mainly from California. Many people are now homeless or living below the poverty line. Access to a fresh and healthy diet is a challenge for many. It is in this context that we went to meet the urban farm Zenger.
It is in a disadvantaged neighbourhood where, as we saw on the day of shooting, it is almost impossible to find fresh produce. Zenger Farm raises awareness daily by hosting many classes in the area (primary and secondary). It is a space of freedom and reconnection with a nature often absent from the daily life of these children.
They have also put in place an ingenious system to offer cheaper fresh food to the poor. They sell a portion of their production at a high cost to the posh restaurants of Portland while the other part of the production is earmarked at reduced prices to the beneficiaries of their CSA. These latter can ask for a grant based on their income to have a basket of vegetables and fresh fruit every week…
The most surprising: Health Program or how to have fresh vegetables on prescriptions!
The doctors of the neighbourhood clinics make medical prescriptions to the neediest patients who have a health problem related to food and a lack of access to fresh food. They are often immigrants, homeless people or people living below the poverty line.
This system is entirely funded by donations from nearby clinics. The beneficiaries of this program pay $ 100 (about € 86) a year instead of $ 500, to have weekly fruits, vegetables, cereals and recipes as in an CSA in France. Every week the distribution takes place in front of the clinics. Uber also participates in the program by offering grocery shopping to distant and not conveyed people, to pick up their basket.
In a country where the rate of obesity particularly affects the poor, access to fresh products becomes a real measure of public health.
We are going to California to film our next subject, inspired with this experiences ! We discover the beauty of the Oregon coast but also the ubiquitous cold and humidity…