It hardly seems likely that we should enjoy cheap tropical fruit by the pallet load in the dead of an Alberta winter. While it’s a reality, it’s not particularly sustainable. The modern industrial food system means that the kiwifruit might be as inexpensive as B.C .apples. And it also means that it’s cheaper and easier to buy New Zealand lamb than it is Alberta lamb. In her book Food and the City (Prometheus Books, 2012), Jennifer Cockrall-King gives readers a quick view into the industrialized food system, what it’s doing to our diets and how it’s turned parts of our cities into food deserts where it’s difficult to find inexpensive, fresh food.
Part of the solution, Cockrall-King writes, is to revitalize urban agriculture. She travels to nine cities in North America, Cuba and Europe, places that are rising to the challenge of growing food within the city limits. Toronto, Havana, Paris – each has its own approach to feeding its citizens. And it turns out that urban food farming is also a radical social act that can transform neighbourhoods, a means to grant a pesticide-free haven for bees, and offer human inhabitants a sample of what fresh food really tastes like. “Cities have resources like land, water, labour and a ready-made market for food production,” she writes. “It actually makes a lot of sense to shorten our food chain by growing food right in the cities where we ‘co-producers’ live.”