The captain secures the Fiat-sized foot ferry as it dances in the rain. Stepping on to Granville Island, I marvel at the jagged Vancouver, BC skyline: all steel, chrome and glass scraping the clouds. This multi-cultural city with a rocketing growth trajectory, sits in the top 50 of the world’s most expensive cities to live. Yet, right in the middle of this concrete jungle, a sustainable food movement is rustling.
Enter FarmFolk CityFolk. Founded in 1993, this non-profit recognized the miles growing between us and our food. Instead of reaching into the garden and dusting the soil off a lumpy carrot, we drive to the store to purchase a bunch of cookie-cutter carrots misted in the produce department. Their mission is to find ways to “cultivate a local and sustainable food system. The projects focus to provide “access to and protection of foodlands; support local food growers and producers; and engage communities in the celebration of local food.” Thriving without government funding, their financial and man-powered support flows from dedicated citizens who participate in everything from planting heritage seeds in their city gardens to seasoned farmers who mentor young agrarians.
Nick Scapilletti, Executive Director, shared his thoughts about sustainable food, changes in farming and their most celebrated event: Feast of the Fields.
What are you most excited about right now?
Feast of the Fields. This year will be our 60th event. You descend on a farm and as you walk through the gate, you get your linen napkin and wine glass. 4 chefs create a dish and are paired with vintners/ brewers. Imagine, you meet the chef who made the pizza, the chat with the farmer whose buffalo milk made the mozzarella and drink a local wine. You see the bees, the barn, the chicken coop. There’s displays, music. The food is delicious and local. This year, we have 3 events:
- Okanagan: Sunday, August 10th at Caldwell Heritage Farm
- Vancouver Island: Sunday August 27th at Ravenhill Herb Farm
- Vancouver Metro: Sunday Sept 10th at Krause Berry Farm & Estate Winery
We’re trying to rebuild a local and sustainable food system and so, we’re working with farm folk and city folk to do that. And we throw events like this, that are Events with a Mission. There’s all kinds of foodie events out there, but when you go to this it’s a charitable donation. You’re giving your money, you’re getting something for it and the money is going back out into the food system. So, you can feel good about eating and drinking and partying and knowing that you actually put your dollar to good use because it’s going back to the farmers and to the work that we’re doing.
How did you get started with FarmFolk, CityFolk:
I started working with nonprofits in conservation and sustainability as well as First Nations. When this job came up, I saw my love of food and sustainability, and thought: This is a pretty good match. Because with food there’s a huge impact on our carbon footprint whether it’s food waste or how far we source our food plus our ag practices. For me the sustainability is really attractive. Plus, the food is the job and it’s delicious and I get to hang out with chefs.
What have you seen as an important change in farming because of FarmFolk CityFolk?
The growing season is growing. We’re helping farmers to grow food longer by having greenhouses, by planting more veggies, by setting up Farmers’ Markets in the winter. Also, working with Whole Foods and other grocery stores to introduce them to local producers because they have a mission that they want to work to support them. Farmers grow food in a longer period. Usually before, they’d just grow it from June to Sept but right now they’re harvesting May through November.
If there’s one misconception about food and sustainability right now, what is it and what would you say?
There’s a misconception that we need GMO and large scale agriculture to feed the world, the starving population, places where there’s drought. That’s what people think and that’s the argument and that’s absolutely false. In February, the UN released a report – the truth is that small scale, sustainable ag can feed 90% of the people in the world – huge amount…. That’s what we’re trying support. And big business and big agriculture is trying to tell you a different story but that just applies to corn, soy bean. But the food that actually feeds us can come from small scale sustainable agriculture
What’s one thing that people can do differently to effect change:
Buy something farmer direct so that you learn more about where your food comes from. You build a relationship with a local farmer and you reduce your footprint with something that is local and you discover something delicious. And as soon as you do one thing like that it’s infectious and you’ll start. Start with a CSA or a Farmers’ Market and you’ll slowly start to change the way you eat.
Want to check out FarmFolk CityFolk in action? Tickets are now available for Feast of the Fields. Adults $95 | Children $15