Almost 40 years ago, non-profit City Farmer created ‘Canada’s Office of Urban Agriculture’
By Micheal Levenston
City Farmer Society
Oct 23, 2016
City Farmer created its unofficial, non-profit ‘Office’ in 1978 and has run it for almost 40 years to promote the concept of producing food in the city. Over the years, some have referred to City Farmer’s executive director as Canada’s ‘Minister’ of Urban Agriculture. However, City Farmer has always been and remains a tiny NGO.
In the 1980’s, one gentleman flew from Germany to see us and arrived at our office door expecting to see a bustling, official government office. He was disappointed to see a spartan room, staffed by one scruffy employee.
In January of 2016, City Farmer sent Canada’s new federal cabinet ministers a short booklet outlining a proposal asking the Government to consider setting up a National Office of Urban Agriculture.
In September, 2016, US Senator Stabenow’s Urban Agriculture Act of 2016, a comprehensive urban agriculture bill, was introduced in the US Congress.
It has taken 40 years to move an idea of an Office of Urban Agriculture to centre stage. Without a doubt, Senator Stabenow’s bill will be copied around the world.
Excerpt form that Act:
“SEC. 286. OFFICE OF URBAN AGRICULTURE.
“(1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary shall establish in the Agricultural Marketing Service an Office of Urban Agriculture, which shall be headed by a Director appointed by the Secretary.
“(2) AUTHORITIES.—The Office of Urban Agriculture shall manage programs, coordinate agencies, and advise the Secretary on urban agriculture and urban food systems, including—
“(A) engaging in external relations with urban agriculture stakeholders;
“(B) facilitating interagency and cross-government program coordination;
“(C) creating resources that identify common State and municipal best practices for navigating local policies;
“(D) developing and implementing new policy recommendations;
“(E) identifying and working with agencies to update existing guidance for which agricultural programs may not have clear policies for urban production;
“(F) coordinating resources for technical assistance, training, and outreach; and
“(G) other activities as determined by the Secretary.