Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Letters from Policy Makers to City Farmer - 1980

From our beginning days, City Farmer has promoted Urban Agriculture to policy makers and educators. Many of them wrote to us expressing their views. We have chosen a few letters from 1980, almost twenty years ago, as examples.

Eugene F. Whelan
Minister of Agriculture (Canada)

You asked me in your recent letter for my views on urban agriculture; my immediate reaction is that I am "all for it".

If I have any regret about my present occupation it is that it does not allow me nearly as much time as I would like to spend "down on the farm". However, somewhat as a substitute is the delight I derive from seeing our urban populace cultivating their backyard plots and allotment gardens, and the harvest that comes from their efforts.

I wish you the best of success in promoting urban agriculture.

Walter Baker
Opposition House Leader

I think the premise of your publication is quite correct; most of us would be much better off growing vegetables than growing grass. It might not be too long before family gardens in the suburbs are as common as lowered thermostats.

Edward C. Lumley
Minister of State for Trade

From my own observation, I would say that the orientation of your organization is both timely and well directed. For example, here in Ottawa, a program of allotment gardens has been offered by the National Capital Commission (N.C.C.) for a number of years with great success. A number of municipalities throughout Canada, building on the N.C.C.'s experience, are now offering similar programs.

I agree that the benefits to be derived from home production of food are numerous. Certainly, if such production can offset food imports from California and elsewhere, so much the better.

Monique Begin
Minister of National Health and Welfare

Your reference to the benefits of urban farming such as individual food production and the educational and healthful aspects of raising your own crops has considerable merit. My Department shares this commitment to the development of improved lifestyle activities that will emphasize the responsibility of the individual to exercise greater control over personal well being and the environment.

Marc Lalonde
Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources Canada

The potential use of renewable energy sources by urban agriculture enthusiasts is well featured in the sample publications you sent me and I appreciate your thoughtfulness in bringing them to my attention.

Erik Nielsen
Deputy Opposition House Leader

The views you have expressed are certainly very sound considering the state of the economy today. I agree that measures will have to be taken to combat rising food costs and this would appear to be a solution to the problem.

Scott Cavalier, Special Assistant
On behalf of the Honourable Paul Cosgrove, Minister of Public Works

The production of homegrown produce is one popular way of assisting to balance your budget, as well as giving you much fresher produce. In our riding, which is one of the fastest growing areas in Canada, such an activity is very popular. In certain areas of our urban riding there are still producing farms, and during Mr. Cosgrove's term as Mayor, a program was instituted where part of the hydro right of way, was rented out to apartment dwellers. In Ottawa, the National Capital Commission rents out such plots to apartment dwellers, and finds that there is a waiting list to get these plots.

John Fraser
Minister Environment Canada

We are all distressed, I believe, to see prime agricultural land being lost to city development. Your novel way of tackling the problem is a very positive approach, one that can be immediately productive. Getting involved at the "grass roots" level is a sure way for people to develop a personal awareness.

David R. MacDonald, Executive Assistant
Minister of Labour

The Minister has always had great respect for individual resourcefulness, and will no doubt be most interested to know of the efforts that you are making to promote widespread involvement in homegrown produce. In so doing, you increase public awareness of several associated environmental issues, and show the contribution that we as individuals can make.

Pat Carney
Member of Parliament
Vancouver Centre

The points you make in your letter are valid, particularly your comment on increasing public awareness of the issue of farmland loss due to urban sprawl, which I believe to be a real problem, and, apart from economic issues, I can vouch for the therapeutic effects of gardening.

While city gardens are certainly the major area to focus on, I wonder also if there has been much research on indoor vegetable gardening for apartment and condominium dwellers. In areas of high density such as Vancouver's West End there would be a lot of scope for experiment and there should be plenty of interest in the results.

Ian Waddell
Member of Parliament
Vancouver Kingsway

In our urban society we have tended to forget that our roots are from the farm community, all of our families were once farmers. It was only during the industrial revolution that farming became a business rather than a way of life.

I have spoken with people who remember with pride their victory gardens. The success of the victory garden during the Second World War shows that as in urban society we are still able to grow at least some of our own food. The magic of growing one's own food can be seen in today's city farmer, as he proudly serves you vegetables from his own garden. Judging from the number of flower gardens that are being converted to vegetable gardens, the interest is still there to grow one's own food.

It was the New Democratic Party government in 1974 who initiated the allotment program, which enabled the city dweller without a garden to grow his own vegetables on a leased plot. This program has had a tremendous response and should be further expanded. Also I support Charles Barber's call for an office of urban agriculture to encourage city dwellers in raising their own food.

Until such an office is created, the public will be able to rely on papers such as the "City Farmer" to promote urban agriculture

Maurice Bossy
Member of Parliament

Before becoming a Member of Parliament, I owned and operated a cash-crop farm for many years, so I have a very personal interest in all forms of agriculture. It has always saddened me to discover how "city-dwellers" have lost their familiarity with the growing of food plants.

Jack Masters
Member of Parliament
Thunder Bay, Nipigon

Certainly, your thoughts are sound on the subject and I would think that there will be a larger move in that direction, not only for practical reasons, but because many residents, even in Thunder Bay, are gardening as a hobby for the satisfaction that such a hobby brings.

I also agree with you that substantial amounts of food are grown that way and much more can be. If it reduces our dependency on importing food items from other countries, then this is an added bonus to city farming.

A. Bomke, P.Ag. Assistant Professor
Department Of Soil Science
The University Of British Columbia

I am convinced that many city dwellers do not garden, simply because they lack experience and are afraid to try. Unlike previous generations most urban people have not been raised on farms and have had little chance to be involved in food production. Also many people think that gardening is expensive because they do not know that only a few basic tools and seeds are required to get started. An effective extension service is needed for urban gardeners. The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food provides some assistance but its limited resources are stretched thin just serving commercial farmers. I believe that the City Farmer helps to fulfill this vital need.

Historically, most of our cities have been built where the climate and the soils are quite suited to agriculture. This has in many cases reduced Canada's ability to produce horticultural crops on a commercial scale. As a result we import over four billion dollars worth of food, mostly fruit and vegetables. Urban food production could help to reduce the balance of payments deficit related to fruit and vegetables.

I feel that for many people there is a great psychological benefit in working in the garden and observing the seasonal changes in the soil and plants. This, I believe, is one concrete way in which the urban dweller can establish a contact and oneness with nature. Besides the personal benefits to the gardener, this will also help to forge a stronger bond with the people still involved in commercial agriculture.

Charles Barber
Member of the Legislative Assembly
Victoria, BC

Urban agriculture is a serious prospect. It offers significant challenge, and significant reward. It will, I expect, be a major instrument of public policy within the next two decades, as more traditional sources of food are diminished, and as population demands continue unchecked.

Commander Richard Aylard RN
The Private Secretary to H.R.H. The Prince of Wales
St. James's Palace, London

The Prince of Wales has asked me to thank you for your letter of 30th December, with which you enclosed a number of your recent publications and the poster.

His Royal Highness was most interested to learn of all your achievements and was grateful to you for taking the trouble to write.

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Revised Friday, May 14, 1999

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture