(From Terry talks, November 22, 2008)

How often do we connect the words “urban” and “agriculture” in our brains? The word “urban” conjures up a concrete jungle where skyscrapers dominate the grey sky. The word “agriculture” makes me see rows after rows and fields after fields of green crops and livestock dotting the landscape. These words seem to be an unlikely duo to be integrated and be able to produce surprising benefits. But they do. According to the International Development Research Centre, 15% of all food eaten in cities world-wide is grown by city dwellers. Urban agriculture actually provides many who spend more than 40% of their income on food a much needed safety net. But we should keep in mind that by 2030, 60% of the world’s total population will live in cities. The costs and challenges of importing so much food into cities to feed the burgeoning population will rise exponentially. What would happen to food security, food safety, and other concerns?

I will lead the audience through a brief story of the global food system and urban agriculture intertwined with my own discovery of the importance of food. Growing up as a normal urbanite, I never gave the question “how my food reaches my lunch box” any deep thought. What made me change? Finally, I will offer the inspiring stories of best practices and victories of urban agriculture around the world, based on research I am currently doing for the NGO International Centre for Sustainable Cities. Of course, we must not forget the incalculable value the UBC Farm, the only working farm in Vancouver, provides to us urbanites.

One of my dreams is to see most of the lawns of Vancouver turned into productive edible gardens that reconnect people to their food, enhances food security, and makes our city more sustainable.