By Phil Reilly, CACOR member.
Hello to Ottawa mayoralty and regional councilor candidates,
I live near Kinburn and ask, that if you want my vote, that you improve food self-sufficiency programmes in Ottawa.
I am an individual who sees a future in which municipalities need to take on more responsibilities and partnerships with its citizens to provide local food production capabilities (yes, and increasingly tax its citizens for new community services). This is certainly different from the current “leave it to the big-agriculture” and “just-in-time delivery systems” which, in a catastrophic event, can fail to provide needed food for everyone.
My vision includes an Ottawa which grows 50% of our food locally and organically, by 2050.
Much is written about a not-too-distant future where, due to environmental and economic conditions, residents of large municipalities will need to be able to have more available food production land within its jurisdictional borders and have experienced people to pass on needed horticultural skills to next generations. With foresight and appropriate planning, it is possible to produce a great deal of food in the Ottawa bio-region (which include both sides of the river).
What prompts me to ask you to support my vision?
For a 25-year period (ending in 2009) my wife and I operated a home-based ornamental plant nursery (Reilly’s Country Gardens) on our rural property near Kinburn. My educational background (in plant science and ecology at Carleton University) resulted in a decade of contract work, in the 1990’s, for Federal Government departments with environmental sustainability focuses. Since closing our nursery, to enjoy retirement, we have ramped up vegetable and fruit production capabilities on our one-acre property. Our aim is to expand our produce growing, processing, and storage efforts (as much as possible, in our house’s cool and dark crawl space) to yield much of our family’s annual vegetable and fruit dietary needs and to share any excesses with our friends. To extend our food production capacity beyond nature’s usual six-month long growing season, we have both a small (240 square-foot) indoor growing room, using additional gro-light units, and a 450 square foot outdoor greenhouse. This allows us to grow and harvest many of our own vegetable-based foods from late in March through to early January.
Beyond (but associated with) our concerns for food security, we are also moving towards personal electrical security. The impact of electrical grid failure impacts everyone’s survival and security when disasters (e.g. floods, fires, droughts, tornadoes) disrupt or over-tax electrical grid functionality.
Seeing a future need to be prepared for extended periods of electrical grid failures and transportation-oriented fuel shortages, we have invested in a whole-house propane generator, which automatically activates within 20 seconds of grid shutdown, to protect our extensive freezer-stored foods and artificial light units in our indoor grow room, for periods of grid shutdown. This generator also will maintain power to our well water supplies for irrigation and household needs.
Additionally, regarding electrical supply security, nine years ago we installed a 10 kW solar panel system which can, at a future time, be quickly converted to a system which supplies our home and two electric vehicles with electricity to maintain contact with health and other community services. Our generated electricity is currently directed into the Ontario hydro grid. While we hope we never need to be called upon to provide emergency services to our local neighbours, we are some of the few who are positioned to act independent of the grid in times of grid shutdowns from a variety of causes. We have also divested ourselves from solely-powered fossil fuelled vehicles and replaced them with two electrically-powered vehicles (one all-electric and one hybrid electric) which will allow us continued future connectivity with essential urban health and community services.
In 1991, I ran as a candidate for municipal councilor in the former municipality of West Carleton (now part of Ottawa). This initiative resulted from having been an active member in a number of citizens’ groups galvanized around the issue of protection of environmentally-significant wetlands in the Ottawa area. This effort was politically and community-wise educational, but unsuccessful, but it gave me insight into the all-consuming time-demands of running for public office and the need for listening to constituents problems and wishes—big and small.
As background to my request for you to support our community’s food self-sufficiency, I provide two links (see the links at the end of this document) to local visions (and one from Thunder Bay) on community-driven food security efforts.
But first, here are a few disconcerting facts on food supplies for Ottawans:
- We eat 4 pounds of food a day. Most of it requires delivery from far away places where it is produced by large corporate farms: it doesn’t have to be only that way.
- Local food retailers carry only about 3 days of provisions. If trains, planes and trucks stop coming to Ottawa for any reason our citizens will be in a dire food scarcity position. Disruptive events include flooded production areas or closed roadways for any reason, traditional irrigation water supplies of distant corporate farms dry up due to aquifer depletions or rivers losing their headwater sources, and depleted/redirected fossil fuel supplies to other societal purposes such as always-possible wars.
- Our local farmers need assistance and incentives to carry on with their commitments to spend the long hours required to feed increasing regional populations. Many of our local small-scale food producers are organic farmers who produce highest quality and fresh produce.
- More local front and back yards, parks, and school/church grounds can include food production plots.
With the preceding, I ask of you to become involved in a ever-expanding action plan for local food security by growing 50% of our food in Ottawa by 2050. Your support and participation in this community initiative is needed!
My questions, guiding my vote for mayor and local councilor on October 22, 2018, are:
- Supporting the principles outlined by Ottawa’s Community Programming for Food Security, Food Education and Awareness and the participatory programmes of Just Food Ottawa. (Please visit the links provided to read the comprehensive backgrounds of each organization.)
- 1.1 Will you support an annual 20% funding increase for Just Food’s program (currently at $165K annually)?
1.2 Will you advocate for bringing the Just Food program into a city department, so the underpaid, grant writing, hard working people there can have employment benefits?
- Will you support the establishment of community gardens in every community that wants one?
- Will you direct city staff to encourage and assist local home composting and community garden-based composting programs?
- Will you advocate and support changes to urban development project requirements to require that all new projects include lands or rooftops for food production purposes of residents of the local community or project?
Thank you for your desire to serve the Ottawa community and I wish you good luck in achieving your election goal.
If you wish more context to my requests, please contact me.
(P.S. I encourage others to adapt this document inserting their own background and contact information.)