In November 2008, the city of Edmonton held a public forum to discuss the capital region’s 30-year development plan. Unexpected by organizers, more than 550 people filled city hall to voice their opinions about plans to raze prime agriculture land. In attendance that night was Edmonton journalist Jennifer Cockrall-King, who saw in it the idea for a book. Four years later, she delivers Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution.
Cockrall-King opens with powerful statistics that raise questions about food security. “Cities nowadays have a mere three days’ worth of food at any given time to feed their populations,” writes Cockrall-King. “With our rapidly urbanizing population, how cities feed themselves is going to be the defining obsession of the current century. And urban food production and local distribution chains are now emerging as a major game-changing factor in how city dwellers live and eat.”
From there, readers follow the author on a journey to London, Paris, Toronto, Vancouver, Detroit, Havana and points in between to meet ordinary people involved in extraordinary food projects. In London’s King’s Cross neighbourhood, we meet Alex Smith, an urban vintner. Smith planted 20 vines of Rondo grapes in 2009 and celebrated his first harvest last year. In Cuba, Cockrall-King encounters co-op farmer Jorge Carmenate, who operates one of Cuba’s several hundred organopónicos (organic farms). Closer to home, readers get a glimpse of Calgary’s fruit orchard pilot project.
Food and the City is an inspiring standout in the recent crop of food manifesto books, and it will also appeal to intrepid travellers who don’t mind venturing off the well-eaten path.