Food Security: The Future of Food
By Brendan Chan, Alumnus
An article about a couple from East Vancouver and their garden was published in Georgia Straight. According to the couple, Jodi Peters and Jeffery Radke, the reason why they decided to rent was because they were allowed to grow their own food. However, this statement was not formalized as part of the contract. The couple has been renting since November 2009, and their garden has been running since then. Their extensive knowledge on food has transformed a normal green lawn into a flourishing Gaia’s Garden that consists of a vegetable garden, a greenhouse, rain barrels, and an aquaponics system. Through gardening, the couple has been able to not only sustain themselves, but also grow food for their neighbors and others in the community. However, on August 5, 2011, they were given instructions by their renter to remove the garden. This wouldn’t just affect the community; it would affect the couple’s ability to sustain them with nutritious food.
With issues such as peak food (food shortage) and peak oil, food security is at risk. This is especially the case for tenants like Jodi and Jeffery, who struggle as local organic food becomes increasingly expensive. Besides that, living in Vancouver, BC, is unbelievably costly and nutritious food is highly inaccessible. As a result, if one cannot start a home garden, the opportunity to get fresh nutritious food will diminish. In conjunction, soil and the environment play a major role in food production, but according to an article from CSA News Magazine, Sustainability: Learning the Lessons of Past Civilizations by Madeline Fisher, our current agricultural practices are eroding soils faster than they can recuperate. In fact, the article reports that soil erosion on farmland has caught up to the level of erosion on mountains. Soil degradation not only puts food at risk, but also endangers the lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and the atmosphere. With this environmental disaster looming, it is hard not to think that food security will become a major issue to tenants like Jodi and Jeffery as well as the global community if local home-based gardens aren’t accepted. Furthermore, if society keeps growing food the way it does – unethically – then today’s civilization will collapse just like the Mayan’s and Rwandan’s. So the Vancouver couple is not only taking action by practicing sustainable techniques, but they are also serving as a model for present and future farmers/gardeners. In a sense, it is heart-wrenching that a couple who practices sustainable and organic agriculture is being forced to remove their garden.
The story that talks about the couple’s misfortune is apparently favoring the tenants. The author, Matthew Burrows, focused most of the article on why removing the garden would be unjust and why the garden should stay instead of being left as unnecessary space for the renters. However, the issue stems from the contract which, according to Burrows, does not specifically state that a garden is not permitted. As a result, the renter has no real evidence to support his side of the argument other than the fact that he only allowed them to “maintain the garden” (Burrows) but not grow a garden. Plus, if he was against growing a garden, why did he let the couple grow food for 2 years without complaining? If rules regarding a garden weren’t in the contract, one can say that the renter is breaking Article 17 of the United Nations Human Rights Agreement, which states that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.” Having said that, one can argue that the place isn’t the tenant’s property; the real owner is the renter. Nonetheless, according to Article 3, every one of us “has the right to life, liberty and security of person”, and food plays a huge role in this. Food is not only essential to life, but the capability to grow one’s own food offers a person security in the face of soil degradation. In retrospect, the garden offers the renter food security as well. However, it appears that the renter has an ulterior motive for trying to get rid of the tenants, and that is the unfortunate part.