Stories from the Production Team
When I was a child I lived all over the world. Because of this privileged experience, flavours and traditions intermingle and connect to visceral memories. Dhal bat and chai in Nepalese tea houses. Grape crush and red licorice from the U.S. commissary. Exchanging lunches with my Japanese friend Atsuko. When my family was travelling in the 70s and early 80s, North American food was exotic around the world. Now, of course, you can find Walmart, supermarkets and really anything you desire in most countries. Through the course of my lifetime the food system has transformed to profoundly impact our ecological systems, daily habits and diets, behavior and cultural traditions.
This global experience led to strong passions for social justice and the environment. Engaging with the food system became a way to address all my interests – in global and local equity, in food security, in food waste, in agriculture and the environment, and in social movements and economic alternatives.
During my Masters, I met Deborah Barndt and began working with her on the Tomasita project, tracing the trail of a tomato from Mexican field to Canadian table. This project was an incredible education in global supply chain complexity and the true cost of food. Firsthand we saw the ecological damage caused by monoculture production, how labour was shaped by gender, race, and class; we witnessed the health impacts of these systems as women breast fed their babies while pesticides were being applied. Adjacent to the field, temporary communities made from cardboard and scrap materials housed migrant Indigenous workers.
This deepened my interest in alternatives to these industrialized systems and I began to explore how food systems could be ecologically and socially embedded. I became engaged with Toronto’s food movement. I co-founded Annex Organics and Urban Harvest, an urban agriculture business and organic and heritage seed company, and worked at FoodShare Toronto, a vibrant community food organization, often in partnership with organizations like AfriCan Food Basket, and Greenest City. Overtime I became fascinated by community gardens across Toronto and the incredible biodiversity and cultural diversity they reflected.1
I continued to explore the themes of biodiversity and cultural diversity in the context of post NAFTA Mexico through my research on maíze in Mexico. Corn tariffs had just been lifted and U.S. corn flooded Mexican markets. Mexico, as the centre of origin for corn, was a dynamic place to better understand social movements promoting sustainable, diverse agriculture, policy and practice. Through my connection to Mexico I had the great fortune to meet and develop long-standing relationships with Legacies collaborators Gustavo Esteva and Fulvio Giaonetto.
My interest in corn led to meeting Rick Hill and Chandra Maracle during the Guelph Organic Council, and I immediately resonated with their vision for Indigenous food sovereignty, Indigenous foodways, and the reclamation of Indigenous food systems with corn at their heart. I have been deeply inspired by how Haudenosaunee history and culture illuminates my understanding of food systems transformation. It has been a great pleasure to introduce collaborators from food movements in Mexico to collaborators from food movements in Canada through the Legacies project, deepening our collective understanding of the potential for ecological and regenerative food systems.
Over the past decade I have been involved in the leadership of a number of alliances and organizations working on food systems transformation. Sustain Ontario, the Alliance for Healthy Food and Farming, the Toronto Food Policy Council, Food Secure Canada, the People’s Food Institute, the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, all strive to bring people together to build understanding, influence, and ultimately affect change across food systems.
Through my current work with the Global Alliance for the Future of Food I advocate for a food system that is resilient, renewable, diverse, healthy, equitable, inclusive and interconnected. For the Global Alliance, these principles are a way to see the whole system in necessary and powerful new ways and to make choices about the future of our shared food systems so we avoid siloed approaches, unintended consequences, and limited, narrow, short-term solutions. Through this work with the Global Alliance I am able to relate the conversations between Legacies collaborators to a broader “intercultural” dialogue with food systems actors around the world. The Legacies conversations help me more deeply understand parallel efforts to decolonize food systems globally.