Local & Sustainable Food Systems Network 2nd annual meeting

More than 60 people converged on Montreal for the second annual meeting of the Local Sustainable Food Systems Network.  The event launched with a farm tour in Les Cèdres, on the banks of the St Lawrence River. Nineteen hardy souls braved the wind and frosty weather to listen to Daniel Brisebois of Ferme Tourne-Sol and Loïc Dewavrin of Ferme Longpres tell the stories of their respective farms. The innovative and communal models of each farm, combined with their commitment to ecological farming and regional food systems helped to frame and ground the next three days of meetings.



The remainder of the Network meeting was split between business training, networking and policy development. Civil society is engaging more and more in food value chains as we collectively work to rebuild our foodsheds - highlighting the need for strong business skills to effectively compete in the marketplace.  Business experts from across Canada and the USA provided a mix of seminars, small-group and one-on-one advice tailored to the needs of the participants.

We then shifted into a review and discussion of the work of Network members over the past year. In communities across Canada, significant progress has been made towards just, sustainable and healthy foodsheds. Participants in the meeting learned about the strategies, successes and tasks ahead from those working in the realms of municipal policy, food banks, provincial policy, seeds, and fisheries. This was followed by the core activity of the Network – discussion, information exchange and support of each other’s work to advance our individual and collective projects. These networking sessions, organized around themes, helped to plot the policy needs and priorities for the next year, providing direction to the Network for the tasks ahead.

More training wrapped up our annual meeting, tackling two of the largest constraints to effective food systems work – financing and policy. Nancy Neamtan from the Chantier de l’économie sociale, and Paul Lecomte from FIRA (Fonds d’Investissement pour la relève agricole) led a lively discussion about how to unlock financial capital to galvanize our food systems and enable more new farmers, fishers, and food entrepreneurs to get on their feet.

On the policy front, Member of Parliament Libby Davies and Rod MacRae from York University provided vital insight into influencing federal policy, offering advice on how to work with both elected officials and bureaucrats within the federal government.  And the meeting wrapped up with a session featuring Scott Sinclair, from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Sophia Murphy with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Scott and Sophia delved into the complexities, opportunities and challenges from international trade agreements that face those of us working on local food systems.

Network members and content experts brought in for the meeting provided an enormous amount of information and knowledge. The meeting was energizing, informative and helped to further strengthen the bonds amongst Network members and galvanize our individual and collective work. All of the key sessions were recorded and will be available for viewing on the Network page in the coming weeks.