History for the Future of Food in Kingston, Ontario: Planting Seeds for Collaboration

photo: Professor Bop

Scroll this

Planting Seeds for Collaboration is a community-university research initiative between the Department of Geography (Queen’s University), the NFU New Farm Project, and the people, flora and fauna of the Kingston region. The project aims to facilitate the exchange of historical knowledge, with the intention of providing a deeper appreciation for local food systems – the sustenance and the meaningful community relationships that they have and can provide.

Kingston Ontario has a long history as a vibrant and diversified agricultural region. There has been a recent surge of interest within the city and its surrounding communities, expressed by those curious to explore and document food histories. Local food system advocacy has fueled numerous determined and highly successful community movements – from food justice organizations such as Loving Spoonful, to farmer education, training and support programs such as the NFU New Farm Project, and has transformed the region into a locus of political activism during the Save Our Prison Farms national campaign. Alongside local farm and food system supporters is a growing body of students and teachers dedicated to “action research”: a method of learning guided by philosophies of public engagement. They foster an attentive and compassionate approach to the mobilization of knowledge, with the hopes of making a difference in and for communities.

Most generally, the project will explore what happens at the intersection of action research and food and asks how historical-geographical knowledge might engage with and support the practical efforts of organizations working to rebuild the Kingston region’s capacity to feed itself – sustainably, equitably, and healthfully. Much of this enthusiasm has risen out of previously sponsored NiCHE projects, such as the Activism and the Archives project directed by Jamie Linton (Assistant Professor, Université Paul Valéry Montpellier). This project will continue to support creative practices that connect archival adventuring (meaning both the use ofpreviously compiled archives and the generation of new collections) with actions devoted to social and environmental change.

Short Documentary Series
A short video, Collective Recollections: Food Histories and Food Futures in the Kingston Region, has been compiled as a ‘teaser’, showcasing questions from community members asking what food history is, and how such historical knowledge can be useful and insightful. A series of shorts, exploring these questions further, will be produced over the course of 2012.

Food Down the Road
Faculty members teaching relevant undergraduate courses have been encouraged to incorporate popular publishing opportunities into course syllabi. The editors of Food Down the Road are welcoming student submissions for the upcoming volume of the community newspaper, articles that were written as part of Dr. Laura Cameron’s most recent undergraduate course at Queen’s University called Environments and Societies.

Workshop: Talking Foodsheds and Making History
A workshop (projected for the Fall of 2012) will provide an opportunity to bring together individuals interested in skill sharing, building effective producer/consumer relationships, and archival and contemporary activism as it relates to food. It will provide a forum for regional food system stakeholders to meet, share historical agrarian knowledge, and imagine how this history might inform current attempts to move toward a self-sustaining food system. The workshop will include presentations about available agrarian archives, current research about regional food systems, historical and contemporary growing methods, and hands-on instruction relating to food preservation and procurement.

A Digital Food History Forum
To encourage community-university relationships beyond the project’s timeline, an online forum will be developed and used as an ongoing ‘advertisement’ board for community and municipal calls-for-projects, students and teachers interested in conducting historical research alike. In addition, the website will host various resources: a food/agricultural history bibliography, links to relevant businesses and organizations within the Kingston region, as well as links directing users towards other municipalities and cities across Canada who take a similar stance towards the promotion of local and sustainable food systems.

NiCHE encourages comments and constructive discussion of our articles. We reserve the right to delete comments that fail to meet our guidelines including comments under aliases, or that contain spam, harassment, or attacks on an individual.