Articles by author: Brock University

  • Calls for action for climate change and how to take initiative

    Using public transportation or riding your bike can help reduce the impacts of climate change. At the Google offices in San Fransisco, for example, bicycles are provided to employees to use as transportation. Photo: Sam Gauthier.


    As our world warms, extreme weather events are projected to increase in frequency and/or intensity, both here in Canada and around the world. At the same time, sea levels are rising, prolonged droughts are putting pressure on food crops, and many animal and plant species are being threatened with extinction.

    It’s hard to imagine what we, as individuals, can do to resolve a problem of this scale and severity. However, there are actually many ways that we can take initiative and help mitigate the impacts of climate change: by assessing and altering our behaviour and the way we react to certain situations; through adaptation and making adjustments, decision making and transformation related to climate change problems; and through mitigation, which reduces the severity of climate change impacts.

    A great place to start is by participating in conversations about climate. Solving climate change requires us to work together, and there are many schools, businesses, youth groups and other volunteer organizations that are already taking action and working towards change for the future.  By getting involved with some of these groups, you can engage in ongoing conversations about climate that will help broaden your knowledge on climate topics. This will then allow you to initiative and engage in future conversations about climate, sharing what you have learned with others.

    Another behavioural change is to focus on how you travel. Using public transportation or riding your bike can help reduce the impacts of climate change by reducing gasoline consumption and the emissions that gas-powered vehicles produce. Altering other activities, including around your home, can also help you adapt to climate change by using energy more wisely, which in turn helps to reduce the impacts of climate change. These strategies include mitigating the effects of climate change and greenhouse gases (GHG’s) by installing solar panels or “wrapping” windows to make them more energy efficient.

    Taking initiative and making changes is both good for the environment and helps to ensure a safe and cost-effective home. To adapt properly, it is important to do some research about how climate change is most directly impacting your region, such as how the temperature is changing and the specific precipitation and windstorm events. A great website to see projected changes in our climate is climatedata.ca. We will be talking about this website in next week’s blog post.

    Climate change presents challenges for everyone and in order to reduce these risks we must adapt. Change begins with us, and there are many opportunities for individuals to adapt to these risks right in our own homes. In our upcoming blogs posts, we will discuss specific adaptation such as naturalizing your yard so it absorbs more water, retrofitting your home to better handle floods and using stronger, hail-resistant building materials.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt and increase resilience to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith Caspell, Bradley May, Sam Gauthier & Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • Drought stress in vineyards

    Mid-summer drought conditions in a local Niagara vineyard can present problems not only with the vines, but also with cover crop establishment below the vines (photo: Heather VanVolkenburg).


    Nowadays, we have to face the reality of climate change. In the Niagara Region, heat waves and extended dry periods are projected to become more frequent during the growing season (July to August). Like almost all agricultural activities, viticulture (grape growing) is highly dependent on climatic conditions, meaning that such changes are increasingly making vineyard management more challenging. Drought conditions can ultimately lead to economic losses due to decreases in production and/or wine quality, for example, and understanding how vineyard managers have learned to adapt to extreme periods of drought will help to support a more sustainable system overall.

    Droughts are defined as a combination of both high temperatures and a lack of water. Extended periods of drought affect the vineyard in many ways. First, it can negatively affect the grapes’ yield by inhibiting the amount of plant photosynthesis, leading to reduced berry development if the decrease occurs early in the growing season. In addition, heat waves can drastically decrease the number of berries and clusters formed. Extended temperatures above 30°C may also result in pauses in the vine’s ability to acquire nutrients from the soil. If this happens, wine produced from those grapes may end up with high alcohol and pH levels that leave them unbalanced or “flabby.” This results in an increased risk of spoilage as well as wines with poor colour and aroma profiles. Extended dry periods may also result in changes to the soil structure — making the soil hard and clumpy, especially in clay soils ­— thus becoming more difficult to manage. Dry soil is also more prone to wind erosion due to its dusty texture.

    One of the less obvious challenges linked to drought stress is that stressed grapevines tend to attract more grape pest species. A stressed plant will have a weakened immune system, making it incapable of properly defending itself against pest attacks. Spider mites are one such species that may increase in abundance during dry periods, potentially inflicting further damage to the already stressed vines. How moisture, or lack thereof, in the vineyard is managed matters, and it is crucial for growers to understand the balance between not having enough and having too much.

    To continue the production of high-quality wines at economically accepted yields in a dryer and warmer climate, growers need to apply adaptive strategies. The choice of vine cultivars, rootstocks and adequate training systems are crucial for drought adaptation. In addition, combining other management techniques such as cover cropping and irrigation can help vineyards adapt to extreme drought conditions. Understanding how different drought management techniques work together is one of the key elements in our research and our work is to help farmers choose the best combination of management techniques that will optimize the sustainability of production at the local scale.

    This blog will be ongoing throughout the duration of the project with bi-weekly updates provided by Liette Vasseur, Heather VanVolkenburg, Kasia Zgurzynski, Habib Ben Kalifa, and Diana Tosato (see research team). We will be providing research activity updates as well as informative pieces that delve into agricultural concepts and important global issues as they relate to agricultural sustainability and climate change. Stay tuned for regular updates!

     

    Categories: Organic Science Cluster 3 Blog

  • Understanding irrigation techniques in vineyards

    Drip-irrigation being applied to a Niagara vineyard in late summer (photo: Kasia Zgurzynski).


    Water is essential in viticulture. How much water is made available to the vines is extremely important as it directly affects both yield and fruit quality. While rainfall is the least labour intensive and costly method of obtaining water, changes in climatic patterns can make dependence on rainfall alone a challenge. In years of prolonged drought and heat waves, water is often at a deficit, meaning that vines may not get enough water to grow properly or even to survive, depending on when this happens during the growing season. Irrigation is a solution to mitigate water stress in the vineyard.

    Irrigation is a technique by which a controlled amount of water is applied to plants. The main goal of irrigation in grape production is to apply the required quantity of water throughout the vineyard, at the correct time, so that vines do not suffer from water stress. There are several methods that can be used in irrigation, and the method chosen depends on vineyard needs such as the size of the field, topography, type of vine, etc. The three main irrigation types used in vineyards are surface irrigation, sprinkler irrigation and micro-irrigation.

    Surface irrigation, also called flood irrigation, is the oldest irrigation method that was predominately used by farmers in the past. This technique includes flooding the field so that the water moves across the surface of the vineyard and infiltrates the soil. This method is less expensive than other irrigation systems as the equipment needed is minimal and it relies on gravity for water infiltration. However, it is difficult to control uniformity in the amount of water dispersed across the field using this method. This may potentially lead to over-watered vines as well as a high amount of water being wasted due to evaporation and runoff.

    In the sprinkler irrigation technique, water from pipes that are, usually, buried underground is distributed through high-pressure sprinklers attached to pipes in various sections of the vineyard. This method is often seen in our local surroundings in the Niagara region, since it is also used to irrigate places such as gardens, parks, and football fields. This technique is more expensive than surface irrigation, but it presents a dual benefit as the equipment can also be used to reduce vine damage from frost in spring and fall. However, it is still not the best method for delivering a precise amount of water to each vine. Furthermore, even though it is better than flood irrigation in controlling waste, there is still water lost due to evaporation using this method, since the water is sprayed upwards and through the air before reaching the soil.

    Micro-irrigation, also called drip irrigation, is a method where water is distributed through distribution lines in a small, pre-determined amount to each plant in a field. Because water is delivered in a small amount and directly to each vine, evaporation and runoff are minimized. This method is the most water efficient, but it is also the most expensive. It requires the installation of a distribution system composed of a network of pipes, distribution lines, and pressure regulators. A water filtration system is also needed to prevent debris from clogging the distribution lines.

    The key to successful implementation of vineyard irrigation is to provide just enough water for the vine. In regions with low rainfall, for example, irrigation is necessary during the summer, since the vines need water most during the early stages of the growing season and during the dry seasons. After fruiting starts, irrigation must be minimized as vines need to go through a period of water stress to develop smaller grapes (thus, increasing the skin to juice ratio). However, if the water stress period is too extreme, some irrigation may still be needed. The goal is to achieve an equilibrium: neither too much water nor severe and prolonged drought. Therefore, vineyard managers need to consider how irrigation affects, and is in turn affected, by other management components applied to the system.

    In the Organic Science Cluster 3 project here at Brock University, we aim to explore sustainable management approaches to help grape growers adapt to climate change. Using organic vineyards as study locations, we are testing different combinations of three important vineyard management components: T– irrigation, cover cropping, and rootstock performance. Ultimately, our results will help us to understand how different options may support production despite the challenges presented by climate change.

    This blog will be ongoing throughout the duration of the project with bi-weekly updates provided by Liette Vasseur, Heather VanVolkenburg, Kasia Zgurzynski, Habib Ben Kalifa, and Diana Tosato (see research team). We will be providing research activity updates as well as informative pieces that delve into agricultural concepts and important global issues as they relate to agricultural sustainability and climate change. Stay tuned for regular updates!

    Categories: Organic Science Cluster 3 Blog

  • New publication: New pathways for teaching and learning: the posthumanist approach

    How can we engage all teachers and learners in thinking, feeling and being responsible for ourselves, one another, and the planet? In the new paper, New pathways for teaching and learning: the posthumanist approach, written by  Fiona Blaikie, Christine Daigle and Liette Vasseur, the authors explore embracing a posthumanist pedagogy and returning to holistic, ancestral and Indigenous ways of knowing.

    From the paper’s introduction:

    “How does one “posthuman” teach another? Applying a posthumanist approach to education involves rethinking pedagogy, knowledge production and dissemination. If there is a need to understand the world differently, we must “defamiliarize [our] mental habits” (Braidotti 2019, 77) by moving away from a humanist worldview. This worldview has not only shaped our thoughts, but also our institutions. Universities and education systems are structured around binaried teacher-learner relationships, as well as seeing disciplines and school subjects as discrete entitites with their own objects and methods of study and practices. What changes must we bring about so that we can imagine and understand the world and ourselves in new ways? A posthuman approach can change the way we value ourselves, other species, the planet, and beyond. It requires thinking about the system as a whole instead of each agent as a perfect independent entity; it requires valuing all agents and their relationality.”

    The paper was prepared for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and can be found on its website. 
    You can also download the paper here .

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • Let’s Adapt to Climate Change — Adaptation Series Post 4 – Policy-based Adaptation (PbA)

    The role of the government is crucial for encouraging adaptation to climate change.


    Governments and the policies they draft have an important role to play in supporting the efforts that all sectors of society make to adapt to climate change.

    Policy-based Adaptation (PbA) involves the integration of climate change adaptation into various local, regional, provincial, and national policies for sustainable investments, actions and development. PbA becomes very important in the context of the agricultural sector because addressing climatic variability through policies can impact both food production and food security.

    Governments play a crucial role in encouraging adaptation to climate change through policies and incentives. They also offer services such as cost-benefit analysis of adaptation options, information and database management for climate data, extension activities, the undertaking of risk and vulnerability assessments and the provision of technical and financial support to monitor and contain pests, weeds and invasive species. Integration of the top-down and bottom-up policy approaches to climate change adaptation have been found to be the most effective for the agricultural sector.

    Local participation is key to the long-term success of any policy implementation, but there is also the need to consider all options and approaches in order to adapt to climate change. Adaption is context-specific and localized to fit to each unique situation, and doing so will ensure the mitigation of the negative impacts of climate change to the agricultural sector.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier & Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • Let’s Adapt to Climate Change — Adaptation Series Post 3: Community-based Adaptation (CbA)

    Locally relevant research and partnerships with academic institutions, MEOPAR Focus Group Meetings involving a co-construction approach, and partnerships with organizations like the ALUS Foundation are relevant CbA strategies to cope with climate change.


    Over the last few weeks, the MEOPAR team has focused on ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) and technology-based adaptation (TbA) options for Niagara in its blog posts. Since the role of communities is crucial in enabling action, today’s blog post will shed some light on some of the various community-based adaptation (CbA) strategies that have been found to be promising for Niagara’s agricultural sector.

    CbA is an adaptation approach that involves the participation of everyone in a community in all the steps of the adaptation process, from planning to implementation, with or without the help of external resources (such as researchers). It is usually referred to as a co-construction approach. CbA is based on social learning, capacity building and public engagement to define solutions that are locally appropriate and may later be integrated into various policy structures.

    CbA strategies that use the co-construction approach have been applied to cereal (wheat, barley, oats and rye), oilseed (soybean, sunflower and canola) and vegetable (cabbage, tomato, potato, onions, peas) production in Canada. Rather than policy development, a much better coping capacity to extreme events can be developed with potentially greater social acceptability and implementation by applying a bottom-up co-construction approach. The MEOPAR-Town of Lincoln Climate Change Project is, in fact, based on this approach. This participatory approach can facilitate the inclusion of Niagara farmers in adaptation planning (especially to recurring droughts and floods).

    CbA strategies can also involve the establishment of local farmers’ organizations that develop strategies to cope with climate change. These organizations can also play a critical role in the uptake and implementation of the latest technological innovations in agriculture, such as irrigation, tillage and storage.

    Other larger organizations can also help to find solutions on a local level. For example, the ALUS (Alternative Land Use Services) Foundation has been actively involved in the domain of conservation agriculture (a type of EbA) in six Canadian provinces. The Foundation aims to protect ecological services that are important in farmlands and combines CbA with EbA, in order to help farmers become more resilient.

    Institutions like Brock University, AAFC Vineland and Niagara College can also play a considerable role through extension and research collaborative activities. Research on improved climate-resilient crop varieties, multi-cropping, technological advancements and market diversification for produce, for example, has been suggested as a means for Niagara’s agricultural sector to adapt to climate change. Researchers can also help in taking a co-construction approach.

    In summary, CbA strategies are relevant to Niagara’s agricultural sector and, combined with the other adaptation approaches, can help the sector better adapt to the impacts of climate change.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt and increase resilience to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier & Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • Changes in Niagara garbage collection schedule: a great step towards a zero-waste future

    Waste management continues to be a major challenge across the globe, with improper waste disposal resulting in high levels of pollution. In order to tackle this global issue, it is important that communities, and in fact all residents, rethink their waste management strategies. In the Niagara Region, an October 2019 waste management services report analyzed the contents of the average Niagara resident’s weekly garbage disposal and found that compost and recycle programs were being underutilized by residents. Only 48 per cent of households were found to be using the Green Bin (compost) program and, on average, 64 per cent of what Niagara residents placed in the garbage could have been recycled or composted. That means that only 36 per cent of the typical curbside garbage in the region was actually landfill garbage: 50 per cent was found to be compostable organic material (such as food leftovers) and 14 per cent was recyclable material.

    In response, the Niagara Region has made improvements to its waste management collection with the goal of increasing resident use of green bins for organics composting and encouraging the proper recycling of plastic, glass and cardboard products. As of October 19, 2020, the collection schedule changed to bi-weekly garbage pick-up, with continued weekly pick-up of recycling (blue & grey bins) and organic compost waste (green bin). Residents are now able to put out two containers of garbage on their scheduled pick-up week, and purchase additional tags if needed. This means that residents can still put out the same amount of garbage, they just have to wait two weeks to do so. The region hopes this will encourage individuals to use their green bins properly and help work toward it’s goal of diverting 65 per cent of waste from landfills. This can only be achieved, however, if we all put in an effort to rethink how we deal with our waste management.

    This change in the collection schedule has many benefits for the region, the first extending the lifespan of the landfill site. It also helps fight climate change Reducing the amount of waste going to landfills also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases (methane) that are released into the atmosphere. Less waste in the landfills also helps prevent the leaching of harmful chemicals, from plastics and other chemicals, into the environment. Proper recycling can also help in the reduction of greenhouse house gases through a reduction in energy consumption. Using recycled materials to make new products reduces the need for new materials. In turn, this avoids the greenhouse gas emissions that would have result from creating those new materials. This relates back to the idea of a circular economy, where we use products, services and resources for as long as possible and then recover and regenerate them at the end of their service life.

    Reducing the frequency in garbage pick-up also results in a reduction of the number of garbage trucks on the road. This, in turn, also mean a reduction in harmful emissions contributing to climate change. As well as the environmental benefits, having fewer wate collection trucks on the road also benefits the community by reducing traffic and lowering the financial costs for expenses like fuel and vehicle maintenance. Garbage trucks and other heavy vehicles can also cause significant damage to roads over time (such as the creation of potholes), and having less trucks on the road could potentially lower road maintenance costs in the region, too.

    If you are concerned about this new schedule and and its impact on your household waste disposal, there are many ways that you can reduce the volume of your waste and work towards proper waste disposal. Rethinking how you shop is a great place to start; you can look for products that contain less waste or buy in bulk. Shifting your mindset to think more about your waste habits and educating yourself on transforming your current habits into more sustainable ones will also help to ease the transition. Stay tuned for future blog posts where we will be discussing more on proper waste management and how we can work on improving our waste habits. It is important to note that there will also be province-wide changes to the recycling system coming in a few years and that the MEOPAR team will also discuss those changes and their implications in future blog posts.

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • A few thoughts on permaculture

    An example of permaculture application at the household scale.


    Have you ever heard the term permaculture? If you do any gardening or have investigated methods of living more efficiently and sustainably, you might have heard about it (even if you aren’t entirely sure what it is).

    Permaculture is the combination of two words: perma (short for permanent) and culture (short for agriculture). It was coined by Australian researchers Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978 during the rise of the sustainable agriculture movement. While most commonly used in reference to food growing systems, permaculture has now evolved to apply to all aspects of our lives. Simply put, permaculture is a set of principles developed to help us meet our basic human needs by utilizing and imitating systems found in nature.

    As expressed in Holmgren’s 2002 book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, there are 12 design principles most commonly associated with permaculture. They are as follows: Observe and Interact; Catch and Store Energy; Obtain a Yield; Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback; Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services; Produce No Waste; Design From Patterns to Details; Integrate rather than Segregate; Use Small and Slow Solutions; Use and Value Diversity; Use Edges and Value the Marginal; Creatively Use and Respond to Change. Mark D. Hathaway also explores these concepts in his 2015 research article titled Agroecology and permaculture: addressing key ecological problems by rethinking and redesigning agricultural systems. 

    Permaculture gardening, specifically, takes a holistic approach to how plants, animals, and humans interact together to make each garden plot more sustainable. These gardens use natural forces to provide everything the garden needs to flourish while seeking to reduce the need for any external inputs, such as fertilizers or pesticides. It can be quite flexible to implement and can be done in rural or urban places, started on a balcony, in a backyard, or on a small farm.

    Permaculture is often promoted as an ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change or a strategy or action that employs the use of nature-based solution (looking to nature for tackling socio-environmental challenges). Just as an ecosystem is healthier when filled with multiple species, a diverse garden also tends to be more resilient to climatic variability. Companion planting (planting numerous mutually beneficial species of plants together) can also support greater yields, as well as having the capacity to reduce erosion and water runoff during storms.

    Permaculture attempts to ensure that humans and the natural environment can adapt to climate change. An example of this is utilizing permaculture gardening as a cost-effective way to promote food subsistence and security for individuals and communities. The permaculture and circular economy movements are also closely linked, as both strive to avoid the generation of waste by promoting recycling and the reusing of materials.

    Applying permaculture principles to gardening can help the garden itself to be more productive while also reducing the work needed to maintain it.  The micro-climate and fertile soil found in the Niagara Region also makes for an ideal location for utilizing permaculture principles to provide healthy and nutrient-rich food. Incorporating permaculture into your next garden project can help you enjoy a diverse range of foods, while also allowing you to do your part to combat climate change in the process.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock-Caspell, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier & Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca


     *Holmgren, D. (2002). Principles & pathways beyond sustainability. Holmgren Design Services, Hepburn.

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • OSCIII BLOG: The importance of supporting local consumption and research

    Locally sourced produce grown here in Ontario, May 2020 (Photo: Abby VanVolkenburg).


    Where does our food come from? If your answer was the local grocery store, think again! As we talked about in last week’s blog, much of the food found in grocery stores comes from somewhere other than Canada. This causes challenges such as heightened emissions, attributed to shipping, as well as food chain supply disruptions, especially in times of  uncertainty, such as during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, we need to consider supporting our local farmers to allow them, in turn, to support us. The relationship is reciprocal, with both parties standing to gain a great deal from one another’s support. Supporting local growers means supporting their livelihoods as well as our overall quality of life. There are also countless environmental benefits of supporting local.

    So how does one support local growers? At first the answer may seem obvious: We need to educate ourselves on where our food comes from and try  to buy locally sourced products whenever possible. Yet, there is so much more to it than that! Aside from selling what they produce, farmers are also faced with many uncertainties in terms of how they produce. Extreme weather events that result from climate change, such as temperature and wind fluctuations and more intense periods of heavy rain or prolonged dry periods, present challenges for farmers. In addition, they also face increasing pressure from pesticide/herbicide resistant organisms, depleted soil fertility, and dwindling (not to mention expensive) synthetic fertilizer options. Farmers need management options that utilize approaches to farming that are more sustainable.

    Sustainable farm management options already exist; many of which have been utilized in the past, before industrialized agriculture became a dominant figure on the landscape. From supporting beneficial organisms, to utilizing non-synthetic fertilizers and increasing cropland diversity, there is no shortage of alternate management options. What is missing, however, is guided research that investigates those different options, and combinations of options, to help farmers apply the best option to suit their own unique situations. Research is not only an important part of understanding farm management techniques, but also in policy making decisions, as well. Policy can either support or work against management choices that are connected to our food supply chain.

    In many ways, farmers are supported by policy and policy is created based on current research data. Anecdotal information is not enough to dictate or change policy (which often works against more sustainable farming practices). There is a need to support both our farmers  and local research efforts to ensure that solutions to today’s sustainable agriculture challenges, both environmental and social, are possible. The OSC3 here at Brock is one such research project that embraces farmers’ knowledge, sustainable practices and the investigation of novel crop management strategies for the future of Canadian food security.

    This blog will be ongoing throughout the duration of the project with bi-weekly updates provided by Liette Vasseur, Heather VanVolkenburg, Kasia Zgurzynski, Habib Ben Kalifa, and Diana Tosato (see research team). We will be providing research activity updates as well as informative pieces that delve into agricultural concepts and important global issues as they relate to agricultural sustainability and climate change. Stay tuned for regular updates!

    Categories: Organic Science Cluster 3 Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • OSCIII Blog: Farming—an essential service

    Spring soil amendment application in a Niagara vineyard, May 2018 (Photo: Heather VanVolkenburg).


    The term “essential service” is one that most of us have become acutely aware of in the past few months. An essential service refers to an occupation that a government or governing body deems to be necessary for preserving life, health and basic societal functioning. These services are determined to be needed during an emergency as well as when job action is taken in a labour dispute (such as during strikes). Such services must maintain operations during a crisis in order to ensure that society can still function during and after that crisis. Services deemed essential usually include hospitals and healthcare, law enforcement, firefighting, garbage collection, utilities (i.e. water and electricity), and food services connected to the food supply chain.

    Determining what qualifies as an essential food service can be complicated. From a consumer’s perspective, we are often only concerned with the availability of food in the grocery store. Some may also think of food services as the prepared salad on the shelf at your local grocery store or a meal purchased from a fast food joint. While these businesses are indeed essential, there is one essential food service that is perhaps the most important: farming. Farming forms the foundation of all food services, providing us with the food and ingredients necessary to survive from day to day. Without farmers, the grocery store where you bought your salad or the fast food joint that served you a hamburger would not exist.

    So, before you finish unpacking those groceries or sitting down with that take-out container, take a moment to thank the farmers and those directly connected to agriculture. Also remember that thinking of terms like “farm” or “grocery store” is far too simplistic to truly understand the nature of being essential. Think not only of the farms, but also the workers, fuel providers, truckers, packaging suppliers, grocery clerks, and countless other people that have been involved in the food supply chain along the way. Without these essential food services, and the many intricate pieces involved, we would be a pretty hungry lot!

    This blog section will be ongoing throughout the duration of the project with bi-weekly updates provided by Liette Vasseur, Heather VanVolkenburg, Kasia Zgurzynski, Habib Ben Kalifa, and Diana Tosato (see research team). We will be providing research activity updates as well as informative pieces that delve into agricultural concepts and important global issues as they relate to agricultural sustainability and climate change. Stay tuned for regular updates!

    Categories: Organic Science Cluster 3 Blog, Updates of the Chair