Sat, 4 July 2009
In February 2009, it was discovered that Canada's Public Safety Minister, Peter Van Loan, alongside the Correctional Service of Canada, had planned the closure of all six of the prison farms owned by the people of Canada and operated by CORCAN - the branch of the Correctional Service that operates rehabilitation programs that provide employment training to inmates. The farms are located in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.
The closure of the farms has resulted in a wave of opposition across the country from organizations, unions and individuals who see the farms as playing an important rehabilitative role, they further the growing interest across the country to support local agricultural infrastructure, they produce food for their own operations, and they hold the potential to become even greater models of economic, environmental and social sustainability.
Deconstructing Dinner was not granted an interview with Minister Van Loan, and judging by the questionable reasons provided for the prison farms closure, it's not surprising the Minister was not interested to explain and defend those reasons.
In early June 2009, Deconstructing Dinner's Jon Steinman visited Kingston, Ontario, home to two of the six farms set to close over the next two years. After viewing the perimeter of Kingston's Frontenac Institution, Jon is convinced that the farm is almost certainly the largest urban farm in Canada (see image below). He sat down across from the Kingston Penitentiary with Andrew McCann - a vocal opponent of the announced closures, to learn more about the situation and the efforts underway to stop the closures.
Andrew McCann - Urban Agriculture Kingston (Kingston, ON) - Andrew connects scholarship with community development through his work on global and local food systems. He is turning his masters thesis into a book which visions collaboration between the polarized worlds of "sustainable local food" and "agricultural biotechnology". Cultural and environmental history underpin his writing, as well as his paid work in Kingston's food system where he has been a CSA (Community Support Agriculture) market gardener, lab tech on the Canadian Potato Genome Project, and initiator of the National Farmers' Union's Food Down the Road: Toward a Sustainable Local Food System for Kingston and Countryside. He recently helped found the Kingston Urban Agriculture Action Committee which has been working with the City of Kingston to develop a progressive municipal policy on community gardens and urban farming. Andrew also instructs Sustainable and Local Food for all Canadians - an on-line distance education course offered by St. Lawrence College.
Dianne Dowling - Farmer Dowling Farm (Kingston, ON) - Dianne farms with her husband Peter on Howe Island - located in the entrance to the St. Lawrence River. The dairy farm is also home to a vegetable CSA operated by their daughter and her partner. Dianne is the Vice-President of the National Farmers Union of Ontario's Local 316, representing farmers in Frontenac and Lennox-Addington counties and the city of Kingston.