Farmer’s Podcast out of Rural Alberta Gives a Voice to Agricultural and Climate Issues.

It is hard to imagine Rural Routes to Climate Solutions (RRCS) without the podcast. With the podcast, we’ve taken conversations that would normally take place between agricultural producers over coffee and given them some structure, permanence, and a wider audience. Discussing land management and environmental stewardship issues is not new to agriculture, but how often are those conversations captured, especially in Alberta? How often can a producer revisit that conversation again and again? That is the beauty of the podcast: with its conversational tone and ‘talking from the front porch’ vibe, it acts as a storage house for those conversations on land management and stewardship. Unlike the coffee shop conversation though, the podcast is a resource that can be revisited at any time and shared with producers anywhere in the province (from the feedback we’ve received from listeners, our reach goes as far as the Maritimes).

The people doing the talking about land and environmental issues are distinctly different than the ones you’d have involved in a coffee shop conversation in rural Alberta. It is a question of access. We have featured some of Alberta’s rising stars in sustainable agriculture like Daniel Chappell and Jerremie Clyde of Little Loaves Farm in Sundre, and we have also been able to bring in heavy hitters like California-based writer, lawyer and rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman and Alberta Innovates economist Marian Weber. These ‘heavy hitters’—experts from academia or industry—are individuals that producers don’t have easy access to, but are individuals with knowledge that helps producers land management and environmental stewardship practices. An one-hour podcast episode with a Niman or a Weber, hand crafted by us to highlight the parts of their presentations relevant to producers, gives producers access to these experts and their knowledge unlike anything you can find right now.

It is this lens, this highlighting the parts relevant to producers, that is one of the keys to our success. The overall Rural Routes to Climate Solutions project is led by the idea that farm solutions are climate solutions as well. In fact, at the end of every podcast episode our host reminds our listeners “what is good for farm is usually good for the climate.” Our approach with a contentious, and at times depressing, issue like climate change is to talk about all the good, useful, and practical outcomes of implementing climate solutions in agriculture. We are dealing with a community of ‘doers’ in agricultural producers. By giving them a tool and explaining how to use it via our podcast, it gives our episodes extra appeal. We hear it time and time again from producers that follow our project closely that they like the fact we are talking about what can be done and not dwelling on the problem alone.

Catch up on all the episodes of Rural Routes to Climate Solutions’ podcast here.

Bringing rural and urban people together for watershed health

By Oldman Watershed Council

Building a sense of community and belonging is vital to addressing the many pressing issues we currently face as a society – including urgent environmental challenges. Bringing people together to discuss tough issues and work collectively on complex, shared challenges is what we do best. Get in touch with your local watershed council today – there are 11 across Alberta.

With an investment from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation we set out to build relationships between rural agricultural producers and urban consumers. Public trust is at an all-time low and people are concerned about what is in their food and how growing it has impacted the natural environment. At the same time, farmers and ranchers are adopting environmentally friendly practices but feel nobody knows about or appreciates their efforts.

In 2018-19 we launched a new program to address these concerns while bringing people from rural and urban areas together to build trust, a sense of community and a willingness to work together on shared environmental challenges.

Here we provide a snapshot of how we are engaging people in conversations and telling stories to open hearts and minds – and encouraging active hands.

Videos address consumer concerns

Through a series of videos we are capturing people’s attention, answering their questions and providing local context to the food options available here in southwest Alberta. Watch them for yourself on our website or Youtube channel.

Our most popular video ‘Water you Eating’ – please embed if possible so people can hit play and watch it. 

Maps tell stories

We created an interactive map where viewers can explore the producer-led education and restoration projects that we have invested in to improve the health of the watershed. The map showcases the many ways producers are stewarding their land and water resources.

View the map here:

A screenshot of the interactive map.

OWC was also part of a team—led by Southern Alberta Land Trust Society—who created a series of detailed maps identifying areas of high conservation value for water.

The maps clearly show how much environmentally valuable land is owned privately – a testament to ranchers and farmers who have kept their land natural and diverse, all while making a living from it.

The maps will also be useful to producers prioritizing where on their land to focus restoration projects and demonstrating how valuable their land is. The maps also help conservation organizations focus their efforts on areas important for water as well as governments who need to assess the appropriateness of different land uses as they relate to water. Maps and reports can be found here.

Personal experiences have a lasting impact

After spending a hot day pulling weeds by hand, volunteers are much more likely to clean their gear to reduce the spread of weeds.

OWC staff and volunteers attend many weed pulls throughout the year to assist all our partners who are tackling invasive species. In 2018, these included 10 weed pulls with the MD of Ranchland, Castle Crown Wilderness Coalition, Nature Conservancy of Canada, City of Lethbridge, and the Pincher Creek Watershed Group. Our summer staff were proud to win the ‘bent back’ award and ‘biggest wreck’ award at the 16th Annual Blueweed Blitz, where 160 bags of weeds were removed. Check out photos from all the events here.

The OWC was proud to assist with organizing the 15th Annual Southern Alberta Grazing for Women, which provides valuable training for female ranchers who often do not get the opportunity to participate. In 2018, the school hosted 47 female ranchers in the Stavely area in July for 2 days of learning and sharing. Range and riparian health assessments and plant identification continue to be the most popular and valuable lessons, which shows how much producers care for the land they depend on. The 2019 school will be held July 16-17 in the County of Warner. See photos from the event here.

The impact of telling these stories and involving people in first hand experiences is an increase in people’s knowledge and understanding, and shifts in attitudes and perceptions – all leading to a stronger sense of community and willingness to take collective action on shared watershed issues. Ultimately the result is people from urban and rural communities all working together to improve water quality and security, fish and wildlife habitat and overall environmental heal

Discovering Alberta’s Parks with New Immigrants

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide environmental charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land and water, which together make up more than 90 per cent of Canada by area. CPAWS Southern Alberta chapter (SA) works to protect Alberta’s parks and wilderness areas, and educate and inspire Albertans to get outside and engage in stewardship. We work with Albertans to establish and protect parks and wilderness areas from Red Deer south to the Alberta border, including well-known areas such as Kananaskis, Castle and Bighorn.

In addition to conservation work, CPAWS SA is a leader in environmental education. We aspire to enhance the lives of Southern Albertans and create a community of knowledgeable, empowered citizens who engage in stewardship and positive environmental action to conserve our local environment. Providing Albertans with valuable experiences in nature helps to achieve this goal. A Nature Canada report released in November shows time spent in nature and being active outdoors are beneficial to health and wellbeing, and helps improve resiliency, academic performance and social skills. The report shows that spending time in nature increases creativity, confidence, value of nature as part of identity, and environmental stewardship.

With the support of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, CPAWS SA works to encourage Albertans to connect with nature through sustainable recreation and to promote stewardship of parks and public lands by those who care for and enjoy them. Part of this work, included interpretive hiking programs for new immigrants. Last year we conducted 30 new immigrant Discover Parks hikes (599 people) which were funded in part by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation. Calgary is the fourth largest centre for newcomers in Canada. With a growing new immigrant population, programs and opportunities to learn about community and conservation are invaluable. Many new immigrants come to Canada with a frame from where they lived. Often this includes ideas such as water is not potable, carnivores are bad, and wilderness is riddled with danger. Education not only dispels many misconceptions, it is a path to understanding and belonging in one’s community, and one’s ecosystem. CPAWS Southern Alberta collaborates with new immigrant groups across the city, including the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association, and the Calgary Chinese Community Service Association, to provide programming to improve language, enhance conservation literacy of this region, develop a sense of place, build community, and share nature and conservation experiences from different countries.

September 2019 Community Investment

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation approved $275,000 in community investment projects at their recent meeting.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) supports initiatives that enhance the real estate industry and benefit the communities of Alberta. AREF was established in 1991 under the Alberta Real Estate Act. Since then, it has awarded 20+ million dollars in community and industry grants to over 620 projects across Alberta.

Projects approved at the September meeting include:

Alberta Real Estate FoundationSmall Grants and Sponsorship 2019-2020

The purpose of the small grants and sponsorship fund is to enhance the Foundation’s profile and strengthen its connection to the real estate industry through support of appropriate community and industry events.

Bricolage CalgaryPedesting App Communications Strategy

Bricolage Calgary’s mission is to build a truly accessible and inclusive world for all and will soon be releasing Pedesting, a way-finding app created for all pedestrians to navigate both outdoor and indoor spaces. Bricolage is currently completing the ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP) of the app. Upon its release, Bricolage will begin development of a communications strategy. The primary goal of this next step is to find as many ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’ who are receptive to Bricolage Calgary’s vision and wish to engage in the next stage of product development.

Canada West FoundationThe new Clean Fuel Standard – what will it mean for Alberta’s building industry?

The federal government has released details on the Clean Fuel Standard (CFS), a regulation that will require all fossil fuel suppliers to reduce the carbon content of fuel or purchase offset credits as of 2022. The CFS applies not only to transportation fuels (as has been done in BC and California) but also – in a global first – to fuels used in industry and in buildings. This project will analyse what the new regulation means for the building sector, industry, consumers and residents, in terms of both cost and complications.

Federation of Calgary CommunitiesThe Guide to the Planning Process: Next Generation Planning

This City of Calgary is currently undertaking extensive policy reviews shifting how Calgary will grow and change in the future. By the end of 2020, most of the statutory planning documents will undergo review -incorporating new policies, processes and terminology! One of the most unique and valued aspects of the planning process in Calgary is the involvement of affected residents and their respective community associations in providing community feedback around context and character. To capture the extensive changes, and as a leader in supporting resident engagement and education, the Federation, working with industry and the City of Calgary, will complete a rewrite of the popular “Guide to the Planning Process” (and develop additional supportive tools) to assist residents, community associations, other non-profits and University of Calgary students as they learn to navigate the new planning processes in Calgary.

Habitat for Humanity Edmonton SocietyCold Lake Build

This project will support the Habitat for Humanity single-family home build in the community of Cold Lake. Cold Lake is one of Alberta’s communities that was hit hard by the recent economic downturn. The lack of affordable housing is a consistent obstacle to a family’s ability to raise their children in Cold Lake. Habitat for Humanity currently has 24 units in Cold Lake and continues to be the only local organization to offer affordable home ownership opportunities in the community and the province.

University of Calgary, School of Architecture, Planning and LandscapeCalgary Project 2.0

THE CALGARY PROJECT: urban form / urban life, was a national award-winning book published in 2006 by the University of Calgary Press. It is a richly-illustrated examination of urban development in Calgary up to 2005. Widely consulted and used by urban professionals, academics and students, it soon sold out its initial run of 1,000 copies and has not been updated. The goal of The Calgary Project 2.0 is to revise the 2006 book and update it so that it captures and reflects the past 14 years of Calgary’s development, in order to provide a resource to help guide the city into the next decades of the 21st century. The Calgary Project 2.0 will focus on the most recent chapter of the city’s history and discuss projections for its growth and development. It will add to the discussion about Calgary’s future and its urban quality, in order to aid citizens, developers, realtors, planners and design professionals, academics and policy makers in articulating a vision of the desirable future of the city.