Aggie Days culls urban farming exhibit

'Activist just trying to get attention, says spokesperson.'

A local food activist is crying foul after organizers of an agricultural event pulled the plug on an exhibit aimed at teaching kids about urban farming.

The program, billed Starts for Smarts, would offer kids a chance to learn about agriculture by planting their own seed to take home and grow, says Paul Hughes, chair of the Calgary Food Policy Council.

He says organizers of the Calgary Stampede Aggie Days backed out of a verbal agreement to provide a space for the exhibit because he is too political. “Now our children are going to go through there and be exposed to only one side of the agriculture system,” he says.

A spokesperson for the Calgary Stampede didn’t deny there was an agreement, but says the exhibit was ultimately rejected because it is not officially tied to any school program. “Upon further examination of the situation and discussion, it was decided he did not have a fit this year,” says Doug Fraser.

Fraser says Aggie Days primarily promotes rural agriculture and provides children with “a basic understanding” of where their food comes from. “At this point this gentleman is trying to promote his personal venture so that he gets the attention of city hall,” he says.


Comments: 12

Lindsey Wallis wrote:

Wow, that is so lame. Remind me where we live again? I THOUGHT it was in a place that protected free speech and nurtured the development of a a variety of ideas and viewpoints. In a place that, despite the fact that not everyone agrees with Hughes' ideas, he would be allowed to help children experience the joy of making something grow from scratch, with their own two hands, and teach them about how we can create a more sustainable food chain by taking the responsibility for growing some of our own food. Chickens or no chickens. Huh, guess I was wrong.

on Mar 11th, 2010 at 10:20am Report Abuse

J_marshall wrote:

Yes Lindsey.. we have free speech. But the Calgary Stampede is a PRIVATE ORGANIZATION. They have the right to decide what will and won't be a good fit to their events. Have you even been to Aggie Days? They have the seed-survivor program as an ongoing exhibit which supplies kids with seeds to plant at home. So Paul's exhibit would simply duplicate that. His 'different point of view' isn't very different, unless you're talking about his desire for people to keep chickens in their homes (which is currently illegal).

Now that he's running for Mayor, putting his agenda into a school curriculum program when it hasn't passed the approval of the school board, doesn't seem like a good idea. Using kids to get their parents' vote seems like a really BAD IDEA.

Paul, Best of luck in your run for mayor, and congratulations on bringing attention to your issues. Don't use children in your campaign, and you'll win more sympathy.

on Mar 12th, 2010 at 9:28am Report Abuse

Lindsey Wallis wrote:

But why say yes and then turn around and say no? That just seems like poor ethics. (I'm taking "didn't deny there was an agreement" to mean there WAS an agreement, as those things usually do). Obviously the Stampede originally found no fault with his program, so why the change? Because it isn't officially tied to a school program? Wouldn't they have know that before the verbal agreement was made?

on Mar 12th, 2010 at 12:06pm Report Abuse

J_marshall wrote:

Good question... I think the verbal agreement was made before he announced his bid for Mayor this week. That may have been the tipping point.

A lot of verbal agreements are given with certain implied understandings, and when your client announces a bid for mayor and has a press conference involving live chickens at a movie theater, things change.

on Mar 12th, 2010 at 1:14pm Report Abuse

tshowell wrote:


Both the verbal agreement and subsequent annulment occurred at least one week before Paul Hughes announced his mayoral bid.

The full quote from Stampede spokesperson Doug Fraser regarding the agreement was: "I can’t say whether there was an agreement or there wasn’t an agreement." Clear as mud.

on Mar 12th, 2010 at 3:01pm Report Abuse

paulhughes wrote:

For the Record: This unfortunate incident is PRE Mayor Campaign.

There was a verbal agreement b4 I chose to announce my candidacy. "Farmer Dave" is the individual that pulled the plug on a collection of local groups participating in Aggie Days. There is so much more to this story. The call I received from Farmer Dave started with, "I read a story about you. You're too political, we can't have you at Aggie Days." Wow. Judge, Jury & Executioner to the entire Calgary Food Policy Council Starts4Smarts initiative based on a story about one member.

This after the CFPC has worked hard to get the Food Policy Notice of Motion passed at City Hall, something that benefits ALL Calgarians. After we worked hard to promote Urban Agriculture across Calgary. Not the way organizations should make decisions... but wait... there is more to this story.

The notion or suggestion that I am promoting a "personal venture" is 100% erroneous and indicates a massive comprehension chasm. Urban agriculture, local foods & sustainable growing systems are part of a GLOBAL movement. I am but one of MILLIONS of people involved in reconnecting to our food system. I am personally committed to local, sustainable food, but it is hardly a personal venture. Now, the case of Farmer Dave is another matter. He certainly could be accused of having an awkward connection to the "personal venture" tag. His column is titled "Ask Farmer Dave", he appears in every Stampede picture on the site and is the Senior Manager of Aggie Days, a veritable fiefdom. He refers to us as the "Organic People" and was shocked when I asked him why he FAILED to mention the cumulative effects of chemical fertilizers, herbicides & insecticides on earthworms in one of his questions from a child.

The Stampede talks about being the "GREENEST Show on Earth"& about the rich agricultural heritage of Calgary, yet a program (designed by Calgarians) for children that allows hands on planting of seeds, Starts4Smarts, is not allowed to participate in Aggie Days? The CFPC is adamant that Starts4Smarts is about education and provides an opportunity for learning organizations to raise funds and teach plant biology. Again, a very unfortunate decision by the Stampede that doesn't seem to make sense until... look at the sponsors and understand how these sponsors (Bayer Crop Science, Agrium, et al) perceive groups like the Calgary Food Policy Council and CLUCK. These sponsors have no problem co-opting(stealing) the imagery of the small scale family farm, but it is a mask for the industrial, factory farming food production system that cannot use the images of their own unnatural production reality.

I agree with the spokesperson from Stampede, the quality driven sustainable food system may not be a good fit with the profit/quantity driven industrial/factory farming system, although I fundamentally believe we can learn from each other.

Again, the few have made a decision that edits/curates/censors to the detriment of the many. I suggest in our hyper clinical/generic environment, that we introduce new (OLD in this case) ideas to citizens. "Let the people decide" or more accurately, "Let the Eaters decide" should be the refrain.

If you find this issue confusing, or just want to have a better understanding, research Vandana Shiva, Raj Patel, Carlo Petrini, Michael Pollan, Wendell Berry, Alice Waters, Eric Schlosser or the work of local farmer/producer Kris Vester. Research the work of the 80+ North American Food Policy Council members. Watch "Food Inc", "Fresh: The Movie" or "Our Daily Bread". You will quickly come to understand both the potential and CHALLENGES of creating a local & national food policy and even the ostensibly simple act of introducing a means of educating our children about stewardship, sustainability and the connections between food, health and the environment.

It is my hope that the Stampede, in all FAIRness, will assist in providing an opportunity for the many local and active agriculture groups to share their important work and become involved with facilitating the local ag interaction with children, youth & all citizens.

There is a transition in how our food is being grown and raised. I have faith that the Stampede is both aware of this and is skillfully working towards representing our agricultural system with true accuracy, not the current rendition of institutionalized and systemic white lies. Our children deserve better... much better.

on Mar 19th, 2010 at 8:08pm Report Abuse

paulhughes wrote:

So others believe in the unholy alliance between chemical companies & Agriculture Education (Aggie Days)...?

This was posted in today's Metro, page 10 banner:

Organic Manifesto by Maria Rodale. Rodale examines the unholy alliances that have formed between the chemical companies that produce fertilizer and genetically altered seeds, the agricultural educational system that is virtually subsidized by those same companies, and the government agencies in thrall to powerful lobbyists, all of which perpetuate dangerous farming practices and deliberate misconceptions about organic farming and foods.

on Mar 22nd, 2010 at 12:12pm Report Abuse

Planetb00g wrote:

Paul, you lost the AGC, and now the Stampede. What's going on?

on Mar 22nd, 2010 at 1:57pm Report Abuse

Farm Girl wrote:

Hi there;

First of all, Paul, I would like to ask; what is your connection to agriculture? Did you grow up on a farm? Do you live on a farm? Are you in any way associated with the agriculture industry in Alberta or Canada? (besides raising chickens in town?)

I would like to say, as a long time visitor to Aggie Days, that we have taken the wrong approach to this issue. Aggie Days has always been, and will always be a fun, educational program for children. Never before have I seen a political agenda brought up or diplayed at this program, and I do not think it is appropriate now.

I would like to make it clear, that I do not, by any means, have anything against you or your campaign to raise chickens in Calgary. In fact, I think it is a wonderful idea, and would love to see more people getting connected with their roots and with such an important topic as food production.

I do not feel, however, that your agenda is appropriate for a program such as Aggie Days. This is a program where political and other agendas are put aside for the purpose of educating children (and parents alike) about where there food comes from. I think that your attack on the Calgary Stampede, Aggie Days, and Farmer Dave is unfair to the people who organize this program, as well as the many volunteers who put in countless hours to make Aggie Days a success year after year. I would just like everyone to remember that there is a lot more to the story than what is said here. And there is a lot more to farming and agriculture that what is portrayed in documentaries such as "Food Inc."; yes, there is many challenges that agriculture faces today, but the local producers and farmers are not the "bad guys" that they are made out to be. They are just good honest people trying to make an honest living by producing safe, healthy food.

I hope, Paul, that you do not take offense to this, but I do not think that Aggie Days is the place for your campaign. Aggie Days is about education, not politics, and that is how it should stay.

Thanks, from a concerned parent and teacher.

on Mar 23rd, 2010 at 3:15pm Report Abuse

urban farmer wrote:

I have to agree with farmgirl. Agricultural education is the key to Aggie days and I think you lack agricultural experience whether it is rural, urban, organic, conventional or non-conventional types. As far as your "agreement" with Farmer Dave I am sure you painted a pretty picture, however, you left out your not so hidden agenda that Farmer Dave got wind of and of course Aggie days is not for soapboxes. It requires a lot of work, experience and planning to educate the public and kids about Agriculture and its many facets.
There are many other appropiate avenues that your ideas and concepts can and should be presented as there is a real need in that type of education for the 100 mile concept etc. I fear that this type of politicking does more harm than good in promoting urban agriculture as it tends to be controversal or as you say 'fight' for your chickens. It needs to be cooperative in sharing info,ideas, techniques that will help downscale the megafarm idea and in the process upscale the minifarm idea. Urban farming needs to happen and it is gaining interest in many cities. I thank you for bringing it to our city's attention. It requires cooperation and sharing of info to all involved, our neighbors, by-law officers, plants and animals etc. to help set guidelines on how to do it. Fighting is not a good way to promote anything. The attention of the city is here. Please Paul don't mess up how far you have brought it this far. Pass or share the reins and lets work on the cooperating method as it will be so much better in the long run, and there is still a long way to run.

Thanks, from a wannabe urban farmer

on Mar 25th, 2010 at 2:41am Report Abuse

paulhughes wrote:

@Planetb00g, that's nothing. You should hear the stories from the Highwood days. Now that was a site relocation.

All seems so simple until you get behind the wheel...

on Apr 1st, 2010 at 5:59pm Report Abuse

paulhughes wrote:

@UrbanFarmer & FarmGirl:

At the very least, get the facts straight. Our participation at Aggie Days was encapsulated in Starts4Smarts. Nothing political, no agenda, no campaign, just education. Children planting seeds and creating MicroFarms. We rolled it out at the GoGreen Expo last weekend and it was a HUGE success. Again... No politics, no agenda, no campaign, BUT 1000 very happy kids!

Very distinct difference between fighting and standing up for fundamental rights. The Calgary Food Policy Council invites absolutely everyone to participate in the discussion. We are free in every aspect of the term. We do not charge for membership and it is open to all Calgarians. What more do you want, especially in the face of a relentless industrialized food system?

In my role as Chair of the CFPC, I work on improving the local food system everyday. I have spoken with 100's upon 100's of people, and we have worked together and cooperated on many issues and initiatives that have resulted in substantially positive yields for not only Calgarians, but Albertans & Canadians. All of this as a volunteer I might add. Do you think Industrial Ag is populated by volunteers? Didn't think so.

I do appreciate the comments, but it is obvious that your perspective on this particular matter is narrow, which is not your fault. The story involves the Stampede, an almost sacred cow amongst local media. With the exception of FFWD, no one touched it. Hard to get all the details to a multisided story like this from one media source.

I will reiterate: Our involvement with Aggie Days was to be educational and focused on Starts4Smarts. That was agreed upon. The space was agreed upon. Everything else is speculative since our agreement was broken by Aggie Days. Time to move on and focus on working together in the future and/or initiating an alternative to Aggie Days.

on Apr 1st, 2010 at 6:50pm Report Abuse

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