He is making an impact on the abandoned lots of Edmonton and changing the way we think about food.
Ryan Mason (BA Global and Development Studies ’09) co-founded Reclaim Urban Farm to focus on low-impact, small scale environmental and agricultural sustainability while developing a model that could be exported to communities across Canada and around the world. He uses small plot, intensive farming practices to yield high-value, quick crops for partners, vulnerable populations in the community and farmer’s markets.
Mason grew up on a small farm at Pigeon Lake, and travelled to Mexico and Cuba with programs through his Augustana undergraduate program. These helped renew his passion for food justice.
“At Augustana, I was taught the skills to learn on my own,” says Mason. “I travelled to four different countries during my undergraduate degree - Augustana pushed me well outside my comfort zone. I came out with the confidence that if there is something I want to learn how to do, I know I can.”
His interests in food security, movements and gardening encouraged him to look at bettering the local food system. He and his co-founder - who he met during graduate studies in environmental sociology - studied intensive agriculture, invested in equipment, and started reclaiming in May 2014. Working on 15 plots of land borrowed from community partners, they focus on growing nutritious food with the lowest possible environmental impact and educating their communities. They produce a hundred pounds of greens and up to 50 pounds of other produce every week, averaging about three plantings a year. Reclaim shares their produce with their partners and supplies the City Market, retail locations such as Boulangerie Bonjour and SPUD urban delivery, as well as several Edmonton restaurants.
“We want to show how urban agriculture can be profitable and we want to be part of the food movement,“ says Mason. “We’re researching urban agriculture as part of our thesis work in environmental sociology; discussing community and civic engagement — how and why people are working to make more sustainable systems.”