Letter to Hon. Brian Mason

Dear Honorable Brian Mason,

It has come to my attention that the Northeast River Crossing team is conducting a planning study to assess placement of a future bridge and highway system to access Fort Saskatchewan. While I am in favour of positive infrastructure, I also care deeply about local food options and local food security. Riverbend Gardens falls squarely into the study area and the approved ASP for Horse Hills development indicates the likely construction of this provincial bridge across their land. I am opposed to this proposed location because I value the contribution that Riverbend Gardens makes to the local food economy and believe that as a community, we should respect and care for the agricultural lands within our city limits. Placing the highway and bridge over Riverbend’s land would make farming that land an impossibility and I think allowing that to happen is short-sighted.

Preserving Riverbend Gardens fulfills many of the objectives and goals of FRESH (Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy). It contributes to creating a stronger, more vibrant local economy through local job creation and industry diversity. It is an essential player in creating a more food secure community by growing a wide diversity of crops within city limits which allow consumers easy access to food. Together with neighbouring farms (Norbest and Horse Hill Berry Farm) approximately 300 acres of prime farm land within Edmonton city limits could be preserved. This land has the potential, depending on crop variety, of producing 60,000lbs of food per acre each year for the local community.

Riverbend Gardens is also a valuable part of creating a healthier ecosystem for Edmonton that includes connection to wildlife habitat and responsible farming practices.

In Riverbend Gardens, Edmonton has a unique gem. The combination of a financial viable farm within city limits that has direct irrigation from the river, a rich sandy loam soil perfect for growing vegetables and access to local markets is very unique and impossible to recreate anywhere else in the capital region. Many other similar sized producers serving the Edmonton area require off-farm jobs to supplement the farming operation. Most have a larger carbon footprint because they must transport their goods further to city markets. Riverbend Gardens attends six area Farmers’ Markets, runs a weekly CSA veggie delivery that serves 600+ Edmonton families and is a regularly contributor to organizations like the Edmonton Food Bank. To lose Riverbend Gardens would be to lose something irreplaceable.

As Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, you will have a pivotal role in the discussion of this project and I ask you to oppose any proposal that places the Northeast River Crossing infrastructure over Riverbend Gardens’ land.