Gillian Flies: The Everyday Earth Day Advocate

in Apr 19, 2024

Today we celebrate Earth Day, but for Gillian Flies, Earth Day is every day. Gillian owns and operates The New Farm with her husband, Brent Preston. The couple has built The New Farm into a thriving business and a leading light in the good food movement, providing vegetables to some of the best restaurants in Canada. But Gillian's achievements in raising awareness about how we can all be part of the climate solution extend well beyond the green pastures of the farm. Gillian's many accomplishments are worth celebrating today.

Gillian is an activist. She is currently the President of the Canadian Organic Growers. This platform serves to educate farmers and consumers and advocate at all levels of government on matters relating to farming and food. In this role, Gillian helped to found Farmers for Climate Solutions, a coalition of 24 progressive farming organizations representing over 20,000 farmers who are advocating for climate-friendly agricultural policy in Canada.

Gillian builds communities. The New Farm has created an innovative partnership with Community Food Centres Canada called Farms for Change. Farms for Change is building a healthy, sustainable food system by promoting regenerative agriculture and providing fresh, premium-quality produce to low-income communities while addressing the related problems of environmental degradation, inequality and poor human health. To date, Gillian has raised close to two million dollars to make local, organic food accessible in low-income communities.

Gillian is an educator. After watching her TED talk, one can only feel gratitude that there are leaders like her working to implement and share solutions to the climate crisis.

Q&Q with Gillian

Your Ted Talk explains how regenerative farming yielded better and more productive crops at The New Farm.
What is so inspiring about regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is win-win-win. It is a win for the environment because it sequesters carbon, reduces GHG emissions and improves soil, air and water quality. It is a win for the farmer because it builds more resilient farms and increases farmer profitability. And, it is a win for eaters, because it produces higher quality, more nutrient-dense food.

For regenerative agriculture to have a meaningful impact, it is imperative that the demand for food using these practices increases. How do you see this happening given the rising cost of food, which will make organics even more expensive?

Food is a necessity, but how we consume it is a choice. The idea that food should be cheap is irrational. Food is an invaluable medicine for our bodies.

Organically produced food keeps the nutrients intact, which makes it taste better, and is better for our bodies and the planet.

My advice is to redirect your food budget to organic whole foods. Cooking organic food yourself has huge cost savings over buying heavily processed or fast foods. Secondly, eat less meat - and ensure that the meat you do eat is organic and grass-fed. Meat is not only expensive but is detrimental to your health in large quantities and unless it is grown in the right way it can be incredibly detrimental to the environment. Buy local, organic whole food. Your food dollars have a huge impact. Creating more demand for nutrient-rich organic produce will mean more farmers will transition to practices that will help our environment.

You are passionate about educating others about the benefits of regenerative farming, and you've managed to amplify the message in so many ways. What's next for The New Farm?

Regenerative agriculture does not just mean rebuilding your soil. It also means rebuilding your community. The New Farm is the first vegetable farm in Canada to be certified to the world’s highest standard, Regenerative Organic Certified. As part of this standard, social fairness and community involvement is not only encouraged but are an integral part.

As for what the future holds, Brent and I are in the process of bringing together our farm as a regenerative demonstration site and our policy and advocacy work through the creation of The New Farm Centre for Climate Action - an on-farm conference facility, education centre, advocacy hub and more. Stay tuned…..

It's Earth Day; what is there to celebrate?

It's not too late!

We have a huge opportunity to reduce GHG emissions and sequester vast amounts of carbon just by changing the way that we grow our food.

We need to celebrate this solution by supporting farmers making this transition through our food purchases and ensuring that the government makes agriculture part of the climate solution.

The Earth thanks you Gillian.

VOOMcart is happy to have participated in and sponsored the planting of several hundred trees at The New Farm. We do this so that each VOOMcart journey begins at net-zero emissions.

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