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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2021)
Despite a robust economy and large agricultural export industry, Alberta's rural areas, confront a number of social and economic challenges: institutional closures, rural flight, and lack of educational or job opportunities. These problems are exacerbated by the presence of large, commodity-oriented, farm and feed lots operations that require few employees thus further limiting the rural population and subsequent range of services. Additionally, production so focuses on forage and commodity crops as to create a scenario out of tune with 'traditional' farm practices, thus forcing Alberta to import $400 million+/- (2018$) of conventional, Alberta producible, fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, little of that grown in Alberta is processed in Alberta. These intertwined conditions gave rise to the proposal that development of an extensive and labour intensive market garden industry, and local processing, might result in the sufficient increase in rural populations to trigger broad social and economic growth. The investigation focused on the review of primarily academic research and findings in six key areas:1. Nature of conventional and farm family income-work strategies 2. Evolution, extent, and roles of rural multi-functionalism and off-farm income 3. Rural stakeholder requirements and attitudes towards non-traditional practices4. Society's attitudes and commitment to the 'Slow Food and Local Food' movements5. Maximization of production and sustainability on small market garden farms6. Alternate local distribution and marketing strategies for producers outside the mainstream, integrated, food-value chains The proposed small market garden approach was then evaluated against these findings plus analysis of achievement in conventional metrics: sustainability, viability, and social contribution. While the evidence suggests that Alberta based market gardens could replace $400 million of imports while generating six hundred million dollars more in induced activity, the number of new residents generated would not be sufficient to initiate rural renewal or social revival; although, they would contribute to improving the broad rural experience. Concurrently, research suggests that significant potential exists, even in developed economies; to generate extensive additional rural economic activity through easily pursued initiatives by local stakeholders and small entrepreneurs operating in other rural industries. Market gardens are but one part of an achievable rural revival.