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New planning graduate fosters connections between food, community and land through research and volunteer work

June 06, 2023

Food systems planning researcher Elina Blomley graduates with a master’s of resource management in planning (MRM-Planning) this June. Reflecting on what drew her to this area of study, Elina shares, “Food helped me connect to community and land.”

After completing a bachelor of arts degree in Nova Scotia, Elina switched coasts and worked with FarmHub, a farmer-driven distributor of local and sustainable produce in Victoria, BC. She also volunteered with a non-profit organization called Red Cedar, where she participated in mutual aid food recovery and distribution to help those subject to houselessness. During this time, Elina learned from food growers around the province and started thinking about food systems.

“Once you open your eyes to the nodes of connectivity within your food system, you realize they are everywhere, and you are already engaging with it,” she says.

After these experiences and discovering the research of SFU professor Tammara Soma, Elina joined the MRM-Planning program. She was keen to learn more about multiple sectors in climate adaptation and resilience work — economics, law, climate science and planning — with the belief that combining knowledge in these fields is critical to identifying solutions.

Her graduate thesis explored the role government planners have in connecting local growers and schools. “Essentially,” she explains, “how can small and mid-scale food growers get their produce into public institutions? It’s more complicated than you might think!”

Elina working at the Fresh Roots Summer Market

In addition to her academic work, Elina worked for an organization called Fresh Roots, which creates a space to encourage and connect youth to their food system. She was the market manager at Fresh Roots for their 2022 season.

Going forward, Elina plans to collaborate with SFU’s Action on Climate Team, a research hub for the mobilization of climate and sustainability solutions across the province, to infuse food system research into their work.

She also has plans beyond work. “I have hopes of reconnecting with soil, and other parts of myself that I put on the backburner during grad school,” she says.

If you would like to connect with Elina about her work, food systems planning or a degree in REM, you can connect here.