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SELRS at the Lake – SELRS Update March 15, 2012

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories.
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Much of the success of the GFSA Network has been a result of the facilitated Community Building Food Security (CBFS) workshops that Network communities have hosted over the last seven years. These workshops have helped organize and leverage the food security efforts of groups and individuals within these communities, provided forum to share some great stories and feast on some incredible food together. The capacity these workshops build for the Network are also a main reason why the SELRS project is now underway and completing its first phase in the Central Alberta region.

Over the CBFS years, Sylvan Lake hosted workshops via their community group Growing Green Neighbours. Momentum was built and much was accomplished – but, like most volunteer organizations, sustainable volunteer recruitment proved a challenge to maintain that momentum. With the SELRS project in full swing, Growing Green Neighbours took advantage of the opportunity of being a supporting community of the project to unite and galvanize their efforts. On February 29, they hosted another CBFS workshop – only, this time, they had the unique distinction of being able to measure their activities through the lenses of sustainability, equity, and regeneration in a values-based, local food system context. This workshop opportunity also helped to gauge the shape and effectiveness of the developing SELRS framework.

Growing Green Neighbours progress

  • 2008 – raising awareness, getting people to the table, supporting local community gardens, collective kitchens and various programs
  • 2009 – discussions on food sovereignty, education, connecting with farmers, school food policy, asset mapping
  • 2010 – community kitchen and community garden management and expansion, food inclusion in municipal sustainability plan
  • 2011 – community kitchen and community garden management and expansion

It’s important to note that CBFS workshops are traditionally 2-day events. This allows enough time to digest the information, understand food security, and build the relationships necessary for sustainable and successful action. It’s also a good excuse for eating more local food together!

Since Sylvan Lake has previously hosted CBFS workshops, we agreed that a one-day refresher would be adequate to revisit food security, expand on food sovereignty, and find a common vision for what a sustainable, equitable, local and regenerative system for food looks like – not to mention help refocus the current and desired actions of Growing Green Neighbours. About 10 people participated on and off throughout the day and we ended up with agreement, if not full understanding, of the intricacies of a community food system and where Sylvan Lake can succeed with its own food security efforts in support of a SELRS for food in Central Alberta. For Growing Green Neighbours, the actionable results of the workshop can be simplified as:

  • coordinate an awareness campaign and complete asset mapping exercise to create a local food directory for Sylvan Lake
  • re-populate Growing Green Neighbours – extend invitation to community members to join
  • consider competition between municipalities for local food system action and food policy development

We can see that a lot of overlap exists with the SELRS project. And more, the recently formed working groups supported by GFSA are building capacity for member communities to work together more effectively, including:

  • BUZZ – preparing a food security campaign for the upcoming provincial election based on the successful Peoples Food Policy Project
  • Farm to School – connecting local food producers and projects to schools
  • 3rd Place & Infrastructure – investigating the potential for a community food centre concept via Toronto’s “The Stop Community Food Centre” model
  • Marketing & Awareness – implementing open source technology to build more effective online communications and project management

A group is now working on refinements of this workshop and creating a CBFS/SELRS fusion that can be presented to other communities in central Alberta with an invitation to join GFSA and the SELRS project. We look forward to working with additional communities in the central region including Olds, Lacombe, Rocky Mountain House, Camrose and many others!

Taking the Sylvan Lake experience forward, the SELRS project will wrap its first phase in Lacombe with an asset mapping workshop on March 27. Together, we’ll make available all of the data we’ve gathered, connections we’ve made, and nurture the developing relationships for a truly community-based food system supported by relationship, action, food and fun!

Submitted by Rene Michalak and Brenda Barritt.


Equity vs. Equality; differences & discoveries – SELRS Update February 10, 2012

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories.

From my experience (Brenda) – no question created more discomfort in our conversations than asking “what does equity mean to you?” After many long pauses, we received a wide variety of answers and from these conversations we have had many large lessons that inform the framework we are building.

There is a difference between Equity and Equality

When we talk about EQUALITY, it aims us towards a system where all people had the same amount of the same kinds of foods. That we treat all people the same, not taking into consideration each person’s individual needs, current circumstances, cultural preferences, skills, abilities, geographical location, urban/rural location, etc, etc. This is the kind of system people sometimes jump to in their mind when we ask them about equity and it usually leads to comments like, “that would mean following the communist examples and we know that didn’t work.”

Speaking about EQUITY – we shift the conversation to one that is about acknowledging the uniqueness of each person and their circumstances. We aim to build a system that meets people where they are to provide opportunities and support that ensures that differences do not lead to exclusion from participating in a sustainable, regenerative, and local system for food.

Equality leads to images where food is gathered, accumulated and redistributed in equal piles and portions to each individual – it carries with it a feeling of scarcity, mistrust, and playing to the least common denominator. Equity leads to images where food is abundant with multiple ways to access it – including growing your own, using alternative forms of currency, building relationships and recognizing and valuing differences.

Equity is for eaters and producers

In the initial scoping and framing of this project – our focus was on equity from an eaters point of view: having options for access to healthy, nourishing food. However we quickly found out that there are particular challenges with equity for producers – especially when we consider having a sustainable, regenerative and local food system. From the regulations that get in the way of local farmers by making producing and distributing their food illegal or more complicated, to the generally shared expectation that food should be affordable by making locally grown food cheaper and able to compete with industrial food at the till, there are challenges for the producers of food in order for them to be a part of our food system. Equity FOR local food producers means looking at the rules in place, the expectations we have, and how we value food.

What exploring equity has brought to the fore is that our current food system is creating conflict between eaters and producers. The people who are trying to grow healthy, nourishing, sustainable food in our local communities can’t produce food at the price that eaters have been conditioned to pay. Yet simply saying, “eaters need to pay more for their food” isn’t going to address the fact that there are many parts of our population who are already struggling to simply put food on the table.

There is another angle to consider when we talk about equity: that of ownership.

In one conversation, the individual pointed out that equity is also about ownership; that equity points to the value of an ownership interest in the property. So talking about equity means talking about who owns the food system and who should? And it allows us to pose the question, “what would it mean if eaters and producers were the real owners of our food system?” And what if they could be the co-owners and partners in creating an alternative?

It’s about more than money, it’s about relationships

In a previous post <https://gfsa.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/infusing-value-in-supply-selrs-update/>, we spoke about the difference between the food system we have and the food system we want: that we are aiming to build a food system that is based on values and with the goal to feed people, where money is a tool in that systembut is not the commanding purpose of the system.

This means that we can’t boil equity down to being about money. Access to healthy, nourishing food also means having it available and easy to bring home or grow at home in a climate with a short growing season. We’ve said before that the challenge in front of us is a complex one – which means the solution to equity will not be simple or single solutions.

Equity for eaters and producers means finding solutions that go beyond traditional economics and financial models. Equity for also means equity between: we need to build relationships that create understanding, change expectations, and even challenge ownership of our food system.

Designing ‘with’, not ‘for’

As we now move into thinking about how to bring our framework into realityto move from idea into actionthere is another key point that the SELRS ‘E’ reminds us of: that we cannot design for and act on behalf of those who are left out of today’s food system, we must design with. At any point we find ourselves talking with about ‘them’ and about solutions for ‘them’no matter who the ‘them’ is… we need to check ourselves and how we get ‘them’ in the room or identify what room ‘they’ are in and go there.

Going forward

Also expressed in the conversations was uncertainty around how realistic and possible our aspirations of a sustainable, equitable, local, and regenerative system for food are.

From the beginning we have been honest with ourselves that we don’t know the ‘hows’ but we feel this is a ‘why’ worthy enough of walking into the uncertainty for. Alberta’s provincial slogan is “Freedom to Create, Spirit to Achieve” and it’s with that freedom and spirit which we aim to create a food system that ensures all people have access (beyond money) to healthy and nutritious food and a living wage for food providers is upheld by the local economy.

In March we will be hosting a one day workshop with the Sylvan Lake “Growing Green Neighbours” group. This is our first opportunity to take these ‘lenses’ we have been building (Sustainable, Equitable, Local, Regenerative) and have a concrete look at a specific community and their respective actions.

We may find ourselves considering questions like,

  • What conditions does equity depend on?
  • What, in practical terms and concrete examples are we trying to create in an equitable food system?
  • How does that contrast with a system based on equality?
  • So what, now what? What efforts are under way to build the equity-based food system (e.g., Slow Money, Urban Agriculture (permaculture), etc.)? What else can we do?

And by asking those questions, we will start to walk into the solutions.

Submitted by Brenda Barritt and Rene Michalak.

Additional Resources:

A) Sacred Economics (book) – http://www.realitysandwich.com/homepage_sacred_economics

B) Sacred Economics (video) – http://vimeo.com/22303203

C) Sacred Economics (article): http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/to-build-community-an-economy-of-gifts

D) Paul Hawken – Ecology of Commerce (video) – http://www.globalonenessproject.org/videos/paulhawkencomplete

E) Woody Tasch – Slow Money (video) – http://www.globalonenessproject.org/videos/woodytaschcomplete

F) Cooking Up Karma (article) – http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/cooking-up-karma

G) Money and Life (movie trailer) – http://moneyandlifemovie.com/

H) Economics of Happiness (movie trailer)http://www.theeconomicsofhappiness.org/

The Open Source – SELRS Update January 24, 2012

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories.

“Most people working in the non-profit sector would love it if their organization could do more with its existing staff and volunteer resources. We often care passionately about the work we do, but lament the wasteful ways we have to do things. Wasted hours, wasted money, wasted contacts, and wasted opportunities! We’re tired of being frustrated by the way things are. We want to make a difference, a bigger difference.” – Joseph Murray, PhD

It’s safe to say that this is how most – if not all – of us feel as members of the GFSA Network. And it certainly rings true for the coordinators and advisors of the SELRS project. Our asset mapping exercise has helped us meet many dynamic and committed individuals who helped us find some pretty cool ideas, initiatives and technology. We want to share one special one because its potential for helping us do what we do is quite amazing.

What we’ve found isn’t necessarily new – as a practice. But in terms of technology, it’s one of those hidden gems that make us wonder how we ever got along without it.

“Open source” is collective power in action. The power of a worldwide community of highly skilled technology experts that build, share and improve the very latest computer software together – then make it available to everyone. The term open source was coined in 1998 to remove the ambiguity in the English word ‘free’ and it continues to enjoy growing success and wide recognition. Originally coined in 1998, the term open source came out of the free software movement, a collaborative force going strong since the dawn of computing in the 1950s. This early community was responsible for the development of many of the first operating systems, software and, in 1969, the Internet itself.¹

The open-source community is thriving and today boasts some of the best brains in the business. The aim has not changed: free systems and software should be available to everybody, wherever they are. A great, although sometimes “geeky”, documentary on the Open Source movement is Revolution OS… take the time to watch, it’s a great story!

So, why is this relevant to the SELRS Project? Well, one of our deliverables is to share all of the information we’ve gathered in our asset mapping exercise and we’ve been wondering how best to do this; what format, what cost, how much, how to manage, etc. For a group without legal form nor reliable funding we can’t exactly take the conventional path (aka MicroSoft or other private service providers) – and we’re trying to set an example here for collaboration across a network. So, what better solution than Open Source? From complete operating systems to Windows-compatible office and network management software we can run high-calibre and effective organizations and projects at flea market prices.

Gathering for the few remaining Guiding Group meetings of this first phase of the SELRS project, we need to choose the right mix of available technology to share our framework and resources that will grow sustainable, equitable, local and regenerative systems for food. Whatever we end up with needs to make the most efficient use of limited resources at our disposal. Perhaps the open source solution can grow us in the right direction.

Submitted by Rene Michalak and Brenda Barritt


Infusing Value in Supply – SELRS Update December 23, 2011

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories.

It’s almost the end of the year and a natural time to reflect on the year past.  Our project (SELRS) really only kicked off in the last 6 months but there is much to consolidate and reflect on. This blog is about just one part of the many insights we’ve gathered in this short time.

As we’ve mentioned before – on the 12th December we gathered together our guiding group and community animators from GFSA for a ‘sense-making’ workshop: to consolidate what we have learned so far with our asset mapping and plan next steps for SELRS. One of our key objectives for this workshop was to understand what a food system is.

Our last two blog posts shared parts of our inquiry into the second ‘S’ in SELRS – the System for food. In the first blog (https://gfsa.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/digesting-the-global-food-system-selrs-update/)- we reflected on the complexity, confusion and the convoluted-ness of the global food system as it is right now. In the second (https://gfsa.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/destination-sitopia-selrs-update/) we started to look at what a different kind of food system could be – one rooted in local, in place and then growing outward from there.

Reflecting on our workshop, we feel we reached our objective (many times over!) as we were able to build an understanding of what the food system is that we are working to build, how it relates to our current food system, how it is different from the current food system, and a sense of where our work is taking us – globally as well as locally.

And thanks to Shelley Keyes of SK Transitions who joined us as graphic facilitator for the workshop – we are able to illustrate our understanding and see this conversation more clearly.

We realised that we are aiming to build a food system that is based on values and with the goal to feed people, where money is a tool in that system – but is not the commanding purpose of the system (middle part of the image – titled Values Chain).

We have called this a VALUES based food system where the values are the principles and pillars that uphold the system. These pillars are the Sustainable, Equitable, Local and Regenerative identifiers in SELRS. We know that relationships between people are necessary and are the foundation of the model. In the diagram we have used the acronym ‘CFS’ – for community food system: it is system rooted in place and in the relationships of the community that it feeds.

Contrast this to today where people are cogs in the wheel of the system, a system where the goal is to make money and food is simply a commodity, a tool to make that money (left side of the image – titled Supply Chain and GFS for global food system).

People and relationships between those people don’t matter as long as the the supply chain keeps working and money keeps being put in the pockets of the people who are running the system. In one conversation we had during our asset mapping, someone put it bluntly but clearly, “There are a lot of ‘pimps’ in the system and they are the ones who benefit from this it, not the producers or the eaters.”

We acknowledged that today both systems: the supply chain food system and values chain food systems are trying to co-exist but there is a disconnect and a clash between them. We also recognised that the only reason they are both in place is because of cheap energy – – which is a changing reality.

The third panel (right side of image) of our discussion board acknowledges that there is the possibility to have a values chain that is also a global food system but we see it is path that is still a bit foggy.  To have a values chain at a global level, we must base it on our experience of values chains at a community level. As we work at the local level – we build the capacity and the infrastructure to support a global food system that is values driven.

So what we have now is a key part of the SELRS framework because we need to understand where we are – what kind of food systems are present in our world, where we want to go, and how those things are related to each other. And we worked all that out in the first 1/4 of our day together!!! Whew! We said we reached beyond our objective!

We are working to put together the complete output of the workshop which includes a more detailed definition of what Sustainable, Equitable, Local and Regenerative mean and look like in our context as well as the beginnings of our action planning for those steps we are taking along the path to a value chain based food system at a community – and then at a global level. Once that is expressed in tangible terms we will share it here.

In the meantime – we wish you all a wonderful holiday season and happy new year!  We are looking forward to walking the path and building a values based food system with you!

Many blessings and much love,

Rene Michalak and Brenda Barritt

Destination: Sitopia…? – SELRS Update December 5, 2011

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With harvest season behind us and Thanksgiving suppers well digested, hibernation and slumber sound like a natural next step. But alas, Christmas supper and New Year’s cheers are just around the corner. AND… seed catalogues are almost in the mail!

It’s a little known fact that Growing Food Security in Alberta (GFSA) is coming up on a milestone. That milestone is its 10 year anniversary as a network of food security-aficionados in Alberta. Over the years, GFSA has been supporting the development of community food systems across Alberta’s rural communities; now totaling 19… and growing! To mark this occasion, the network members are gathering in Sylvan Lake December 11th and 12th to take a walk down memory lane, forecast the next ten years, and then get right to work by planning the next steps for the SELRS project and the progress of community food systems. (see previous blog posts for more info on SELRS)

Community food systems are one of the most important ways we can lead a connected life. These systems connect us to our food, to our local area, to the producers of our food, and other people in the community who belong to the same community food system. Throughout the SELRS conversations – some 50+ to date – the term ‘food system’ has referred to all processes involved in providing us with food. For example, growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consuming and disposing of food. From a ‘system’ perspective our food network does not operate in isolation but functions within and is influenced by the social, economic and natural environments. But, in light of the converging crises around the world, how does our current food system measure up to this reality?

Carolyn Steel, architect, lecturer and writer of the book Hungry City – How Food Shapes Our Lives explains that food is not only a shared necessity – but also a shared way of thinking. Looking at food systems offers an unusual and illuminating way to explore how cities (and society) evolved. Steel’s chief interest is in exploring the inner lives of cities, and her work has focused on developing a lateral approach to urban design that looks at the everyday routines that shape cities and the way we inhabit them. She explains that the historical design of communities subscribes to a “utopian” vision, a term that means ‘good place’ or ‘no place’; used since Plato to describe an ideal – and therefore unattainable – community. Laudable as the utopian desire may be, Steel recommends a more practical “sitopian” approach, a term she coined from the Greek sitos, meaning food, and topos, place, meaning ‘food-place’. Pointing to Ebenezer Howard’s legendary Garden City Movement as a realistic example, she points out that the world is already shaped by food, so we may as well start using food to shape the world more positively.

Could ‘sitopia’ be the obvious answer that has been staring at us all along, only it was too big to see?

Returning to the global food system diagram from our last blog post, where does community fit into the picture? Through the lens of food security, community is promoted as an ideal – a network of relationships in which all processes in the food system occur in a spatial area and in which all processes have positive benefits to the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of that area. It appears now that “spatial area” is the question. Can we have a community food system at the global level? Perhaps. The issue is the expertise needed at that level is so enormous, the utopian dream so intangible, and the experience of operating at that capacity so undeveloped, we may not be ready for it – if ever.

Alternatively, local systems are simplified, tangibly sitopian, and we have tens of thousands of years of practice. Why then are local systems struggling for support? Why are they increasingly unfamiliar to us? Why do our institutions insist on global markets being the only way? Tough questions. But so is trying to create a utopia. We would argue that a good place IS a food place. Perhaps we’re closer to a utopia than we realize.

Going into the SELRS workshop in Sylvan Lake, we have some tough questions to explore. Among them, “What will a ‘sustainable, equitable, local, and regenerative system for food’ framework create?”, “Can we do it at the local level?”, “If we commit to create it together, will a “good place” be the result?”

We’re hungry to find out.

Submitted by Rene Michalak and Brenda Schroeder

Digesting the Global Food System – SELRS update November 15, 2011

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Nausea, heart burn, indigestion… upset stomach, diarrhea…! No, it’s not just the Pepto Bismol commercial : ). It’s the feeling you get when you try to put together and digest the recipe of our global food system.

We’ve heard it said that, “We eat first with our eyes, then with our mouths”. In the case of the global food system, we could argue that our eyes are full but our stomachs, ironically, are empty; and our relationship with food is increasingly detached. To better understand where we are with our relationship to food, let’s begin by trying to understand how our global food system works:
Eee-gads! Perhaps this condensed version will be a little more appetizing:

Still feeling queasy? Us too. Wrapping our heads (and mouths) around the global food system seems nothing short of an Herculean task; perhaps requiring divine intervention… and some of that pink stuff.

According to the Basic Elements diagram above, the global food system is the balance between supply and demand of food. This balance seems to be quantified by two things, geography and politics. Or, assuming they can be separated – a HUGE assumption, by the way – natural systems and human systems.

  • Natural Systems
    • Geography / Environment, natural resources (air, water, land)
  • Human Systems
    • Politics, Economy, Science / Technology
    • Demographics
    • Psychographics (Socio-Cultural – knowledge, values, preferences)
    • Industry
      • Energy
      • Transportation
      • “Waste” management

And the management and measurement of balance between these ‘separate’ systems is qualified and quantified in:

  • Governance – managing the dynamics of complex systems
  • Civil Security – relationships between people
  • Food Security – relationships between people and food
  • Climate Change – degree of change in natural systems

That seems to be the short and skinny of it. Sounds simple, right? Not exactly. That’s like saying salt and pepper alone flavour our meals. Well, they can but you miss out on a lot of flavour. When we move to the more detailed diagram, we can see the ‘flavours’ and ‘spices’ increase almost exponentially… and not in the best combinations as anyone learning to cook for the first time can attest (cue the Pepto Bismol dance).

So, if the global recipe is falling short, how then do we find the right balance of flavours…?

The SELRS approach has been to use two proven recipes: Community Capacity Building and Asset Mapping and Whole Measures for Community Food Systems. Not to replace the global food system per se, but rather to refine its palate so that Sustainability, Equity, Locality, and Regeneration can thrive in diverse systems that communities can call their own – like treasured family recipes.

The question of how to understand the global food system ‘recipe’ and balance its many flavours is what we will address at the SELRS “Sense Making” Workshop, December 12th in Sylvan Lake. Bringing forward all of the information collected through our stakeholder conversations since August, the SELRS Guiding Group and GFSA Community Animators will complete the first iteration of its community asset mapping exercise to find a shared understanding of what a local food system can be in comparison and contrast to the global model. We plan to leave the workshop with a concrete action plan related to the SELRS framework with rural communities in central Alberta – and then across the map of our great province.

As for digesting the global food system, we think our backyards and local farms are a lot easier (and tastier!) to digest…

Submitted by Rene Michalak and Brenda Schroeder

(images courtesy of shiftN)

St. Paul Harvest Ball – Food, Farm, and Family November 5, 2011

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What do you get when you put a farmers market, local artists, sustainable food enthusiasts, two great guest speakers and a delicious local food supper prepared by community volunteers together!? The second annual St. Paul Harvest Ball put on by Champions for Change on October 29, 2011! Connecting Food Farm and Family was the goal! And they did it! Fun, Food and outstanding conversation made the event amazing! Dr. Trent Keough, President of Portage College, shared the news about the forthcoming processing centre to be built in St Paul and the partnerships and creativity that have nurtured its development. Xinna Chrapko of Birds and Bees organic winery and meadery shared the moving and motivating story of the family winery and meadery – a story of vision, creativity and perseverance. Xinna reminded us all of the ever-growing distance between ‘our food and the people’ and that we need to work together to bring them back together (www.BirdsandBeeswinery.com). St. Paul has a good start! Stay tuned… you will be hearing a lot more from St. Paul! Margo Fauchon and her team did a wonderful job on the event! (for more info contact Margo at 780-645-6673). Great job Margo and St Paul!

Submitted by Susan Roberts
Growing Food Security in Alberta

University of Alberta Farmers Market – A dream come true! November 5, 2011

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Nikki Way and her helpers put on a great Farmers’ Market event in the U of A SUB on Friday, the 21st of October during the University’s Sustainability week.




Farmers, gardeners, processors and crafters were all there along with others with displays about food and sustainability organizations. It was an honour to be there with our GFSA display and our book draw.



This was Nikki’s dream shared at a meeting held by ECOS on Feb 2011! Atta Go Nikki! and all your helpers! Hope we get to see this at U of A more often! A great step to connecting students to local food and farmers!


Submitted by Susan Roberts
Growing Food Security in Alberta

Talk is cheap. Let’s have a real conversation. SELRS Update November 1, 2011

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Our previous SELRS update told you about how we are entering a phase of conversation-mapping and relationship-building. We’ve been getting out, talking to each other and to people across the food system. The conversations last about an hour and allow us to get to know a bit better who people are, how they define and relate to terms like ‘sustainable’, ‘equity’, ‘local’, and ‘regeneration’. These terms may be defined in dictionaries and our formal documents but they come alive and hold deeper meaning when we find out what they mean for people, based on their life experiences.
It’s a learning experience to spend time with one person and hear their reflections on the current food system as well as their ideas for our future. And it’s powerful to sit with the responses for one question from many people and see the similarities and the differences. As we get a volume of responses from people who are producers, eaters, working in food security and social services, education, agricultural policy, distribution, retail and more, we get a deeper understanding of what opportunities and challenges exist. We see patterns forming that give us insight into where we can take action to build and strengthen SELRS and we are getting to know better the people who will be key in building a SELRS. Our workshop in December will allow us to sit more deeply with what we are hearing through this process and see what direction that is taking us. Some of the more prominent patterns and themes emerging include:
  • the importance of individual consumers and citizens and the choices they make: having the priorities and ability to invest time and money in the food system you want
  • the importance of building relationships first and growing initiatives from there
  • there are both healthy and economic benefits of becoming a food producer for yourself
  • sustainable farming practices are here and could be implemented more widely
  • supply management (dairy example) can be a sound approach to local food
  • the culture of consumerism is counter to what we are trying to achieve
  • need to remove the power differentials from food if we want an equitable system: not about haves and have-nots or about charity, which supports the have/have-not mentality
  • government has a role to play and we need the ear of politicians and government workers
  • the importance of education: learning about how to grow food, where our food comes from and the impacts our choices have
  • need to focus on those who believe and want to improve the system, this will lead to good for everyone
  • distribution and storage are key challenges in our climate and conditions
You can see that they cover a wide range of ideas and there is much we need to do to explore, refine and then build actions behind them. But it is a rich and fertile ground we are uncovering and therefore the seeds we plant will have great opportunity to grow.

Submitted by Brenda Schroeder and Rene Michalak

A Harvest Wedding November 1, 2011

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On a rainy weekend in mid-June of this year, my fiance (now husband) and I took off for a few days and nights of planning. Thanks to the rain and a big tent – we were cozy inside, working on our holistic goals for our life together as well as doing some more immediate scheduling for the rest of the year.

One of the goals we wrote is:

“We are eating and sharing nourishing food with family and friends.”

We’d already put in a large-ish garden and knew we were going to be raising 200 pastured chickens but we, honestly, didn’t have in mind just how we would get to share this food with our loved ones.

At the same time – we were planning our wedding for the Thanksgiving weekend (October 8th) and had met with a caterer who was willing to let us source the foods from our own garden and pastures or from our farmer friends. Our intent was to have a lovely harvest-style meal: perfect for a Thanksgiving/fall wedding.

These two streams of intent merged over the summer and by the time the wedding day came, we were serving our own beef, chicken, potatoes, carrots, beets, rutabagas and pickles! Some of the desserts were made with our own fruits and the wedding pie that we cut (in lieu of a wedding cake) came from strawberries and rhubarb that we grew as well. I also made up small jars of jams, jellies and other preserves for people to take home with them.

The head table had to be set on the stage of the hall, which was a bit nerve-racking for us: everyone could see us so clearly! It felt like we were setting up ourselves to be king and queen of the night, which wasn’t really what we wanted. But it was a great spot because we could watch the crowd line up at the buffet and could see people coming back for seconds and thirds! I didn’t expect the food to be a big part of the wedding – even though I wanted it to be food I was proud of and felt good about serving. Honestly – I don’t remember the food from other weddings I went to! So it felt great to see people enjoying and commenting and to still be getting notes from friends (3weeks later) about how they enjoyed the meal.

There was a great sense of satisfaction in sharing our produce with our loved ones and felt we were living out this goal that we’d set only a few months ago. It gives me confidence in the direction we are going and means that every time I dig out more carrots or defrost one of our chickens, I am reminded of this special day.

We are humble in our ambitions to be farmers and food producers – but knowing that we started out our marriage and partnership by sharing our own food with our loved ones, I feel like those ambitions just might be possible and might be already realised, in some small way.

Submitted by Brenda Barritt (nee Schroeder)