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Pathways Proves Pleasingly Palatable March 22, 2011

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories.

The food. Ah, the food. What else brings people together more effectively? With local on the minds and from the mouths of Albertans, it’s local food that we’re hungry for. And the Pathways to Sustainability Conference had plenty of it. Throughout the three-day event in Red Deer March 23 to 25th, Head Chef Darcy Casement led the Chartwells Catering team of food professionals to fuel the thinking, feeling, and action towards creating resilient community in Alberta.

After a breakfast of locally-sourced eggs, bacon, cheese, berries and scones, conference delegates were blessed by Native Elders and engaged with a diverse cast of presenters, panellists, and exhibitors at the Red Deer College. Welcomed by honorary conference chairs, RDC President Joel Ward and Mayor Morris Flewwelling, what followed proved to be more than just the usual ‘a la carte’ of talks and ideas for building community. Attendees were challenged to open their hearts and minds to join Chris Turner in a great leap sideways. Learning the connections between food, fuel and finance from Alberta’s influential leaders, they broke bread together with bowls of Big Rock Bison and Root Vegetable stew, another local variety. Connections were made in the mind and in the marketplace leading to an evening of  locally-sourced, multi-ethnic cuisine with tour guide Wayne Roberts’ and his no-nonsense approach to understanding the world food system. It was a pairing of perfection that piqued the senses!

The cold February weather may have sapped a few car batteries the following morning, but the delegates were charged up like Energizer bunnies after another dejeuner of local food; this time french toast, saskatoon syrup, sausages, and fresh fruit juices. The marketplace exhibitors took the stage and told the stories of their community – the sense of place their organizations help create and sustain. Artisan sandwiches and Cassoulet soup was the lunchtime fare while on stage Bob Mills told his tales of travel to the Far East; where non-stop bullet trains and super-hot flames move people around and divert garbage from the ground.

More marketplace stories and cultural connections danced delegates through the afternoon and into the open bottles of local wine and mead served by En Sante Winery and Fallentimber Meadery. Then the sweet strummings of local musician Nathan Gartner played into an evening of Community Cafe conversations, storytelling, and relationship building for community resilience.

Awakening to the final day of the conference and braving the bitter cold of winter, everyone gathered ’round hot coffee and ham, mushroom and gouda frittata. The final day of the conference assembled the a-ha moments and newly forged relationships to devise solutions for creating resilient communities in Alberta. One final piece remained, however. With minds buzzing, the obvious question became, “How  to finance all of these great ideas for localization?” Luckily, Woody Tasch from New Mexico transitioned into a lunch of thyme-roasted chicken, reminding delegates of time-tested practices we so easily forget – local investment into food, farms, and fertility as the foundation of a resilient economy. It seems we don’t need new ideas, just how to remember to use the ones that already work. 

With minds and appetites eased, one final round of collaboration focused energies to leverage actions that strengthen resilience right where we live. Alberta economist and Pathways ambassador, Mark Anielski summed up the three days by sharing his insights into why people live together in the first place – to create an economy (aka ‘household management’) based on true happiness. Combining and connecting the way communities eat, power, and finance our local culture has always been the solution for maximizing our level of contentment in life. But somewhere along the way we’ve strayed from this basic knowing, forgetting who we are and how we can all live happy, supportive and productive lives in solidarity.

The final message was clear, our direction was set, and our spirits were nourished to meet the challenges before us, together. For more information on the P2S Conference and to see the recorded presentations visit – www.pathways2sustainability.ca

Submitted by Rene Michalak, Rethink Red Deer, Red Deer, AB.



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