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Sustainable Dining with Wayne Roberts! February 9, 2011

Posted by gfsa in Countdown to P2S.
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The count down to P2S is on!  That is…Pathways 2 Sustainability: Food, Fuel and Finance, Feb 22-23 in Red Deer, AB. 

GFSA is thrilled to have contributed to the planning and support for this innovative conference that will challenge our thinking around sustainability and push us toward solutions that consider the impacts of food, fuel and finance.  We are especially excited that Wayne Roberts will be joining us as a key note and panel speaker.  Wayne will be the keynote speaker after the Sustainable Gourmet Dinner on day 1 of the conference, Feb 23rd.

Are you thinking that a talk on food, fuel and finance isn’t your dream way to end a delicious locally-sourced meal during a mid-winter conference on sustainability? Think again! Going light on the world’s resources means going light on ourselves: that’s the deep belief of after-dinner speaker Wayne Roberts, who helped launch the green economics movement across North America with his 1995 book called Get a Life! and who has adapted that philosophy after ten years as manager of one of the world’s leading food policy councils. You may lose your opportunity for a post-dinner snooze, but like the dinner itself, you’ll enjoy the light fare afterward. Now how can someone possibly make food fuel and finance reasonably entertaining? Figuring that out may just be key to the mystery of how we promote sustainability!  

Check out Wayne’s new book “The No Nonsense Guide to World Food” and join him on Facebook or his blog at www.wayneroberts.ca

 Register for the P2S Conference today!




Submitted by: Angie Dedrick, GFSA Co-coordinator.  Special thanks to Wayne Roberts!


The kids are cooking in Lloydminster! January 19, 2011

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories, Countdown to P2S.

I remember being a kid and standing on a kitchen chair, making a beard out of bubbles in the sink, and helping with dishes after family meals. Or carrying burned French toast up to my parent’s room and spilling juice the whole way up the stairs to bring them breakfast in bed on their anniversary. Spending time in the kitchen or gathered around the dinner table are some of my most cherished memories from growing up.

A lot of kids today don’t have these types of memories. Families are eating together less, and many kids and young adults never have a chance to learn how to cook with their parents. It’s kind of scary to think that the next generations to come will be eating highly processed convenience foods every meal of the day. So, what can we do about it? Get those kids cooking!

Midwest Food Resource Project offers a program calledKids in the Kitchen. We usually partner with schools in the different communities that we work in. We have 6 kids in each group, and they do 3 weeks of baking and 3 weeks of cooking. There is an emphasis on healthy food choices, and we teach them about food preparation and food safety. They prepare enough food to take home for their families to try. It is so wonderful to see their beaming faces as they describe how much their parents and siblings enjoyed their supper! Many of these kids spend more time helping out at supper time after being in the groups. A lot of them will also try new foods if they have helped to prepare them.

It is so important to get kids excited about preparing foods at a young age. This is one life skill that is worth preserving. These children will grow up to be adults who can cook healthy foods for their families, and keep passing the skills along. Kids who don’t eat right turn into adults who don’t eat right! Let’s get them on the right track from the start. Today, help a kid learn to cook or eat supper with some friends and family. Let’s make some memories to cherish with the next generations.

Submitted by: Bekki Bonsan, Midwest Food Resources, Lloydminster, AB

What’s Edible Forest Gardening? January 11, 2011

Posted by gfsa in Countdown to P2S, Food Thoughts.
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Forest gardening is an idea whose time has come. We can consciously apply the principles of ecology to the design of home and community scale gardens that mimic forest ecosystem structure and function, but grow food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer, “farmaceuticals,” and fun!

Edible forest gardening is not necessarily gardening in the forest, it is gardening like the forest.  According to David Jacke and Eric Toensmeier, authors of Edible Forest Gardens, “Edible forest gardening is the art and science of putting plants together in woodlandlike patterns that forge mutually beneficial relationships, creating a garden ecosystem that is more than the sum of its parts. You can grow fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, other useful plants, and animals in a way that mimics natural ecosystems.”

What most people are surprised to discover is that edible forest gardening has been around for hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of years. In Morocco, for example there exists a 2000 year old food forest consisting of date palms, bananas, olives, figs, pomegranates, guavas, mulberries, tamarinds, carobs, quinces, grapes and many other species. You might say, “sure, but that’s a tropical climate!”. OK, let’s move a little closer to home… at least in terms of climate.

In the UK – Shropshire to be precise – the late Robert Hart turned his back yard into a thriving, temperate-climate forest garden. Hart’s forest garden was a replacement for the food he had once gotten from his livestock. He focused on a one acre tract beside his house and began planting. About an eighth of the garden was an old orchard, full of apples, pears, and damsons (plum-like fruits), while the rest of the area was originally a traditional vegetable garden. Hart began planting herbs and black currants in the understory of the orchard, mulching heavily with with straw, compost, and grass clippings in the spring and early winter. He quickly realized that the combination of mulch and perennials made the forest garden much simpler to keep up than the traditional vegetable garden, though he noted that he would occasionally have to go on a “crawl-and-claw expedition through the undergrowth” to weed. The forest began 30 years ago and stands as the largest and most successful of its kind to be grown in the northern hemisphere.

Still skeptical? Well, forest gardeners are doing their thing at 7,000 feet (2,100 m) of elevation in the Rocky Mountains and on the coastal plain of the mid-Atlantic. And even “right in our own backyard” 2-acres has been reserved and awaits the planting of Alberta’s first large-scale edible forest garden. Spruce Lane Organic Farm is the home of what’s been endearingly dubbed “The Garden of Weedin'” where the plan is to produce a vast variety of fruits, nuts, vegetables, gourmet mushrooms, and culinary & medicinal herbs – with as many perennial and native species as possible. This demonstration project will showcase the practice of edible forest gardening in the temperate Canadian climate and show that anyone with a patch of land can grow a forest garden.

Master farmer and naturalist, Masanobu Fukuoka once said, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” How we garden reflects our worldview. The ultimate goal of forest gardening is not only the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of new ways of seeing, of thinking, and of acting in the world.

Submitted by: Rene Michalak (info@rethinkreddeer.ca) , Rethink Red Deer, Red Deer, AB

GFSA Cookie Swap! December 22, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Countdown to P2S, Food Thoughts.
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Growing Food Security in Alberta would like to wish all of our Blog friends and followers all the best for a happy and fun filled holiday season.  We hope that you find time to rest, relax and rejuvinate yourselves. 

As a gift to you we would like to share some of our favorite cookie recipes.  Enjoy!

Oatmeal Shortbread (Susan Roberts, Spruce Grove)
Pumpkin cookies (Angie Dedrick, St. Albert)
Compost Cookies (Dianne Nikiforuk, Drayton Valley)
Banana Oatmeal Cookies (Heather Mathur, Lethbridge)

Food and Everything – Memories to Share December 14, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories, Countdown to P2S.
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With the holiday season upon us, it is a wonderful time to think about family and reflect upon our unique experiences and memories – especially those that involve food!  

Whether it be childhood experiences or traditions that are passed along to our children, food is often core.  Our common experiences with food help build family and community.  Debbie Bonsan of Midwest Food Resources in Lloydminster, AB shares her family and community food experiences in this video she produced, “Food and Everything”.  Thanks for reminding us of the importance of sharing our memories and experiences with others Debbie! 

Food and Everything http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI4Jkuql-rU

Youth and Nature’s Gifts: Honey, Potatoes, Pork and Tea! December 1, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Countdown to P2S, The How To's.
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Jaryd Murray, from the Edmonton Public Skill Centre, brought his Culinary Arts students out to the Parkland Conservation Farm on October 6th.  They took part in an interactive program that focused on connecting youth to their food.  The day’s activities were organized so that the students could discover real life examples that support Principles of Sustainable Food. Staff at the farm are working on exploring and developing a new Sustainable Food for Youth Program that is built around Sustainable Food Principles, so this was a good experience for all involved!

During our hike on the farm’s natural trail and in the organic gardens, the group harvested and collected potatoes, garlic, beets, carrots, parsnips, rosehips and mushrooms; just some of the foods that they used to make lunch over an open campfire.  Honey and mint were also foods they used that came straight from the farm.  Onions, pork and flour were all sourced from other local farms.  The free range pork was made into sausage using a traditional recipe.  And the bread was sourced from Treestone, an artisan bakery in Edmonton that uses traditional baking techniques.  The delicious lunch consisted of roasted vegetables, sausage on a bun, bannock with honey, and rosehip and mint tea; all prepared on site!  Also accompanying the lunch was sauerkraut and Nick’s own green tomato relish, a tasty favorite!  Real butter and olive oil was also used in the food preparation.

Other activities enjoyed during the program were visiting the hens and picking eggs, seeing both the backyard and vermi-compost bins, learning about beekeeping, storing the crop and matching plant-to-food on a slideshow presentation.  The student’s instructor, Jaryd, even took home a farm fresh turkey that he was planning on roasting for his family’s Thanksgiving dinner the following weekend!

Some sustainable food principles that were discussed, using examples from the day’s activities are:
o Food is grown/raised/processed locally avoiding transportation.  The closer it is to the point that is consumed, the better.
o Food can be obtained from the wild if it is done so without damaging the natural ecosystem.
o Processing enhances food nutritional qualities and/or preserves foods for off-season use
o Food production is in sync with the natural environment and supports biodiversity on which food production directly or indirectly depends.
We need to think of food (based upon sustainable food principles) as a gift that is tasty and cherished when eaten and sustains human health, providing nutrition that allows people to be healthy over generations.

The Parkland Conservation Farm is located near Mundare, Alberta and has since had a name change to incorporate the new and important direction the organization has taken.  ARSAN, or the Alberta Rural Sustainable Alternatives Network is the new name.  The purpose of ARSAN is to demonstrate possibilities of a new, sustainable way of life with a focus on developing a sustainable local food system.  The Parkland Conservation Farm site is now a network of ARSAN.

Since 1997, the Parkland Conservation Farm has offered the Agro-Environmental Education Program (AEEP) to youth from both urban and rural areas in Alberta.  Building on the success of this program and supporting the organization’s new purpose, staff from ARSAN will be developing a Sustainable Food for Youth Program which will replace the AEEP.  The program we had on Oct. 6th is just a glimpse of the new and exciting ideas we have for youth education.  And we are looking for creative ideas, support and funding to develop and implement the new program.

Please see the following link to view a picture gallery from the program on Oct. 6th:

Thank you!
Pamela Gottselig
Manager, Parkland Conservation Farm
Alberta Rural Sustainable Alternatives Network
780-764-3927      pamela@arsan.ca

Operation Fruit Rescue – Making the Most of Edmonton’s Fruit Harvest November 9, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories, Countdown to P2S.
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Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) is a cool little idea that is growing to be big.  The ‘coles notes’ version of the program is that people who own property with fruit trees or shrubs and don’t want to or cannot harvest the fruit, can connect with people willing and eager to pick it for them.  One third of the harvest from each picking goes to a community agency, such as a youth shelter or a soup kitchen, one third of the harvest goes to the property owner if they would like it, and one third goes home with the people who do the picking.  The fruit harvested includes berries, plums, pears, and apples, most of which would be going to waste if it were not for the program. 

There are a handful of fruit rescue programs across Canada, and each operates independently. In the case of Edmonton, a small group of dedicated volunteers coordinate the program, which has grown steadily since it’s inception. Pickings are organized largely via email, sent out to volunteers who meet at a specified home to pick and/or fan out to pick in the neighborhood.

This year in Edmonton it was the “Year of the Apple”, with many property owners calling for pickers because they couldn’t handle (or believe) the amount of fruit on their apple trees.  However, other fruits such as plums and berries were also picked.  Literally thousands of pounds of fruit was picked this season, and it is unimaginable to think it would have otherwise rotted.

As a first year volunteer my 8 year old daughter and I started out eager to help community agencies and to get some free local fruit.  By the end of the season my daughter and I had gained much more!  We learned about our local neighborhoods, local fruit varieties, how to process apples into everything imaginable, met interesting people, and also hated apples. (We ended up with about 210 pounds of apples.)

Operation Fruit Rescue helps to save valuable fruit, redistributing plenty to those with less, but it also connected us with neighbors and people we don’t otherwise meet, and gets us to work in the outdoors.  It made us appreciate our amazing local variety, our fruit producing yards, and all the preserving others have done for generations.  As a byproduct, we have developed a large stock of apple juice, apple butter, spicy apple chutney, apple-beet chutney, and apple pie filling.  In this case, working towards improving local food security produces alot more then just local food security.   Lastly, we now know that everyone should attend a juicing party at least once!

For more information about Operation Fruit Rescue visit their blog: http://ofre.wordpress.com/.  Here are some  other groups doing this kind of work across Canada:
Calgary Harvest 
Not Far From the Tree in Toronto
Fruit Tree Project in Vancouver

Submitted by: Melissa Scaman, OFRE Volunteer, Edmonton, AB

Addressing Food Waste in SE Alberta November 2, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories, Countdown to P2S.
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Recently Medicine Hat hosted an open community meeting to discuss “Gleaning” as a local food system project. As a member of Medicine Hat’s Community Food Connections I was made aware of the project and the promise to address hunger; however, since I am much more a food system ally than a grassroots farm girl (having very little actual food production experience), I had to admit that I had no idea what “gleaning” was. I imagined that it was a brand new technique; some up and coming hunger solution. As it turns out gleaning is an old concept….as in Biblically old. Gleaning is the traditional Biblical practice of gathering crops that would otherwise be left in the fields to rot or be ploughed under after harvest. Today, gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested in an attempt to address food waste. When crops do not meet top grade quality (i.e. are bigger, smaller or different shape than typically sold to food distributors) and are seen as unmarketable, they are left to rot or be ploughed under, despite being completely edible.

With my introduction to gleaning, I found that gleaning charities around North America are accessing the “wasted” food and redistributing it in an attempt to address hunger. It is based on the supposition that the world produces enough food to feed every person (http://www.endhunger.org/) and is insufficient in distribution and management of surplus.

How it works is that surplus vegetables (often potatoes, beans and corn in SE Alberta) are harvested by volunteers, dehydrated and packaged to be redistributed as a low cost food option to some local food banks and charities. The food is often transported overseas to provide international hunger relief, as with the Prairie Gleaners in Alberta (http://www.prairiegleaners.com/).

In the food security context, gleaning provides the prospect of safe, nutritionally adequate foods to those in need, addressing poverty and environmental waste; however, the food may not meet regular food aesthetic standards and as such may not be personally acceptable.  Unfortunately, this is the roadblock to using gleaned foods in the local system (i.e. the Medicine Hat Food Bank) as it seems that most service users are not interested in gleaned produce; rather, all people want equitable access to the same quality of product.

Despite the recent dialogue in SE Alberta to use gleaned foods to address local hunger issues, this will not occur at this time; however, for me, several important community implications came from the discussion. The following are some of the lessons I took from my introduction to gleaning.

  • The entire community does not have equitable access to quality produce. One way that individuals can address this is to plant a “sharing row” in their own gardens to be shared with local community kitchens, food banks, community programs etc.
  • The community has an abundance of edible food. Allowing for some flexibility in aesthetic standards could provide most people in the community with healthy, sustainable options
  • Local farms support local initiatives. Many of the local farms and producers have opened their fields for gleaning. While they are protective not to saturate their market with “give away” product, they continue to offer surplus to community initiatives.
  • There is a great quantity of food waste. Most of us can consume less of the world’s resources than we now use. We can put effort into being less wasteful and more mindful about our food consumption.
  • We can act locally to support globally. In volunteering time to a local gleaning organization (manpower being the largest issue) you can help ensure that food “waste” is used to provide international relief.

For more information about gleaning in Alberta, please contact the Prairie Gleaners Society.

Submitted by: Jessica Nixon, Medicine Hat, Alberta

High Level Connects Classroom and Community Garden October 28, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories, Countdown to P2S.
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“Strawberries, watermelon, carrots, peas, brussel sprouts, corn…”  “Wait, did you say brussel sprouts?!”  This was the scene when we asked a class of kindergarten students what their favourite fruit or vegetable was in one of the first classroom presentations we did about gardening and food security. 

The former Northern Lights Health Region developed a classroom program, targeted at kindergarten and grade 4 classes, that blossomed from the struggles with our community garden.  It was mutually beneficial education aimed at increasing awareness and involvement in the community garden, connecting kids with the earth and teaching them about where their food comes from. 

After the first year of starting our community garden we realized that we needed to do more to increase awareness of and participation in the garden.  This led to the development of lesson plans for kindergarten and grade four classes about eating healthy and gardening.  These interactive classroom presentations highlighted the value of gardening, eating healthy and food security; at the end of the class the students planted a seed (bean, pea or tomato).  They cared for their seeds for 6 weeks, once the plants had gotten big enough, the classes then took a walking field trip to our garden to transplant their vegetables and were invited to bring their families to the garden at any time to check on the progress of their vegetables, help with the garden and take home some fresh vegetables. 

We also held a classroom contest to name our garden and design a sign for it.  The winning submission named the garden “Same Soil Community Garden” and designed a vibrant, eye catching sign.  The winning class won an indoor grow kit, complete with soil, seeds, planters, self watering system, and heat lamp.  They grew some tomatoes, peppers and herbs that they delivered to the community garden before they left for the school year.

While the classroom presentations and activities did not entirely meet the objective of attracting more participation in the Same Soil Community Garden, it did invoke some very interesting conversation and left a lasting impression.  I still occasionally get “you’re the garden lady” when a student who I presented to sees me in public!  If you would like information on our lesson plans please feel free to contact me at 780-841-3321.  

Submitted by: Carrie Demkiw, Health Promotion Liaison, Alberta Health Services, High Level, Alberta

Edmonton High School Creates Perennial Food Forest October 26, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Countdown to P2S, The How To's.

wpid-IMG_6438-2010-05-19-19-41.jpgSince February, I have been fortunate enough to work with students at Jasper Place High School to create a perennial food forest system in the school’s largest courtyard.  Containing more than seventy different edible perennial herb species, the garden is not dependant on outside human care; of particular importance for summer holidays.  As the system was designed with a forest in mind, the garden does not depend on watering, fertilizing, tilling, or chemical application.  What’s more, is that because the system is perennial by nature, it will not require yearly cultivation and has the potential to continue surviving on it’s own without human intervention.

Creating self-regulating perennial systems, susa as the one found at Jasper Place, was originally conceived by permaculture founder Bill Mollison in the sevenites.  By observing patterns and principles commont to ecology, Mollison began experimenting with design strategies that care for both people and the ecological systems that sustain them.  Since its inception, permaculture has branched into a diverse number of applications; from urban agriculture, to community and city planning, land reclamation, financial systems, social networks, and now education.

In an educational context, permaculture emphasizes creating an open learning enviroment with a focus on connecting curriculum with students interests and community needs in a multi-disciplinary approach.  It is my hope, that in addition to providing positive examples of conscious design, food security, and ecological restoration, a permaculture program can act as a cross-curricular linking point between education departments and the wider community.

For a complete record of permaculture at Jasper Place High School, check out the program’s blog: http://permaculture.jasperplace.ca/

If you have Facebook, make sure to join the JP Permaculture page: http://www.facebook.com/Permaculture.School

You can also follow us on Twitter at JP_Permaculture.

Submitted by Dustin Bajer, Edmonton, AB