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Finding Contentment in the Dirt June 2, 2011

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories, Food Thoughts.
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Thanks to Carrie Demkiw in High Level, AB for sharing this reflection:

Recently I have afforded myself the “luxury” to reflect upon and address the nagging anxious feeling that I have been living with for the past five years.  I’ve intentionally worked to slow my life down, examine my values and identify the inconsistencies in my life.  This is in an attempt to figure out where my passions lie and what my skills and talents truly are, in order to lead my life in a way that I am proud of and that fills me with contentment.
I’m definitely not even close to having it all figured out, but I’m on my way and this past weekend was a great indication of the progress that I have made.  You might ask how this all relates to food security, well, it is in fact what started this journey for me. 

Six years ago I made a switch in my career from a recreation focus to a health focus.  My new position in Health Promotion had me learning about the Social Determinants of Health and Health Promotion Principles and strategies.  It was while learning about this that we decided High Level could benefit from a Community Garden with no idea of what “food security” was – except that maybe it meant that our beef was not infected with BSE. 

In researching funding opportunities to develop a community garden we happened to stumble onto Growing Food Security in Alberta.  When I look back now, I realize what a turning point this was in my life.  High Level was fortunate enough to become a partner community and receive some funding, but most importantly training, mentorship, networking, and exposure to new ideas and a different way of thinking that just happened to resonate with me.

Over the past five years our community garden has evolved and we are connecting more with the community, garnering interest and support.  We have also run some different programs and tried to increase awareness and understanding about food security.  All of these things have been wonderful and are getting stronger with each year.  However, right now it is the personal transformation that I would like to explore.

I’m a slow learner and I have found myself getting caught up in doing for others and encouraging others to adopt certain lifestyles without really reflecting on my own life.  While it is certainly a strong value of mine to “walk the talk” and I’m physically active and eat pretty healthy, I’ve come to realize that I haven’t truly embraced the lifestyle I try to encourage and enable people to live. 

There are so many messages out there about how to be healthy and what is healthy, and cognitively we all understand it, but internalizing it is what makes it happen.  So, I’ve stopped my busyness (or decreased it at least) and have committed to meaningfulness.  I must admit, having my daughter has been a major factor in this transformation.  I have started living the values I want her to grow up with, in an authentic way.

I’ve turned off the TV, this has increased my time available to learn about the things I want to do and that a lack of knowledge was impeding me from doing.  I ride my bike instead of taking the car – and Noelyn (my daughter) comes with me in the baby seat.  This forces me to slow down and I find I am more relaxed and ready to take on the day when I get to work as opposed to when I drive the car.

More to the point and for the latest change, I’ve finally gotten beyond a few tomato plants and built my garden!  It’s small, but it’s a start.  We now have raspberry bushes, a saskatoon bush, planter boxes with herbs, and a small vegetable garden.  It was as I was standing barefoot in the back of a pick-up truck filled to the brim with the most cool, soft, luxurious soil I have ever felt and shoveling my countless shovel full of soil into the wheelbarrow that I was mindful of and present for the wave of contentment that washed over me.  I mention being mindful and present because this is something that I haven’t been for a long time.  In all my busyness, trying to do the right thing for my work, for the community and for my family, I have been living with chronic anxiety.  Not paying attention to the moment, always worried about what’s next and how I’m going to get it all done.  After five years of learning, five years of planning programs and services, five years of understanding on a cognitive level… it was standing barefoot in a truck full of soil that I really started to get it.

So, I’m going to stop doing things because they are the right thing to do and start doing things because they feel good, because it reflects the very essence of who I am and what I value.  I’m also going to be patient with myself, allowing a slow and steady change, not expecting it all to change over-night, but to be more conscious and mindful of how I’m living.  It is ironic that I grew up on a farm where we grew our own vegetables, produced our own beef, eggs, and milk; a life I didn’t appreciate as a child and that now, as an adult, I am seeking to obtain. 

Submitted by: Carrie Demkiw, High Level, Alberta


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)

Federal Food Policy – Can I really make a difference? October 13, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Countdown to P2S, Food Thoughts.
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This week is the launch of the second round of  People’s Food Policy Project (PFPP) Kitchen Table talks.  It’s an exciting week with lots of people all over Canada hosting and attending Kitchen Table talks.  One of the focuses for these talks is to review and give feedback on 10 Policy Chapters that have been drafted based on input from Canadians.  Many of these are policies that are aimed at changes that are needed at the federal level to improve food sovereignty in Canada.  That’s big news, but it can also be a little overwhelming. 

Why should you care?  How can one person have an impact on such a big issue?  Does it really make a difference?  I’m going to say YES!  Right now, there are a lot of challenges within our food system.  If we don’t voice our opinions then nothing will change.  The People’s Food Policy Project is exactly what the name infers – WE (as in you and I and our neighbours), the PEOPLE, are saying what we think about food in our communities.  This includes things like where it comes from, how much it costs, how it is raised, processed, packaged, and transported, who makes money from it, how it impacts the environment and future generations, why there is hunger and much more.  These are important messages that our government needs to hear.

But there is another reason to care!  Not only is the PFPP creating policies that will be presented to the federal government, it has also provided a great opportunity for communities to talk about what is happening on the home front.  Many groups are seizing the opportunity to discuss and understand food and food sovereignty at a local level.  What’s happening in our neighbourhoods and communities?  Some of these discussions are leading to fantastic spin-offs, including local networking and ACTIONS!  Actions around food, food security and food sovereignty right in your own backyard. 

In my humble opinion, it is these local actions that will ultimately change our food system.  As we discuss food in our own communities, we increase awareness and interest.  The actions that spin out of these discussions can lead to local changes.  As more and more individuals and communities begin to make changes our governments will also be pressured to make changes.  This can lead to policy changes at all levels -municipal, provincial and federal!

The PFPP is a vehicle to positively impact our food systems both locally AND federally.  So, although it may seem overwhelming to think that WE the PEOPLE could actually change federal policy, I say YES WE CAN! 

Don’t miss your opportunity to get involved!  Check out the PFPP web site and Kitchen Table talks in your community or contact your PFPP Animators: Susan Roberts (susanr@cbr-aimhigh.com) or Angie Dedrick (adedrick@telus.net) .

Submitted by: Angie Dedrick, GFSA

Have Your Say on Food Policy October 5, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Countdown to P2S, Food Thoughts.
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The People’s Food Policy Project is a pan-Canadian network of citizens and organizations that is creating Canada’s first food sovereignty policy.

The heart of food sovereignty is reclaiming decision-making power in the food system. This means that people have a say in how their food is produced and where it comes from. Food sovereignty seeks to rebuild the relationship between people and the land, and between those who grow and harvest food and those who eat it. 

Back in 2007, a number of citizens deeply concerned with and involved in shaping our food systems, decided that Canada needed a big shift in how it deals with food.  After decades of farming crisis after crisis, rising obesity and hunger, and the continuing degradation of the environment through food production, it has become clear that the government needs our help in solving these complex problems. The People’s Food Policy Project was conceived as a way for us all be involved in shaping Canadian food policy – a way for us to pool our knowledge, experience and desire for a food system that fits with our values.  Since we started in 2009, we’ve had conversations with over 1000 Canadians about the food system they want.  These conversations have been summarized in the 10 Discussion Papers (that will eventually become the People’s Food Policy) that you can find on our website.  In the coming months and years, we hope to continue these very important conversations to deepen and further develop the People’s Food Policy. 

The People’s Food Policy grows from a vision of a society in which nobody goes hungry and everyone has a strong connection to the sources of their food; where food sources and food providers are honoured; and where people shape the policies that govern the food system through an inclusive, democratic process.
So, we are asking people to consider the food systems you want by:
· having conversations and thinking together,
· imagining what a food system based on your values would look like,
· sharing stories of struggle with the existing food systems and
· sharing stories of hope about the food system you want.

We are creating a citizen-based food sovereignty policy for Canada that we hope to put into practice in the future.  Part of this involves talking with as many Canadians as we can, and together thinking about what a food policy might look like that reflects our values.  Through this project, we are weaving together a united vision and basis for action amongst the many local, regional, provincial food groups across the country.  We hope that this will inspire other groups to think about food policy (if they aren’t already!) in their own work.

How You Can Contribute?
Be a Food Champion – Host a Kitchen Table Talk! Conversations are catalysts of new ideas, actions and relationships.  To ensure that the People’s Food Policy truly reflects a broad spectrum of opinions, we need citizens like you to contribute your opinions, values and efforts.  Below, we have provided three suggested Kitchen Table Talk processes to help guide your discussions and generate discussion.  Please choose one that suits your personal or organizational interests.

1. The People’s Food Policy: What does the food system you want look like?  During these Kitchen Table Talks, we will imagine the food system we want and talk about whether the People’s Food Policy reflects your hopes.  A general pamphlet containing eight appetizing questions have been prepared to get you going.
2. Assessing a Piece of the People’s Food Policy Pie: The goal of this conversation is to understand, critique, diversify and deepen the People’s Food Policy.  Choose one policy, OR one section of a discussion paper, OR an entire discussion paper and have a conversation about it.  Then let us know what you would change, add or remove.
3. A Food Story Circle: We all have stories to share about food.  The goal of this conversation is to document food stories of struggle, hope or revelation.  Around the table, share what isn’t working in our food system and the innovative ways that people have overcome the limitations of our food system.  Share the moments of change in our own lives when we realized that something had to change.  These stories will be used to support our policy proposals, to give a grounded rationale for why the policies we propose are needed.

To view the 10 draft Discussion papers, see dates for Kitchen Tables  in your region and for more information go to the PFPP web site at www.peoplesfood[policy.ca or contact two of the Alberta PFPP Animators: Susan Roberts (780-987-2002) or Angie Dedrick at info@foodsecurityalberta.ca

For more information and participation and facilitation guidance for the  PFPP Kitchen Tables see: http://www.peoplesfoodpolicy.ca/getinvolvedorganisation or http://www.peoplesfoodpolicy.ca/getinvolvedcitizen

Wannabe Farm-Girl Tackles the Harvest September 28, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Countdown to P2S, Food Thoughts.
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I LOVE veggies!  I always have.  In fact, I remember my mom telling me that ALL of our family loved vegetables.  It was just the way it was…it was in our genes!  Of course I realized later that this was just one of her ploys to get me to eat more veggies, but it worked.  I loved them so much that even my extended family knew it, and at my wedding shower I was presented with a broccoli corsage.  Seriously! 

So being that I am a veggie lover, its not surprising that fall is one of my favourite times of the year.  The crisp air, the gorgeous changing leaves and best of all, its harvest time!  Yippee!  Apples, squash, potatoes, carrots, onions, leeks…and all the great comfort foods – soups, stews, apple pies – oh the joy of it! 

At my CSA farm, harvest day is a celebration.  We, the share families, arrive to witness the bounty.  This year was no exception.  A flatbed of pumpkins and squash, bags and bags of carrots, potatoes, leeks, onions, beets, cabbage, corn, and more.  We visit, have a few snacks, swap recipes, thank our CSA farmers, load the stash into our vehicles and happily head home. 

Here is where the trouble starts.  As I unload my vehicle, I realize I need to do something with this amazing bounty.  I don’t want to see any of my beloved veggies go to waste!  The truth is, over the years, many a veggie has met the garbage or composter instead of my family’s stomachs!  I know, it’s sad…I hang my head in shame!  But alas, I won’t give up.  Year after year I keep trying to find ways to use it all.  After many flops, I have finally learned how to make raspberry and strawberry jam.  I’m also pretty good at making zucchini and chard relish, and have become friends with my freezer.  But I know there is still so much to learn! 

 This year I thought I would seek advice from some of my friends in the GFSA Network.  I asked them to share their wisdom and was thrilled to receive many tips and tricks.  I’d like to share some of the tidbits I picked up:

Zucchini – Did you know you can grate fresh zucchini and throw it right into the freezer!  Portion it out to fit your favourite muffin or cake recipe and your set to go.  You can also cut it into small chunks, blanch for 2mins, freeze on cookie sheets and then throw into a larger freezer bag for use in soups and stews.  And if you still have lots of zucchini, you could participate in “Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbour’s Porch Day” !  Mark your calendars for next year!

Squash and Pumpkin – I find winter squash lasts quite a long time on my kitchen counter and kind of looks pretty there, but I’ve learned that it will last even longer in a cold room, heated garage, or a root cellar if you are lucky enough to have one.  If you need to use them more quickly, they freeze really well.  Just cook them (baking is simplest), mash them, and scoop them into a freezer bag or container.  You can use them later for muffins, soups and stews.  If you haven’t tried squash soup, you really must.  It is absolutely divine!!

Tomatoes – I have learned that you can freeze tomatoes right off the vine, then you simply run them under warm water, the skins pop off and they are ready to add to your favourite recipe.  Cool!  Another trick I learned from a friend is slow roasting.  Quarter your tomatoes and roast them at 200 F for as long as it takes for them to become mush (2-3hrs).  These roasted tomatoes freeze really well and are excellent in soups and sauces.  (I am sad that my tomatoes flopped this year as this is one of my faves!)

Swiss Chard and Kale – If you are lucky to still have some of these leafy vegetables, they apparently freeze quite well too.  You just blanch them for 2 minutes, no more, then you can freeze them to enjoy later.  They keep their color really well.  OR…you can make some really yummy swiss chard relish.

Corn – Blanching and freezing corn is relatively easy and especially delicious.  There is still time to get in on the last days of Taber Corn!

Leeks – I find these keep pretty well in the fridge after you clean and trim them, but apparently you can freeze them too.  Just chop and freeze…no blanching required.  Next time you make a soup or stew, toss them in! 

The last tip I received was a really great one.  If all else fails and you just can’t use all your garden’s bounty, your local Food Bank will happily share the surplus!

So what are you doing to preserve your garden delights?  I’m sure there are lots of other great suggestions and tips out there.  I’d love to hear them! 

Submitted by: Angie Dedrick, Wannabe Farm-girl and GFSA Assistant Coordinator, St. Albert, Alberta

Should Canadians Care About Country of Origin Labeling? September 14, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Food Thoughts.

Want to know where your food comes from? That may depend on the outcome of the WTO Country-of-origin labelling dispute involving Canada and the United States

On September 16 the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute resolution panel will begin to hear arguments from representatives of Canada and the United States over US measures to label meat according to its country of origin, a measure which Canada contends violates the rules of international trade. The Canadian government’s opposition to this measure and much of the Canadian media coverage of the US policy on country-of-origin labeling (COOL) have missed the mark. Why? Because they reduce this issue to a knee-jerk protectionist reaction by the US Congress to the demands of a small bunch of U. S. livestock producers. They ignore the reality that most Canadians like most Americans want to know where their food comes from and want those who process and sell the food to be required to label it in terms of its origin. The outcome of this dispute, therefore, has a direct impact on our rights as food eaters to know where our food comes from.

The battle over country of origin labeling in the United States involved an eight-year political struggle, with major retailers like Wal-Mart and food-processing corporations like ConAgra spending millions of dollars on more than 100 lobbyists to stop COOL–first in the 2002 Farm Bill and then in the 2008 Food Conservation and Energy Act.

On the pro-COOL side in the U. S., rarely mentioned in the media here, were more than 100 groups, including some smaller livestock producers and farmers as well as local food activists, environmental and consumer organizations like Public Citizen and the Consumers’ Union, the respected publisher of Consumer Reports.

The Bush administration opposed COOL, as did the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) which tried hard to scare American consumers into believing that COOL would dramatically raise food prices. Despite their deep pockets, the opponents of COOL failed and it was embedded in two major U. S. farm bills. COOL opponents then changed tactics and, with the help of the USDA, tried to delay the implementation of the law but COOL has the support of U. S. President Barack Obama and his secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack, who appears committed to tightening up the law so that American consumers know where animals that are the source of their meat were born, fattened and slaughtered. When he made that clear, Canada went to the WTO to complain.

Yet, if you asked, I am sure many Canadians would also like to see mandatory country-of-origin labeling of their food. Few Canadians realize our country has fought mandatory labelling of food in terms of its country of origin. It has also opposed any mandatory labelling of food derived from use of genetically modified organisms. The meetings of the bodies which set food labelling standards, the Codex Alimentarius, and the WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade Committee, receive little media coverage, even though the Codex Committee on Food Labelling meets annually in Canada, is chaired by a Canadian, and is open to anyone to observe.

Had the media been there, they would have been able to tell Canadians that our country has argued that consumers do not have a right to know where their food comes or how it was produced unless agribusiness decides it is in their market interest to tell us. Requiring COOL food labelling, Canadian officials claim, is a violation of trade rules. They have also suggested that Canadians by and large do not care where their food comes from and purchase food based largely on its quality and price despite studies which indicated that “the role of place as an indicator of quality distinctiveness is increasing in importance” and the local food movement is growing rapidly. Consumers increasingly associate local food with freshness, low energy consumption and a host of health and environmental benefits. The very success of campaigns to safeguard access to, and support for, local food shows that this is the case.

Despite this evidence of a growing consumer concern about the origins of food and a desire to know more about their food, Canadian officials went so far as to claim in their submission to the USDA opposing COOL that U. S. and Canadian governments had been working hard for the past 18 months to “make national origin irrelevant in business and consumer decisions”–a fact that local food activists might find disturbing.

Perhaps it is time, as the Canadian National Farmers Union has suggested, for Canada to embrace COOL. There is no question that Canadian livestock producers have suffered recently, but is the source of their problems regulations like COOL or the fact that three or four huge corporations control 80 to 90 per cent of the meat packing on each side of the border, leaving livestock producers as captive suppliers with no market power? The level of dependence on U. S. market access leaves Canadian livestock producers especially vulnerable.

One thing is clear, COOL will not go away. Just this past March a committee of the European Parliament has also endorsed Country of Origin Labeling. The EU and a number of countries are watching the US-Canada dispute at the WTO very closely. So should we. We should also make it clear to our government that we too want to have the right to know where our food comes from.

For information on the WTO process of dispute resolution and the US-Canada Cool case http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds386_e.htm
To voice concerns about COOL and trade rules the International trade minister Peter VanLoan can be reached at VanLoan.P@parl.gc.ca
The Consumers Union in the US has a lot of discussion of issues around food labeling and COOL see: http://www.consumersunion.org/
The National Farmers Union in Canada supports COOL and has a number of briefs that address issues of local food and labeling see www.nfu.ca

Submitted by: Elizabeth Smythe, professor of political science at Concordia University College of Alberta in Edmonton.  Elizabeth can be reached at elizabeth.smythe@concordia.ab.ca

Confessions of a Wannabe Farm-Girl August 3, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Food Thoughts.

I am a farm-girl wannabe!  I love the idea of growing my own vegetables, having a few chickens and maybe raising a couple pigs.  I imagine myself happily getting up at the crack of dawn to go out and gather eggs.  It’s a gorgeous morning, the birds are singing and kittens are playing at my feet.  I head back to the farmhouse to make my husband and two daughters a hearty breakfast before we start our day of chores.  Chores!?  Here’s where my dream falls apart.  What exactly does that entail?  How long does it take to do them?  Do we get breaks?  Do we still have time to do our “day jobs”, go to the gym?  Hmm….

The truth is, I am a city girl.  I was raised in “the world’s largest hamlet” Sherwood Park just east of Edmonton.  My family had a garden when I was really young and my mom blanched and froze veggies, canned fruit from BC, froze corn from Taber, made her own jam and bought our beef from the local butcher.  Then one day it all stopped.  My mom joined the work force and whole-heartedly embraced modern convenience.  We filled our garden with grass, our shelves with cans and boxes, and our freezer with store bought veggies, meat and quick, frozen meals.  Don’t get me wrong, we still had Sunday dinners and homemade meals, just not as often and not using ingredients we grew or processed ourselves.  Our neighbourhood Safeway became our sole provider and occasionally we enjoyed “treats” of fresh local veggies from the Farmer’s Market. 

Maybe it was these memories that planted the seeds for my desire to be a farm-girl?  As a grown up with a family of my own, I began tinkering in the garden, first with flowers, then with veggies.  To learn more about gardening and farming my family joined Tipi Creek Community Shared Agriculture (LINK to Tipi Creek website) farm near my home in St. Albert.  We learned the fine art of planting, weeding, and harvesting on a much larger scale than my miniscule backyard patch.  I have also learned a little about preserving the bounty of food we receive from the garden.  To this day, I am still a member of this CSA farm.  It’s been over 13 years!  I love the feeling of digging in the earth, the freshness of the veggies, and the community of people that has been nurtured over time.  People like myself who are seeking connection to the earth for themselves and their children, and are perhaps, like me, wannabe-farmers.

I recently read a book that really got my inner farm-girl going: “Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life” by Jenna Woginrich.  It describes the adventures of a young woman who moves from the city to a farmhouse in an effort to leave the consumer-driven culture behind.   She describes her efforts to embrace farm life including raising chickens, bees, growing veggies, etc…  Her city-girl turned farm-girl adventures made me laugh!  Check it out.  Maybe it will inspire the inner farm-girl or boy in you!

So do I have what it takes to be a farmer?  Could I actually do all the chores necessary to operate a farm?  Am I willing to give up my day job and city life to do so?  Is my family? I am not sure. But there is one thing I do know, my inner farm-girl has inspired a great curiosity in me and led me on a wonderful food journey.  In seeking answers to my many questions I have met new people, made new friends, acquired some new skills and gained some appreciation for the people who work so hard to grow and process our food.  Thanks to my inner farm-girl I now know how to plant, weed and harvest a garden and have added add veggies and fruit trees to my flower gardens.  And…even though I have been traveling this path for many years, I know I still have lots to learn.  I still have many, many, many questions.  Questions like…

  • How much food would you have to grow and preserve if you wanted enough to feed your family through the winter?
  • How do I encourage more bees to visit my garden? 
  • Could I raise honeybees in my yard?
  • How do I do a better job of keeping my root vegetables over the winter?  Would I have space for a root cellar?
  • Could we raise a few chickens in our backyard?  If I did, what would I do with all those eggs?

Yipee…more wannabe farm-girl adventures to come!

Submitted by: Angie Dedrick, GFSA Assistant Coordinator, St. Albert, Alberta

Money, money, money… July 20, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Food Thoughts.
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Money, money, money; Must be funny in the rich man’s world
Money, money, money; Always sunny in the rich man’s world
Aha-ahaaa;  All the things I could do if I had a little money; It’s a rich man’s world – Abba

The search for money and funding is in the hearts and minds of many who are doing amazing things across our country.  How can we work together to make sure the ‘rich man’s world’ is everyone’s world? ’Rich’ means a healthy planet for everyone – healthy food, air, water, and soil.  A resilience and sustainability that is predicated on one simple principle that – what ever you do, and wherever you do it  – you do not damage or hurt anyone or anything – that means anything  – animal, vegetable, or mineral.

This is systems at work – simply said “everything is connected”. Think about your choices – growing, shopping, and food habits; waste as a resource or a management practice; water use or misuse; home renovations to do or not to do. These are all connected and have impacts on our planet. We need to learn together across the system and we need to lead!  Seek out unusual partners and fill the glass (the needs and the gifts) together. Measure success through all the lenses not just one – health, social, education environment, economics, and the family and community.

Resource companies ought to take a look at small non-profits and see how they meet with ‘success on a dime’ and contribute to the spirit and sustenance of their communities.  Non-profits ought to seek out natural resource companies, builders, processors, manufacturers and see which ones have been successful in tapping and creating resources without sacrificing the environment AND who have had long-lasting positive effects across systems – community, family, health, education, social, environment and economics. This means we need to get out of our comfort zone.  Make a call, have a coffee and see where it goes.  There is so much to learn and so little time. Check out Melcor and its practice around their newest build and embracing the natural habitat in south of Edmonton, Cenovus and its community support philosophy, Sangudo and its amazing community development and volunteer efforts,  Hinton and its community garden and low impact greenhouse efforts, so many examples… 
So stay tuned.  I am going to call ——— oooh that is uncomfortable!   What about you?  Who will you chat with?

Submitted by: Susan Roberts, GFSA Coordinator, and Owner of Community Building Resources

Is Eating Local the Best Choice? June 22, 2010

Posted by gfsa in Food Thoughts.

Those who say eating local is not always the best choice for the planet are forgetting one very important part of the equation: COMMUNITY. David Morris of AlterNet wrote this in 2007 (www.alternet.org). I AGREE!

I live my life and run my business on the premise that relationships and reciprocity are key to building strong, resilient, sustainable communities and citizens. I believe the local food movement is a community building act! Building friendship and relationships, reciprocity, interdependence and give and take is what the local food movement is all about! At Farmers markets, at local provider farm to gates, when you pick up your good food boxes, when you go to the CSA and pick up your share..at all of these you meet and talk and get to know people… it is there that the community building happens…I know I have experienced it! And it is a wonderful experience!

Way back 20 years ago as a student with my two sons living in Cincinnati I chose to shop each Saturday at Findlay Market (www.findlaymarket.org). I was skeptical of the American food system, even then! Because I went to the market regularly I got to know the providers, where they operated, their growing methods and indeed I found a community and met people there who became life-long friends. I even found a part-time job doling out vegetables. I got to know the ‘cheese man’ so well that at our going away party he had a T-shirt made and gave it to me and it said the ‘old gouda’ lady; old gouda was our favourite cheese that we picked up every week!

Now in my rural Alberta home I have found community through the three local farmers markets nearby and the farm to gate business of Spruce Park Ranch, just 5 km away from my home (www.spruceparkranch.ca). I can ride my bike there! Marilyn and Les at Spruce Park have eggs, meat, dried fruit, homemade home decor and during the summer they even have fresh organic veggies, all homegrown or sourced from from a neighbour. We have developed such a great relationship that Marilyn has even taught us how to raise sheep! Jack and I now buy two sheep yearly from Marilyn and raise them on our property. This is our fourth year to do that.Wow! My granddad was a sheep farmer and would be so proud! Not only do I now have confidence in the food we are eating, I have found new friends and new knowledge along the way Oh yes, Les and Marilyn are now clients of Jack’s – reciprocity and interdependence for sure. I like that!

So think beyond all the debates about ‘food miles’ or if this from AB has more nutrition than this from New Zealand. Don’t dwell on the cost, research is emerging showing that the cost is not the problem, it is the quantity we want to eat and the choices we make that are the problem! So choose to build community by being an active participant in your local food movement.

Building communities is our future. Building and strengthening rural communities and local farmers is key to that! So come on everyone let’s have more of this in Alberta. Support the farmers markets (www.albertamarkets.com) and the farms to gates (www.albertafarmfresh.com). Car pool, cycle; get out there and meet your providers! It is so much fun. You will make new friends, learn new things, you will be healthier and you will help build stronger rural communities as result! We need that!

Written by Susan Roberts