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Sheet Mulching – it’s sort of like baking a cake! May 18, 2011

Posted by gfsa in The How To's.
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Sheet mulching is the term used for no-dig gardening that will destroy weeds, replace existing lawn and generate a healthy environment for plants.  You will need – spades, rakes, edger, dried leaves, grass clippings, well rotted manure or compost, coffee grounds, plants for planting, soil and mulch.  You will also need a water hose with a hand sprayer attached.  Have ready a 4 foot stack of newspapers with no glossy print and several broken down boxes with tape removed.

The steps for turning a patch of grass into a garden bed are as follows:
* Lay out your plot – this can be curved into any shape that appeals to you.  A garden hose can be used to define the shape of your plot.
* Edge the plot – dig a nice edge about four inches wide around the plot to separate the rest of the lawn from your bed.  * Throw the clumps of grass and dirt into the plot.
* With a sharp spade make a number of cuts through the grass in the plot.  In 100 square feet of grass you need no more than  30 quick cuts.
* Dig holes for bushes or trees at this point.  If you are planting something that requires an acidic soil (such as blueberries, enhance the hole with coffee grounds. 
* Plant the bushes and trees.
* Now, starting at the cut edge (with the garden hose and sprayer ready to go) start laying down newspaper.  Three or four sheets thick are good.  Overlap and wet down as you go.  Work from the edge towards the centre of the plot working the newspaper up against but not over the plants. 
* Thoroughly wet down.
* Take your broken down cardboard boxes and do the same.  Overlap the edges and put down in one layer over the newspaper.  Wet down thoroughly as you go.
* Over the cardboard put a good layer of coffee grounds.  Filters will break down over time so they can go in also.  The rake may come in handy to distribute the grounds.
* Over the coffee grounds spread a thick layer of old deciduous leaves and grass clippings.
* Over this spread compost.  Add more leaves and grass clippings. 
* Top the whole works with a thick layer of rich soil to which has been added compost or well rotted manure.  We used potting soil from Bos Sod that was already enhanced with compost and manure.  For 100 square feet you will need 1 to 1.5 cubic feet of soil.  The rake was used to spread the soil around the plants.  Hands are also a tool and be prepared to get dirty.
* Now plant your bedding out plants and seeds.  Put a layer of mulch such as cedar chips on top of the soil but do not cover the plants with it.
* Water well.  Enjoy.

To view more pictures of this process visit the Healthy Communities of Lethbridge blogspot.

Submitted by Cheryl Deringer, Manager of Garden View Lodge, Lethbridge, AB

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I’ve Got Worms! January 4, 2011

Posted by gfsa in The How To's.
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Looking for low maintenance pets?  Got more excess food scraps going into your composter than it can keep up with?  Well I’ve got the answer all in one… Red Wigglers!  For years now I’ve had a colony of Red Wiggler Worms to help build the richest compost faster than your compost pile can naturally process it alone.  These worms can even be kept indoors, or under your kitchen sink for that matter (because they’re odourless). 

I got into vermicomposting more than 10 years ago.  A friend had a worm bin and offered to help me get started.  He shared a few worms (12 – 15) and before long I had a drove of my own thriving in a large plastic tub in my garage.  They are said to be the most ravenous eaters, leaving nothing behind, making them the most efficient compost producers.

Here’s the ‘down and dirty details’ of how to start and maintain a worm bin to make your own compost – it’s simple and very low cost (the bin might be all you need to purchase).  And it’s a great time of year to start a worm bin as dried leaves can be used for bedding.  First you need a large bin with a lid (worms don’t like the light).  I like my plastic bin; it holds the moisture and is easy to move.  It’s approximately 18 inches x 24 inches and 24 inches deep.  Here’s a great website on how to set up your worm bin; http://www.cityfarmer.org/wormcomp61.html

The temperature at which you keep your worm bin is important.  Some food wastees or too much waste will increase the heat of the bin so be careful not to mix too much in during hot weather, especially if your compost is shallow and the worms don’t have the depths to retreat to.  Laying the compost just on top will help to keep your worm bed  cooler during the warmest days of the summer.   At the other extreme you can’t let the wee things get below freezing either – I did that once and had to start my farm all over again.

Benefits of Vermicomposting?  Worm castings will enrich your soil with rich plant nutrients and will help the soil to retain moisture.  Worm castings also help to balance the pH levels in the soil and will not burn your plants, so you can never use too much. 

To read more about the benefits of using worm castings; http://www.tastefulgarden.com/wormcastings.htm

In addition to the plant food scraps I would normally throw into a compost bin I also add used coffee grounds every day.  The worms need some sand in their bin and the coffee grounds work great as well to keep their digestive system working at its best.  Worm food;  http://www.suite101.com/content/feeding-red-wiggler-worms-a145775

Additional websites to learn more about composting worms; 
http://hubpages.com/hub/Keeping-Red-Wiggler-worms-in-your-worm-bin-for-Organic-Gardening
http://wormlady.com/

Submitted by: Ronda Reach, Fort Macleod, AB

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:
http://gallery.me.com/jarydm

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

Edmonton High School Creates Perennial Food Forest October 26, 2010

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

Welcome to Urban Beekeeping in Alberta August 24, 2010

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Urban Beekeeping has been hitting the news across the globe as urbanites are hitting-up their yards and rooftops with beehives and alternative gardening tactics. In the Province famous for its conservatism, it’s no different. A.B.C- Apiaries and Bees for Communities  is an educational based initiative running out of Calgary which is focused on bringing the beehive home. Through hands on events, like their Bees n’ Seeds Workshops and their Level One Certification Course on Urban Beekeeping , it’s no wonder that there are 27 new beehives within the city of Calgary just this year.

A.B.C. began in the Spring of 2009 when Eliese Watson wanted to take part in Urban Beekeeping and found it difficult to any courses which encouraged urban participation of hobbyists. So, she took the matter in to her own hands, applied and received the Co-operators Youth Sustainability Grant, and began her search for an instructor to teach the courses for her. Through the grant funding and community support. A.B.C. has Certified 80 Level One Beekeepers, Co-op purchased with other hobbyists 30 nucs/boxes of bees from a small scale beekeeper in BC, hosted a guest speaker event with the Calgary Zoo, Presented an educational exhibit at the Calgary Folk Music Festival with the U of C Biological Sciences Program of Entomology, and offered 5 free workshops on beekeeping throughout the city. Have a look at A.B.C’s blog to learn more about where the adventures of Urban beekeeping have taken A.B.C. They are currently working on a video application for the Youth4Sustainability Grant .   Have a look at the videos, and vote for A.B.C’s!

Calgarians have the benefit of legally being able to keep bees in their backyards, and they are taking advantage of it. Beekeeping is a skill and a meditation of the mind and body. Working with bees encourages one to integrate their entire focus on the interconnectivity of community and ecology. By keeping bees, or supporting a neighbour who has bees, you are recognizing your community as a living habitat!

A.B.C has many courses and events coming up, including a year-end hands on event, and this year’s last Level One Beekeeping Certification Course. Have a look at the A.B.C’s website  to learn more about urban beekeeping in Alberta.

Submitted by: Rene Michalak

What is Permaculture? by Adrian Buckley August 10, 2010

Posted by gfsa in The How To's.
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It is very common to hear people talk about how humans are a cancer to this earth, particularly those people in the environmental movement. I felt this myself for a large period of my life, and currently so do many of my good friends. We all hear stories about human greed, destruction of ecosystems, climate change, political injustice, and most recently BP among others. This amounts to a lot of pessimistic energy. Personally speaking, I went through school and work constantly hearing about these stories, and I just felt more and more dis-empowered. I just wanted to start fighting back, but something deep inside me was telling me that fighting would just make the problems worse.

Then two things happened. I took an introductory course in permaculture, and second, I watched a video on youtube called Greening The Desert. I came out of these experiences with information on how to put my personal energy to meaningful and productive use toward these issues. The key word here is information. I quickly realized that there are relatively simple design solutions to the world’s problems, and that most of us are simply not aware of them. I have also realized that the environmental and social problems facing us and ecology are symptoms of a society that no longer has the information needed to take care of itself.

Here’s what I mean: Right now, our grocery stores only can hold about three days worth of food for our society at any given time. If the power were to go out tomorrow, we would quite literally starve. On top of that, for every calorie of energy we get from our food in industrial countries, 9 calories of energy have gone into brining it to us. So if you were a wolf expending 9 calories of energy to hunt for 1 calorie back in food, you would quickly perish. There are uncountable communities that are suffering from lack of clean water in North America. Yet in these same places, rain is falling regularly. We simply don’t know how to clean and store water on a local scale and therefore must rely on large utility companies for our water that comes from unsustainable sources.

Even the food that we do grow through industrial agriculture is unhealthy. I was really sad to hear the other day that a tenant who lives above me was just diagnosed with cancer, and she’s in her early thirties. We are continuously eating toxic pesticides through the food we eat, and it’s no coincidence that these deadly diseases are on the rise as industrial society proliferates. Think about that red pepper you bought from the grocery store. It came from a monoculture agriculture where it is sprayed down with chemical insecticides and fertilizer macronutrients. Such chemicals effectively kill the biology in the soil. Soil biology is extremely important in that it converts minerals in the soil into a form that can be uptaken by plants in exchange for starches provided by the plant. If no soil biology exists, the minerals are not available to the plant, and hence are not available to us when we eat them. Without the soil biology, more and more fertilizer has to be applied and the cycle just goes down from there. So without minerals in much of our food, it’s no coincidence that a whole new host of diseases are on the rise these days.

Here’s the good news: You can very quickly learn how to design a household that takes care of your needs, those of your children and your family through the acquisition of simple but powerful information. Permaculture is a design science for creating and maintaining sustainable human settlement where our communities themselves provide for our needs, including clean water, healthy food and renewable energy. Permaculture design allows people like you and I to become producers in our communities, so that our food, energy, and clean water needs, among others, are sustainably and securely met continuously and indefinitely, without the need for destructive industries and rising prices. And don’t be scared off by the notion of producer – permaculture is about the design of human systems where a maximum output of energy and resource is produced through a minimum of energy, work and time inputs. There’s a common mantra among permaculture designers: “Work is a failure in design!”

Who knew that we could actually provide for our heating needs in a harsh Alberta winter using cob furniture and a rocket stove that costs all of $100.00 to make? Or that we can meet all of our water needs entirely from rainwater even in a semi-arid region like Okotoks that commonly receives less than 500 mm of rainfall per year? We can do all of this and still have our quality of life! You don’t need to be an engineer or a plumber or an architect to do any of this. You simply need to know a little bit of information about various elements in our landscapes and how to functionally connect them. This is what design is.

How Permaculture Works
So here’s how permaculture works. Permaculture design is the practice and science of patterning human settlements so that they produce as much, if not more, resources and energy that they consume. Permaculture design essentially applies the key patterns of functioning ecologies to the design of human settlement. Think about a forest for a minute. When was the last time a forest needed somebody to water it? Or provide insect control? Or even needed someone to fertilize it? I can’t think of one! Forests have evolved over billions of years to take care of all their needs within themselves. More specifically, forests are an assembly of different living and non-living things that together act to fulfill all the needs of everything living in that system. Everything in the forest system is assembled into a pattern where the needs of one component is met by another component, where it’s needs are provided by yet another component and so on. Permaculture design therefore is the science of patterning human settlement in the same way, so that all of our supply line needs are available within our communities. Through permaculture design, we transform our properties and land into entities that produce for us instead of things that consume from us. See before and after below.

Have you heard about an ancient plant guild called the Three Sisters? When corn, beans, and squash are planted in the same hole together, all three do quite a bit better than if they are planted in isolation. It all starts from how we understand yield. Turn your attention to the corn for a minute and ask yourself the question: “what is the yield of corn?” “Well, that’s easy, corn kernels!” you might think. That interpretation of yield is the familiar product yield used in agriculture. But what I want to make clear to you now is that there is another extremely important yield provided by corn that is not commonly considered: trellis services! Think now about what the bean needs to live. It needs something to climb on, which the corn provides. The bean grows nicely up the corn stalk. Other than beans, what do you think the bean yields? That’s right, the bean is a legume, and legumes fix nitrogen from the air into the soil and therefore fertilize the ground around them at the end of their life cycle (or when you selectively cut them). Finally, what is the yield of squash? Shade and water retention! Squash has big leaves but also hugs the ground and benefits the system by shielding the soil from the drying rays of the sun. But it needs good nitrogen content for all that growth. So you see, all three plants are beneficially exchanging services, and all are better off! This guild was created simply by knowing the different needs of each plant, and arranging them to their yields. All the needs of the system are in fact provided by the yields in that system, and therefore don’t require human effort and fossil energy to provide them. Now, perhaps the biggest barrier to yield is our own imaginations – there is no physical limit to yield.
Excitingly enough, this concept of needs and yields can be applied to the redesign of our communities too, and even the planning of ethical businesses that turn waste streams into opportunities, ensuring for our economic security too. This is smart design, and smart design will save this world and guarantee our food security forever!
About the Author:
Adrian Buckley is an active permaculturalist and founder of Big Sky Permaculture, a Calgary-based permaculture education and consulting organization. Adrian regularly teaches courses and workshops in permaculture design, and plans and installs food forests and edible landscapes for homeowners and community organizations. To find out how you can become involved in permaculture, visit Big Sky Permaculture’s website at www.bigskypermaculture.ca. Adrian would be pleased to answer your questions and can be reached by email at adrian@bigskypermaculture.ca

Tips for Eating Local in Southern Alberta…Yummy! July 6, 2010

Posted by gfsa in The How To's.
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Above all else, I am a food enthusiast. I love to pick ingredients, cook, eat, sample, and entertain. It is my love of flavors that first brought me to the local and sustainable food movement, because fresh, natural, and local ingredients just taste better.  My commitment to eating locally elevated the kind of food I could produce when I shared meals in my home with  friends and family but it also helped me to recognize the economic and social importance of purchasing food from local producers. This is now something that it is intrinsically meaningful to me, and has sparked many a rant to anyone who will listen. As much as I like to talk about food security, I really love to inspire others to examine their food systems, too, and am constantly looking for ways to arouse interest.
 
Well, few things are as “arousing” as a great meal. Cooking with amazing produce and natural proteins yields amazing finished food, with each element tasting as it is supposed to (i.e. a tomato that tastes like a rich, deep, acidic tomato, instead of mushy and bland). It is because of this fact that cooking with local ingredients creates an opportunity to grow food security allies. People generally like to eat delicious cuisine, and this tangible outcome can create buy-in from even the most skeptic food consumers.
 
Building on this knowledge, I recently set out to host a dinner party for some dear friends that would consist of almost entirely local ingredients, and would hopefully convince them of the benefits of purchasing local. Most of the elements were sourced from the Medicine Hat Area, with a few other additions from other Southern Alberta producers. As a regular shopper at our community’s weekly Farmer’s Market, I knew that I would be able to find local tomatoes, herbs, legumes, bread, rhubarb, honey and meats, and planned to purchase those items the morning of my party. In the days leading up to the meal, I also connected with local bean, wine and dairy producers, and was overjoyed at the enthusiasm shown to me by these producers when I explained my cause.
 
My partner and I invited over two couples and we shared a meal of croustini with basil pesto and goat cheese, pulled pork with homemade honey- habañero BBQ sauce, beef short ribs with sweet spiced red wine reduction, tri-color tomato salad with honey-basil vinaigrette and croutons, garlic mashed potatoes with fresh scallions, BBQ baked beans, stewed rhubarb and local cherry and rhubarb wine. Yum! It was certainly one of my finer efforts and allowed for my house to be filled with aromas, laughter and friendship. The tomato salad was especially a hit! (See recipe below)
 
Over the course of what was a fabulous memory-making evening (including one very funny habañero incident) and the days preceding, I was able to connect myself deeper to my own food community, and determined that the following are my greatest lessons:
 
Things that grow together go together
This means that if you plan to host a local meal, you cannot pre-plan the menu or choose complicated recipes, and rather need to focus on seasonal and available elements. It is important to let the ingredients guide what you will be serving. In my case, the farmer’s market on the day of the party was filled with red, yellow, green and cherry tomatoes and big sacks of basil, which lead to a pesto appetizer and a mixed tomato salad. With this type of fresh flavor, it is easy to create simpler dishes that showcase the ingredients. This might mean serving veggies raw in a farm-fresh salad or simply grilling meats.
 
Shop like a chef
Anyone who is as devoted to food television as I am knows that chefs connect with producers to choose the best product the day that it will be served (i.e. going out to the fishing boats to pick that day’s best catch). The same principle can be applied to home entertaining. No one knows the product as good as the people who grow it, so ask them what they recommend. This is how I ended up with those succulent short ribs! Building a trusting relationship with your food producer can lead to access to great product and honors the expertise of the people who are most connected to the food. It’s also very cool to know the names of the people who wiped the dirt off your veggies.
 
Create Community with Food
Certainly one way culture is created and recreated is in food traditions. When you are intentional in purchasing food from local and sustainable sources, you make this part of your family, friend and community culture, and impact others to evaluate food security options. 
 
Allow for wiggle room
The idea of entertaining that features local cuisine is supposed to be fun and not meant to cause stress and panic in the host. Whether you use purist 100-mile boundaries and grow many of elements yourself or just make the choice to eat local when you can, and pick a few items up at the Farmer’s Market, the idea is to be intentional with your buying power. For me, this included some imported elements of olive oil, vinegars, and seasonings, and an intentional choice to feature great local ingredients whenever I could (see producer’s list).
 
Foster opportunities to create dialogue
If hosting a local meal, it can be really interesting to engage people in food dialogue: anywhere from talking about favorite food memories (often in the garden or a loved one’s kitchen) to addressing issues of food insecurity. This is a great way to get people talking.
 
Overall, I was pleased with the experience of connecting with producers, the quality of ingredients, the finished meal and the moment of creating community with friends over food. I’ve considered myself a food security ally and advocate for some time, but might be ready to upgrade to the title of “converter.”
 
Jessica Nixon, Medicine Hat, AB
 jessica_nixon@hotmail.com

Recipe: Basil Vinaigrette

Ingredients: 
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon or grainy deli mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
approximately 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cracked pepper
½ cup – 1 cup olive oil, depending on taste
Directions:
Combine all of the ingredients, except oil, in a food processor, chopper or magic bullet and blend. Slowly add olive oil in a slow, thin, stream, until creamy.
Season to taste and serve (great with tomatoes, goat cheese, lettuce, or as a dip for a fresh, crusty loaf of bread, or warmed over small roasted potatoes); or refrigerate up to 3 days.

Southern Alberta Producers (* are available at the Medicine Hat Farmer’s Market)
1. Country Grower’s Greenhouse*, 12518 Range Rd. 65, AB, (403)526-0019 – Tomatoes on the Vine
2. Cypress Hills Vineyard and Winery:Marty & Marie Bohnet, Maple Creek, SK (306)662-4100, www.cypresshilswinery.com – Rhubarb Wine, Sour Cherry Wine 
3. Fairwinds Farm Ltd., Ben & Anita Oudshoorn, Fort Macleod, AB (403)553-0127, fairwindsfarm@telus.net – Fresh Goat Cheese, Goat Feta
4. Golden Lane Honey, Calgary, AB, (403)287-7277, www.goldenlanehoney.com – Honey
5. MacPherson Meats, Scot & Rachel*, Big Stone, AB (403)779-2579 – Beef
6. Majestic Growers Ltd.*, Redcliff, AB (403)504-6796 – Cherry Tomatoes, Green and Yellow Tomatoes
7. Mayfield Colony, Jacob Stahl*, Etzikom, AB (403)928-1455 – Bread, Garlic (purchased last summer, roasted/frozen), Green Onions, Potatoes, Rhubarb
8. Prairie Farms Produce, AB., Calgary Farmer’s Market, www.Calgaryfarmersmarket.ca –  Beets, Onions
9. The Silk Road Spice Merchant, Calgary, AB, www.silkroadspices.ca – Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Sea Salt, Star Anise
10. Sunset Growers Ltd., Doyle Brandt*, Redcliff, AB (403)504-8864 – Fresh Basil, Fresh Thyme, Live Butter Lettuce, Habañero peppers
11. Sylvan Star Cheese, Red Deer, AB (403) 340-1560 www.sylvanstarcheesefarm.ca – Farm Butter, Parmesan Cheese
12. TLC Farms: Alastair and Lynn Olsen* Bow Island, AB (403)832-2541, www.tlcfarms.ca – Beef Ribs, Pork Butt Steaks
13. Vital Green Organic Dairy, Blush Lanes, Calgary Farmer’s Market, www.Calgaryfarmersmarket.ca – Organic heavy cream
14. Viterra Beans, Bow Island, AB, (403)545-2227 – Black Beans, Great Northern Beans
Pinto Beans, Small Red Beans

Starting a Community Kitchen: Thoughts from Vulcan’s Community Kitchen June 15, 2010

Posted by gfsa in The How To's.
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Community kitchens can be a great way of growing a positive food culture and building local community. Vulcan’s Community Kitchen had its start about a year ago, and in the process we’ve learned a few things about how to get a kitchen group going. Here are some steps we went through:
· Building a team: Starting with a coalition of people can ensure that the kitchen initiative has a strong and supportive base, such that it is sustainable. Establishing a group can also ensure that ideas and strategies are bounced around and built on.
· Finding a facility and scoping it out: We use a recreation complex in town, to which we are luckily given free access. Churches often have kitchen facilities, as do high schools and other community group facilities. When looking for a facility, keep in mind the need for counter space and multiple elements. Once you’ve settled on a spot, a checklist of utensils and dishes you might require could be handy. If you have access to some funding, consider purchasing the essentials that are missing from your kitchen (thrift stores are great for sticking to shoestring budgets).
· Getting the word out there: We’ve gradually gotten to know the key poster spots around town, and become familiar with community newsletters. We keep a contact list of kitchen attendees, and get in touch when a new session is around the corner. Keeping a blog with the recipes used and relevant details can also be helpful (ours is www.vulcancooks.blogspot.com).
· Figuring out a format that works for the group, and being flexible: Initially, we were meeting first to select recipes, make budgets and do some planning, and then a week later we were cooking. While this created a great inclusive meal-planning process, the format that has worked better for our members is to get straight to the cooking, and to plan for next time as we cook. We received some funding through various food producers associations, and we have therefore decided to keep the meal price steady around $2.00 per serving. Cooks register for each individual kitchen session as it arises, and decide beforehand how many servings they will be making, such that the coordinator can make a budget. The format of your kitchen sessions can really depend on the needs and wants of the kitchen participants.
· On that note, it is important to be open to feedback throughout the process. Maybe there are some people who would more easily participate if a group babysitting arrangement were made, or if car-pooling happened. Making your kitchen nights as accessible as possible helps ensure there is a diverse range of participants.
· A few things to bring: print-out’s of budget-making sheets and recipe sheets, a couple calculators, enough pens to go around, and a few recipe books to flip through can really help your recipe planning process. On cooking nights, we usually bring some research on the nutritional pros and cons of the meal ahead.
· Sharing the leadership role: It has been very positive for our kitchen group to rotate recipe leaders. This way, community members get to be in the driver’s seat.
Whether your kitchen nights involve passionate discussions of food system reform, or are just great get-togethers involving food, community kitchens can add flavour to your community and are part of supporting local food security. Enjoy your meals!

More resources:
· Alberta Health Services periodically puts on great introductory courses for new collective kitchen coordinators (http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/services.asp?pid=service&rid=1599)
· Fresh Choice Kitchens has a great Community Kitchen toolkit on their site http://www.communitykitchens.ca/main/?CKToolkit

Written by Meredith Seeton