Posted on

Buying Canadian: Canadian Countermeasures to US Tariffs

I love Marion Nestle’s “Food Politics” Blog.  She is a Paulette Goddard Professor, of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Emerita, at New York University, which she chaired from 1988-2003 and from which she officially retired in September 2017.

It is well worth it to listen to and read her thought-provoking interviews about the politics involved in food. I am often left very enlightened and dumbfounded by the intricacies and back-stage antics involved in conventional agriculture and how food actually gets from farm to table.

The one thing I learned from Marion over the years is that we, as consumers, have a lot of potential power – potential – because we may not always be conscious of it or using it in a directed and empowered way.

Marion’s July 11, 2018 blog post about the US tariff induced retaliation – particularly the list of Canadian Countermeasures taken – is impressive.

Growing your own and supporting local farmers/producers has never been more timely and pressing. Consciously choosing to purchase local and fresh foods is the key to creating a sustainable food system.  Choose to be a part of the local food movement.

Grow~Share~Thrive

 

Posted on

Introducing Our ‘Garden Surplus to Table’ Program

Connecting Local Gardeners & Small-Scale Growers with their Community ~ Fostering Food Security & Access to Fresh Foods ~ Reducing Food Waste ~ Reducing Emissions

Creating a Local Food Movement

The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small-scale, in our own gardens. If only 10 percent of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.” 

~Bill Mollison, Founder of Permaculture

Garden Surplus to Table (14)

Keeping It Local and Affordable

Calling All Backyard Gardeners in Crofton and surrounding area…Did you grow more than you can use? We will be happy to take it off your hands…

 

We are launching our Summer Season Garden Surplus to Table Program where we connect backyard gardeners and small-scale growers with their local community.

The idea of a ‘garden surplus to table’ program came from various conversations with backyard and community gardeners as well as neighbours and local organizations over the last year.We are lucky to live in an area with a high number of Green Thumbs who produce so much food that they often have a surplus. These gardeners want to see their surplus go to good use.

We believe that such a program will connect this local food abundance with those in our community who need it and/or want it. It will also give something back to the gardeners as a way to encourage more local food production.

 

Our mission is to help stimulate and support the local food movement by supporting local growers AND providing easy, affordable access to fresh, local food in the community.

Creating access to fresh, local produce improves local food security. A ‘garden surplus to table’ program provides local, fresh foods directly to the local community at affordable prices, reduces food waste and carbon emissions.

This program also supports local backyard gardeners and small-scale growers by turning their surplus produce into profit.

 

IMG_20180527_104855_686

How It Works

  1. Contact us & Let us know you are interested in participating in the Garden Surplus to Table program in Crofton/Duncan/North Cowichan, BC area.
  2. We pick up your surplus (garden produce you do not want or need)
  3. We sell your extra food directly to the local community at low-cost
  4. Participating Gardeners and Growers receive 50 percent of proceeds from the sale of their surplus (maybe to buy more seeds and grow-a-row for the community)

 

Possible Food Resources Right in Your Backyard

  • Fruit trees, shrubs (even those deemed ornamental but with edible fruit)
  • Your Garden – do you grow tomatoes, squashes, cucumbers, peas, potatoes, radishes, kale, greens, strawberries, currants, gooseberries, blackberries, raspberries, fennel, onions, garlic, etc?
  • Culinary herbs such as mint, oregano, thyme, basil, marjoram, parsley, chives, etc.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I sign up?

Please sign up by contacting us and letting us know you are interested in participating. We will contact you within 24 hours to determine what produce you may have available.  You must sign up in order to participate in the program. Don’t worry, it won’t take long to sign up. We may ask to meet you in your garden and chat briefly about what you grow and when it may be available to pick up.

 

2. Do you accept fallen or bruised fruit/vegetables?

Yes. Mildly bruised fruit such as apples or cherries make for great pies. Your waste could be someone’s treasure. In general, fruit and vegetables should be in good condition: ripe, not moldy, rotten, decomposing or filled with worms.

 

3. Is there a minimum amount of food?

No. There is no minimum. If you have one or two extra cucumbers to sell, you can drop them off at our Farm Stand location on Chilco Road. If you have lots of surplus from your garden, we will be happy to pick it up on a Friday or Saturday in order to get it ready for sale on Sunday.

 

4. Do you take food that has been grown with synthetic fertilizers (e.g., MiracleGrow®)?

Yes, we do. However, we encourage all participating growers to use organic growing practices – ideally no off-farm inputs. Great fruit and vegetables begin with great soil. Compost is an excellent way to improve your soil conditions. Companion planting – growing herbs such as Chamomile, Thyme, Lemon Balm and Chives alongside your vegetables –  helps to support a healthy soil microbiome and deter pests. Using Comfrey Leaves and/or Stinging Nettle Leaves to make your own simple compost tea/natural fertilizer is also well worth the effort to protect soil and grow nutrient-dense food.

An excellent book on how to create optimal, healthy soil and one that I highly recommend is Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web. This book is available at the Cowichan Library in Duncan. We always hear about healthy intestinal flora (microbes) and how important it is to our overall health. It is the same thing with soil. Healthy microbes equal healthy soil.

This book is a beautifully written (not boring) primer on Soil Microbiology and sheds light on how we are inextricably linked to the health of this fragile ecosystem we take for granted.

Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition

5. What do you NOT accept?

We do not accept any foods grown near driveways, roadsides or where herbicides or pesticides may have been applied.

We also do not accept foods grown near any area that has been sprayed with ‘demossing’ agents or ‘RoundUp®’ type agents.

We strongly encourage participating growers to use environmentally sound means of eradicating ‘weeds’. The following natural formula is an excellent herbicide for your garden, driveway, or curbside:

1 gallon of white vinegar

2 cups Epsom salts

¼ cup dish soap

Credit to Jess Yund for this formula.

 

6. Does Seedling in the Wind harvest the fruit/vegetables from my garden?

No. We currently do not glean or harvest from gardens.

 

7. Where do you sell the food?

Your surplus garden produce will be sold on Sundays during the growing season at the Corner of Chaplin and Queen Streets, right beside the BC Ferries Salt Spring Island Ferry Terminal 

Pop Up Farm Stand Sales take place every Sunday, 10 am to 12pm, during the Summer/Early Fall at the Corner of Queen and Chaplin Streets (by the Salt Spring Ferry Terminal in Crofton).

 

8. How long is the program?

This is our first season and we will run this program from July 1 to September 16.

 

9. What do you do with the profit from sales?

Although we try to keep our operating costs to a minimum, we do need to cover the cost of gasoline. We may hire local students to help with preparation for market or to assist with the market.

 

10. Can my business buy the surplus food?

The redistribution of surplus food is intended to improve food security and access to fresh, local foods in the local community.

 

11. What happens to the food that is not sold?

Our aim is to sell all the food. However, should there be food left over, the grower has a choice: 1) food is returned to the grower OR 2) the grower allows us to donate food to local families or the food bank.

 

12. Do you accepts surplus food from backyard and small-scale growers only?

We take surplus food from local backyard gardeners and small-scale growers (orchards, small-scale farms) as a way to support and promote local growers. We continually work on expanding relationships with local growers and welcome those who wish to support the local food movement.

 

13. Who sets the Price at the Pop Up Market?

We set the price. Our goal is to strike a balance between keeping prices reasonable and accessible and making sure our contributors are fairly compensated.

 

~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

Home ~ Contact Us~Next Pop Up

Posted on

Our First Farm Season

It has been a long while since my last blog. We moved to our new property in August 2017 and have been busy unpacking, landscaping, planting herbs and berry bushes, building garden beds as well as expanding the gardens.

Our farm stand is now open on the weekends where we sell seasonal produce including culinary and medicinal herbs, edible flowers, . As of June 1, 2018, phase one of landscaping/planting is done. I have two more phases in mind…

We are so excited about the beautiful weather on Vancouver Island that is making the plants grow and thrive. Pollinators are out making swift work of the polyculture we deliberately established. Our organic compost is coming along wonderfully with the help of comfrey and stinging nettle which are high in nitrogen. It will be ready for use in the fall to support the underground ecosystem – good food grows from good soil.

I have been busy over the winter working on a Chartered Herbalist Diploma from Dominion Herbal College in Vancouver, British Columbia. The final exam was three days ago. I am happy to report that I passed and am officially a Chartered Herbalist.

I have always loved and felt a deep connection with nature. Studying herbalism and traditional medicine, which I am deeply passionate about, has set that need for connection and ancient wisdom ablaze once more. It is amazing that just a few generations ago, herbs and botanicals were the go to medicine for common complains in North America; a way to heal on physiological, emotional and energetic levels using nature’s compound remedies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) promotes Traditional Medicine and states the following:

  • Traditional medicine has intrinsic value, and in recognition fo this fact, it should be promoted and its potential developed for the wider use and benefit of mankind.
  • Traditional medicine has certain advantages over imported systems of medicine, because as an integral part of the people’s culture, it is particularly effective in solving certain cultural health problems.
  • traditional medicine contributes greatly to scientific medicine, thus justifying its development from the Western biomedical perspective.

One can certainly spend a lifetime learning about this beautiful planet and its medicine.

 

Until next time, here’s a walk through our garden!

IMG_20180330_182323_072

 

IMG_20180414_120507_848

IMG_20180418_141726_183
French sorrel salad, kale, dill, edible flowers (violas, pansies, English daisies)
IMG_20180512_162248_490
A cake topped with our edile flowers – had to share this

 

IMG_20180418_220928_209
Beautiful Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

 

IMG_20180426_120701_372

IMG_20180426_132247_499
Art beneath our 100-year-old cherry tree

IMG_20180428_145128_885

IMG_20180430_131000_441
Strawberry blossoms
IMG_20180430_130426_525
Apple blossoms
IMG_20180504_162859_148
A delightful visitor

 

IMG_20180518_110051_258
Wild Rose blossoms
IMG_20180519_141224_348
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

IMG_20180521_164648_528

IMG_20180523_200925_741
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

 

IMG_20180524_162039_693
Borage (Borago officinalis)

IMG_20180527_104855_686

IMG_20180527_114636_948

IMG_20180527_183429_059
Garden Rue (Ruta graveolens)

IMG_20180528_095110_808

IMG_20180601_150513_972

 

Grow~Share~Thrive

 

Posted on

Urban Garden Harvest ~ Early June

It is early June and here are some of the delicious vegetables coming out of our urban garden. Our first harvest included Cherry Belle Radishes, lettuce, spinach and all kinds of herbs including dill, cilantro, parsley, lemon balm, bergamot, lemon verbena, marjoram, thyme, oregano, holy basil, and rosemary.

IMG_20170526_085909321-EFFECTS

The kids enjoyed harvesting the radishes, big and small. They are excited about growing their own food. Planting, watering, harvesting and taking care of a garden are a good life skill that may just come in handy.  When we started our Urban Garden in the Front Yard, we wanted it to be a full contact sport.

IMG_20170526_085052042

Different kinds of lettuce and spinach are in full force. I love running out the front door and chopping fresh veggies and herbs for a nice salad to go with dinner or as a big part of dinner. The lettuce and spinach regrow relatively quickly so we are able to enjoy a lovely salad everyday. There is something wonderful about eating produce cut minutes before it is consumed.

IMG_20170601_105823976

Below is a sample of the salads we have been making over the last few weeks.

Radishes, spinach, lettuce and dwarf kale. Fresh dill, holy basil, lemon verbena, cilantro and parsley make it into the salad, too.

I keep the vinaigrette simple, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil, 1 table spoon of Balsamic Vinegar, 1 tablespoon of real Maple Syrup.

IMG_20170608_182442511_picmonk

Strawberries are almost ready. They will make a fantastic addition to salads. That is, if they don’t get eaten up first.

IMG_20170601_110657671

Nasturtium flowers are edible and add a lovely decoration and taste to any salad. Here is our fist flower.

IMG_20170608_205059293_picmonk

~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

All photographs are original by Jane Grueber.

 

 

Posted on

Good Health Outcomes Start with Access to Good Food

“As there is enough food in the world, hunger is a result of political decisions. Food insecurity results from ineffective policies (social, agricultural, economic and health) at local, national and global levels  and from decisions which do not consider the elimination of poverty, hunger, and food insecurity, and the development of sustainable food systems to be priority issues.”

~Laura Kalina in Building Food Security in Canada: From Hunger to Sustainable Food Systems: A Community Guide 2nd edition.

It is possible that all we need to sustain, nourish and heal grows on this planet. Equitable access to produce and food that has been grown or raised without off farm inputs is, in my opinion, a fundamental right, not a privilege reserved for those who can afford it. The United Nations has stated their position as such for a long time. Seventy years, in fact.

pexels-photo-89852-medium

Poor Health Outcomes linked to Food Insecurity

A 2016 report from an interdisciplinary research team at the University of Toronto (PROOF), Ontario, Canada worked with the British Columbia Provincial Health Ministry to determine what factors contribute to poor health and poor health outcomes in British Columbia.

They used information gathered from self-report Community Wellness Surveys (completed 2005-2012) to evaluate various factors affecting overall population health including mental health and physical health.

They found that one (of several) indicator linked to poor health outcomes was Household Food Insecurity – ‘households not being able to afford the nutritious food they need to either maintain good health or successfully manage chronic health conditions.'(1)

Where’s the PROOF?

The following 13 minute video beautifully sums up PROOF’s research findings regarding Household Food Insecurity in Canada. One of the researchers, Valerie Tarasuk, tells it like it is and it ain’t pretty.

My hope is that health professionals, allied health professionals, social workers, teachers, early childhood educators and others who work with families watch this video and take into consideration the seemingly innocuous, yet very real factors that affect ‘best possible outcomes’ when it comes to health and well-being.

Before pointing fingers and exclaiming NIMBY, PROOF found that 65 percent of people in British Columbia (and Canada) who could not afford to put balanced and nutritious meals on the table were working families.

The provincial health authority with the highest rate of food insecurity in British Columbia was the Vancouver Island Health Authority with food insecurity rates at 25 percent. Most numbers across British Columbia and Canada (with the exception of the Northern Territories which are significantly worse) hovered just over 10 percent.

Implications of Undernourishment

Given the significant implications of undernourishment, these numbers should be concerning. It is alarming that children living in Central Vancouver Island are almost twice as likely to have communication and cognitive difficulties as children living on mainland BC. Adults and children are also more likely to have chronic illnesses and life expectancy is just below the BC average.

Are these poor health outcomes the result of higher rates of food insecurity?  According to PROOF’s research, the higher the food insecurity, the poorer the health outcomes. In their report, they specifically state that “food security is fundamental and necessary for healthy eating” (pg. 4).

They go on to discuss the potential health and social challenges that may arise from household food insecurity:

  1. Birth outcomes and maternal health – poor nutrition during pregnancy can have a negative impact on both mother and infant.

  2. Child development – among Canadian children and youth, food insecurity is associated with iron deficiency anemia and has been linked to the subsequent development of a variety of chronic conditions, including asthma and depression. According to PROOF, A Quebec study observed a two-fold increase in the likelihood of persistent hyperactivity/inattention among children eight years old and younger who experienced food insecurity between ages one and a half and four and a half years, even after accounting for family socioeconomic circumstances and parental mental health. In central Vancouver Island, preschool children were almost twice as likely as children from the rest of BC to be at risk for poor communication and cognitive outcomes (language delay, reading, writing and numeracy skills) based on the Vancouver Island Local Area Profile from 2014.

  3. Health Status and Chronic Diseases – food insecure individuals report higher levels of poor or fair self-rated health, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, food allergies.  In Central Vancouver Island the top two causes of death were due to disease related to the circulatory system, and due to diseases of the arteries/arterioles/capillaries, ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease/ stroke, respectively.

  4. Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being – food insecurity can increase the likelihood of depression and social isolation and is an independent risk factor for depression and suicidal symptoms in adolescents and early adulthood. Again, in Central Vancouver Island, mental health services use was well above average for BC.

  5. Health Care Costs – in addition to poorer health outcomes, recent research in Ontario shows increased health care costs associated with food insecurity. According to PROOF, after adjusting for education and income, total annual health care costs in Ontario were higher for adults living in food insecure households compared to those living in food secure household. Specifically, for marginally food insecure household, health care costs were up 23 percent, for moderately food insecure households, 49 percent and for those household who experienced severe food insecurity the cost of health care went up 121 percent. Food insecurity has also been show to increase the probability that adults will become high-cost health care users.

The report goes on to discuss the monthly cost of food for families of four. The numbers indicate that low-income families would have to spend two-thirds of their income to afford ‘nutritious’ food.

IMG_20170329_152057_851

A Food Paradise Paradox

There is an interesting paradox on Vancouver Island. The island is filled with much beauty. Farmers grow wonderful biodynamic food, not all are organic certified because the hoop jumping and associated costs are too much. Farmers’ markets abound, some seasonal and some year round. Organic food can be delivered to the front door. Some wonderful food is grown year round in shipping containers.

Fresh vegetables, herbs, free range eggs and chickens, jams, berries, apples, plums, pears and honey, just to name a few foods, can be acquired at quaint farm stands at the end of long driveways.

Some chain grocery stores buy and sell locally grown food first and ‘Community Farm’ stores are gaining more traction.

Fifty years ago, 80 percent of the food grown on Vancouver Island was sold on Vancouver Island. Today, that number is estimated to lie between 5 to 10 percent. Local farmers who have been around for a while will tell you about this phenomenon. Perhaps things are coming full circle.

Interestingly, all this abundant food is largely inaccessible or not accessed by people living in food insecure households. Although food continues to be reasonably priced at local farm stands, the farm stands are less than accessible for families and individuals who face financial shortages, serious and chronic health conditions and struggle to put food on the table. They often cannot afford to own a vehicle or the insurance to go with it.

To make matters more confusing, places that claim to carry local food or source locally such as ‘community farm stores’ and farmers’ markets offer nutritious food but at such high prices (between one to two-thirds more than chain grocery stores) making fresh, local food virtually inaccessible even if households ‘budget’ or make a deliberate ‘choice’ to buy local food as much as possible.

People on Vancouver Island, at times, resort to social media to request food donations for their families due to financial shortages as well as on behalf of ailing spouses or family members who want to use real food to attempt to reverse or stabilize their chronic or terminal conditions but cannot afford to do so.

Community development, new policies and advocacy are needed to address both the economic and social conditions of food insecure households.  Since the food system affects us all in some way, we all need to be involved in finding lasting solutions to food insecurity. This is a given.

Needed Change

Access to good food for those who need it (such as those who are attempting to manage chronic conditions) is a complex issue and I certainly do not claim to have the solutions. But I believe that public awareness is a first step.

I wonder if the new way to feed people in our communities is to stop treating food as a commodity subject to market economics where a few big companies are winners and many individuals and communities are the losers. Food is a necessity, not a privilege.

For the People By the People

What if we grew food in the public realm where anyone could access it on a regular basis for free or minimal donation? Perhaps this doesn’t sound good for farmers; however, as the research shows, people living in food insecure households are not their target demographic anyway so my thoughts and ideas neither undermine their ventures nor take away their customers.

What if we made the conscious decision to grow food in the public realm in the form of community gardens or school gardens? Used islands and verges, gleaned food and were creative in how we got that food to the people who needed it most. If we live in extreme climates, we could grow food indoors (in malls, churches, community halls, seniors’ centers, recreation centers, resource centers, women’s shelters, windowsills) or in shipping containers.

The possibilities to provide nutritious food to those who need it are endless. It is a conscious choice that we must make as a society to feed everyone adequately.  Let’s make sustainable food systems and food security our priority issue.

IMG_20170318_083928064

Resources and Further Reading on Food Insecurity

  1. Priority health equity indicators for British Columbia: Household food insecurity indicator report (August 2016)
  2. PROOF – follow their research here
  3. Vancouver Island Health Authority: Local Health Area Profiles 
  4. Kalina, Laura (2002). Building Food Security in Canada: From Hunger to Sustainable Food Systems: A Community Guide 2nd edition.
  5. Building a Common Vision for Sustainable Agriculture – Food Security Summit Rome 2011

~Grow~Share~Thrive~

Posted on

Inspirational Tuesday ~ Talking on the Radio About My Experience with Food Insecurity

img_20170219_210425_326

Listen to the show…click here

I am so grateful to Dr. Theresa Nicassio for having me back on her Radio Show to talk about a subject that I am so passionate about: Food Insecuritynot knowing where your next meal will come from due to financial constraint.

Last time I was on the show, I talked about the various Urban Garden projects happening around the world.  People are growing produce in the public realm as a way to tackle food insecurity in their neighborhoods and communities. These gardeners are engaged in grassroots work to compensate for the lack of direct social policies.

They are declaring their independence from the large-scale industrial agriculture system and the negative consequences of monoculture (single crop) farming on our health and the health of our environment through soil depletion, water pollution, generation of excess carbon in the atmosphere and the use of inorganic, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

Poverty is not the same as Food Insecurity. Higher unemployment, lower household assets and certain demographics (being a minority, renting vs. owning a residence) are associated with decreased access to adequate, nutritious food.

According to a University of Toronto Multidisciplinary Research Team (PROOF) for Food Insecurity Policy Research, food insecurity can be marginal where people are running out of money for food before their next paycheck, moderate, where families are having trouble putting a balanced meal on the table, or reducing portions and/or foods they eat to make ends meet, or severe, where people go without food for days.

All of these states of household food insecurity have significant impact on physical, mental and social health because people may be prevented from eating enough of the right kinds of nutrients to support and maintain good health, according to the PROOF researchers.

img_1491

This was the first time that I shared my personal experience of food insecurity with a wider audience. It was truly liberating to tell my story and give examples of how it played a role in my life. As I spoke with Theresa, I had a profound moment of realization, clarity and relief.

Being a psychologist, Theresa asked me how it made me feel to live in poverty as a new immigrant at nine years of age. The only emotion that surfaced was ‘shame’. Because I had never shared my story with anyone other than my husband, I never gave any thought to how I felt about it all and found it difficult to answer.

After reflecting on where the word ‘shame’ came from, I realized that early on, I drank the insidious cool-aid of Thomas Malthus and other such economic philosophers and social commentators whose theories continue to be debated and influential in modern society hundreds of years later despite their anachronous assumptions about human nature.

This excerpt from an article in Economist View, “Blaming the Poor for their Poverty” accurately sums up (without being reductionist) where my ‘shame’ about being economically poor came from:

“Ultimately, in Malthus’ view, the difference between the rich and the poor comes down to a difference in moral character. It is an attempt to convince us that poverty is inevitable, that it is the consequences of poor choices and the moral inferiority of the poor, and that there is little that can be done about it.

There is a long history of blaming the poor for being poor and downplaying other possible sources of inequality arising from differences in power, social position, institutional structure, and so on, followed by an argument that attempts to help the poor only serve to increase the incentive for immoral behavior.” Economist View 2006

People tried to convince me that poverty was inevitable (particularly as an immigrant) ever since my family and I came to Canada over 30 years ago. These were not malevolent strangers, these were people in my own extended family who themselves were immigrants. Interestingly, these relatives who had come to Canada with nothing managed to improve their financial circumstances through hard work but apparently did not hold the same hope for others or were perhaps using poor-shaming as a motivational technique. A very close version of Malthus’ theory became a part of my internal audio loop.

I felt there was something fundamentally wrong with me, that I was somehow morally inferior and our financial circumstances/low socioeconomic status, early on, were an outward manifestation, the ‘scarlet letter’, of moral baseness.

It has taken me 30 years to figure out why I felt less than and not ‘a part of’. After the radio show appearance, it dawned on me that I was playing this self-shaming loop in my head for all this time.

Why do I advocate and feel so passionate about alleviating food insecurity? Because upholding human rights and dignity of everyone on this planet through compassion, love, fairness, awareness and understanding is the only way forward.

Grow ~ Share ~ Thrive

pexels-photo-115537-medium

Posted on

Inspirational Tuesday ~ The Very Invisible Food System

“As there is enough food in the world, hunger is a result of political decisions. Food insecurity results from ineffective policies (social, agricultural, economic and health) at local, national and global levels and from decisions which do not consider the elimination of poverty, hunger, and food insecurity , and the development of sustainable food systems to be priority issues.” ~Laura Kalina in Building Food Security in Canada: From Hunger to Sustainable Food Systems: A Community Guide 2nd edition.

Do we take food for granted?

Cheap food, cheap energy, cheap water. Where does it come from? Who grew it? How was it grown or raised? Who is eating it? Does it matter?

Food security refers to the availability of food and one’s access to it.

Food Security – it’s in Your Hands is a poignant documentary about the current food system and where to go from here. I encourage you to pick it up at the library on the way home.

There isn’t much public or community discussion about food security in North America. Simply searching ‘food security’ returns a results page filled with government statistics and definitions; however, there is no in-depth discussion or notable distress over the issue of equal access to a balanced diet. Whether we realize it or not, we are all a part of the food system. Information gives us the power to see the issues around us and to create needed change.

This documentary from 2012 is well worth watching and sharing with your friends, young people and children.

The history of food, food security, the rise of inorganic, synthesized fertilizer use and overuse are presented and discussed by farmers, soils scientists and newby farmers in a very engaging way.

The business and economic side of farming is also discussed. Currently, 4% of the Canadian population is engaged in producing our food. Can farming be a viable occupation for young people and families today?

This documentary was mostly filmed on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, just 15 minutes down the road from where we live.

~To Grow A Garden is to Believe in the Future~

Posted on

Creating The Future And Justice for All…

 

Rather than fighting the world we reject, let’s use our knowledge, skills, insights, principle and techniques to create the world we do want. ~Bill Mollison

 

Hello and Happy New Year to Everyone.

I want to start the New Year with gratitude. Last year was my first year blogging and I am very thankful to the 9K readers who visited my websites in 2016. Thank you to all those who posted comments, all of which have been wonderfully supportive and uplifting. Your kind words helped keep my focus and find my voice.

light-sign-typography-lighting

There are so many amazing people out there working to change the status quo of the food system – those who choose to eat a plant-based diet, ethically raised meat, grow their own, and those who see that food security and food safety are the truly pressing and relevant environmental and social justice issues of our time.

Fresh, nutritious foods should be available to everyone, not just those who can afford it. Growing food in the public realm is no longer a matter of choice, but necessity.

This year, my focus is on the environmental and social justice issues that exist around the ‘basics’ – food. I invite you to join me and others (whom I will be talking about and featuring throughout the year) on this journey. It is my true belief and intention that together we can make a significant, positive difference to the food system and thereby improve our health, our environment and our future one person at a time.

Not long ago I heard someone say “True revolution will happen on the plate“. Let’s make it happen together.

pexels-photo-186980

If you are looking for inspiration and further understanding of the current food system, watch “Fresh: New Thinking About What We’re Eating“. It is a docudrama by Sofia Joanes from 2009. This film is more relevant and pressing than ever before. It sheds light on the current food production systems and the alternatives from the point of view of farmers. It was the best 72 minutes of screen time I’ve spent in a long time. One farmer’s words resonated with me: “[We] fear one thing: inconvenience.”

fresh-the-movie

I am excited to be in the process of planning and gathering supplies for our Urban Front Yard Farm Project. My goal is to grow enough food to feed our family of 5 and our neighbours for a 22 week growing season and beyond all on a 9 by 40 feet front yard space. I want to experiment with a few different media (haybales vs. organic soil/compost vs. hugelkultur). Read more about last year’s growing exploits here. As the quote at the very top states, rather than fighting against something, I want to create a world that I want – one that places the culture of health, community and a vibrant ecological system above anything else.

staked-out-garden-pic-1

I spent some time creating a “vision board”for 2017. It is a compilation of things I wish to focus on this year. It is posted on my refrigerator as a reminder of what I wish to move toward.

vision-board-2017-1

January and February are getting to be busy. We’re going to the Gluten Free Expo in Vancouver Jan 14-15, 2017, meeting with Dr. Theresa Nicassio and checking out ZEND Conscious Lounge where 100 per cent of profits go to charity. I will also be doing some radio appearances on the Dr. Theresa Nicassio Radio Show on HealtyLife.com and hopefully doing another interview with Theresa. She has had a wonderfully busy year since we last spoke.

show-poster-radio-show-theresa-slider-e1482532280977-366x366

 

~Have a Beautiful Week~

 

 

 

Posted on

Be A Part of the ‘Re-Generation’ – Inspiring Examples of Urban Agriculture Today

Example isn’t another way to teach, it IS the way to teach.”

~Albert Einstein~

Urban agriculture, urban farming or urban gardening, according to Wikipedia, is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city. Urban agriculture can also involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban beekeeping, and horticulture.

bee-in-the-approach-bee-apis-pollen-63641

Urban agriculture, where food is produced and consumed locally, with minimal to no input (pesticides, herbicides) is the way of the future. Here’s why: food security, food safety as well as ecological and human health depend upon it.

True revolution – that is change in the current food system – will occur on the plate.

pexels-photo-132716

Each time we buy food, we vote. Voting is not just an every-4-years-phenomenon. It is a daily reality. We vote to either keep the current and unsustainable status quo or we vote for change in the food system by purchasing local or growing our own.

house-money-capitalism-fortune-12619

Here are some amazing examples of people banding together and voting (with money, attitude, and action) for change. What affects one, affects everyone.

Inspiration for the Gardener’s Soul

Use the Soil

There are many reasons to grow your own; climate change is one of those reasons. There are 880 gigatons of carbon floating in the atmosphere right now throwing the earth out of balance. One of the ways that we can bring this basic building block of life back into balance on our planet is to grow. Simply put, the plants we grow take carbon out of the atmosphere (using photosynthesis), turn it into sugars and starches and put it back into the soil.

pexels-photo-112640

December 5th was “World Soil Day“. Watch ‘The Soil Story’ below – take 4 minutes to watch, learn and share what you can personally do to be an active part of the climate change solution and a part of ‘regenerative agriculture’.

“On World Soil Day, I call for greater attention to the pressing issues affecting soils, including climate change, antimicrobial resistance, soil-borne diseases, contamination, nutrition and human health.” — UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

 

Get Growing

It is exciting to read about the various community organized food growing projects and food growing initiatives that are happening around the world today. These are the people who are part of the climate change solution. They are paving the way for a vibrant ecological future now.

pexels-photo-90776

The purpose of these projects is to get fresh and organic produce to as many people as possible.

The amazing thing is that they center around and involve entire communities of people. Together they are setting the example: the positive actions of a few are benefiting larger communities and addressing significant needs.

Here are just a few examples of what collectively conscious communities can do:

1. Food Is Free Project

This project started with one front yard garden. Now, over 300 cities around the world have started a Food Is Free Movement.  The idea to grow gardens and community began to spread after three months and hasn’t stopped. Check out these Food Is Free Websites:

Start Your Own Food Is Free Project with this Guide.

849a2-img_20160829_093004

2. The Female Farmer Project

Audra Mulkern is a cook, writer and photographer. She writes about and photographs “The Female Farmer Project”   – a chronicle of in-depth stories about the rise of women working in agriculture around the world.  Check out her “Visual Story Telling from the Farm” project. Inspiration abounds here.

pexels-photo-70381

3. Green Lawns to Urban Farms in Florida 

Chris Castro is the founder of Fleet Farming. He believes in growing food not lawns. Chris, along with a group of volunteers, are on a mission to turn Florida’s perfectly green laws into urban farms. Check out his amazing website and his visionary mission statement.

pexels-photo-212324

4. An Urban Food Street in Australia

What started out as planting and growing lime trees due to the high cost of limes in 2009, has now become an 11 street urban agriculture project. This ‘Urban Food Street‘ produced 900 kilograms of bananas and 300 cabbages in 2015. Although not everyone grows food on their lawns in this neighborhood, everyone contributes assets and/or skills for the greater good of the community.

apple-tree-orchard-apfelernte-54629

5. ‘Agrihood’ in Detroit

If you need an alternative neighbourhood growth model, here is one for you. The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) has created a two-acre garden with trees and a ‘sensory garden’ for kids. MUFI, a non profit organization, hopes to tackle issues such as ‘nutritional illiteracy’ and ‘food insecurity’ in Detroit.

 

6. A Planned, EcoFriendly Neighborhood with integrated Agriculture

This Davis, California neighborhood is located close to downtown making walking and biking easy. It features solar powered homes equipped with led lighting, tankless water heaters and other energy saving features. It also has a 7.4 acre organic working farm that grows and sells organic food to its residents.

solar-panel-array-power-sun-electricity-159397

7. Re purposing with Real Impact

What can be done with abandoned schools or other such buildings? Caroline Hadilaksono designed an all-in-one urban food center. She dreamed up a space where the local community can come together to grow, harvest, prepare, sell and eat food, all in an abandoned school building. Her idea centers around the notion of community building and won the GOOD Competition which called for ideas on how to re purpose old, abandoned school buildings across the US. This is something all communities could get behind.

pexels-photo

Call to Action

Dear Reader, write to me. Share your urban gardening stories and innovative food security solutions – I would love to compile and feature all such stories here with all credit given.

pexels-photo-58457

Featured photograph and vegetable harvest photograph by Jane Grueber

Other photographs courtesy of pexels.com

Posted on

Better Yield Next Time? Start Planning a ‘Grow-Your-Own Food’ Project Now

Happy December Everyone!

With the New Year just around the bend and a new growing season to plan, I am so excited to flip through some beautiful seed catalogs I recently received in the mail (online and paper). Inspiration abounds in the beautifully photographed pages. It summons the taste and smell of homegrown food that is still warm from the hot summer sun. If it isn’t already apparent, I am looking forward to another growing season and the hot summer sun.

Invest in Living a Life Well Nourished

To take my already overflowing garden dreams to the next level, I invested in a lovely new cookbook: Life in Balance: A Fresher Approach to Eating by Donna Hay.  My preference is to invest in cookbooks and garden seeds over gym memberships. Cookbooks and garden seeds nourish, revitalize and teach; my gym memberships just collect dust after a about a month. Donna’s cookbook contains wonderful plant-based recipes (it contains meat-based recipes too and it’s what I would consider a ‘Paleo’ cookbook) but the thing is, vegetables aren’t just side dishes here, they are front and center in simple, creative and delicious ways. I am heartened to see more and more plant-based cookbooks hitting the market. See Cookbooks for a Plant-Based Diet for a list of my favorite plant-based cookbooks.

Life in Balance

As I sit here dressed in a warm sweater sipping a hot morning coffee, my mind wanders to the warmest days of summer when we can use the harvest from our garden to host al fresco feasts for our neighbors and friends.  It’s never early to start planning feast menus, is it?

pexels-photo-225228

However, long before we can enjoy our harvest, there’s got to be some serious planning. I have several goals to achieve in the garden this year:

  1. expand the garden and increase crop yield
  2. try different growing media (organic dirt vs. hay)
  3. set up an ecosystem that supports native and honey bees as well as other beneficial bugs
  4. use companion plants to naturally ward of pests
  5. grow juicy, plump tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers (see resources at the end of this post)

Inspiration from the Homesteading Summit

A few weekends ago, I watched some of the presentations from the thegrownetwork.com  Online Homesteading Summit. Topics centered around permaculture and included an introduction to permaculture principles, water conservation, bee keeping, and home gardening among others.

pexels-photo-106171

 

I don’t come from an agricultural background by any stretch of the imagination. But one key piece of information that permeated all the presentations was that one does not need to be a biologist or geological expert. In fact, if one is a keen observer of nature and comes to understand its patterns and cycles, achieving nutritional and ecological sustainability by growing your own (with minimal effort) is an attainable-not lofty-goal.

Feeling inspired to grow more of our own food next year, I ran outside to put stakes in our front yard. These stakes are the beginning of an expanded home garden and a new project. I love projects!

staked-out-garden-pic-1

Lessons from Last Year’s Growing Season

Last year was our first year of growing food in British Columbia. We grew our own vegetables and herbs on 80 square feet. This gave us enough fresh produce for 22 weeks in a row but the process was much like walking through a corn field in the dark – unpredictable. We never knew what was coming next and it was either feast or famine – a crop came all at once, inundating us for a week or not coming at all.

I planted trees and berries bushes without knowing how much spacing they required or that we already had a fig tree in the backyard and didn’t really need to buy another one. I learned that mint takes over the garden. In summary, I learned a lot about timing, spacing, and using the microclimates around our house to plant accordingly.  Chalk this up to necessary experience for a perennial city dweller.

pexels-photo-169523

Growing Your Own is on the Rise

Growing food in the yard is not new but the way it is being done now is a bit revolutionary. It’s the re-ruralization of the urban and suburban centers.  48 million households in the US and 43 million in Australia are attempting to grow their own produce in whatever space they have.  It seems like many of us are on the same journey so let’s support each other.

Geeking Out on Garden Planning

I was particularly inspired and moved to action by Stacey Murphy, backyard gardener, backyard geek, author of children’s books and recovering engineer. It was her simple and systematic approach to home gardening that really revved up my desire to replicate and extrapolate. Because the circumstances – climate, soil conditions, amount of space – are as unique as the people who choose to grow their own, this variability opens the door for guesswork but also a lot of creativity.

In summary, Stacey addressed 4 key ideas to take the guesswork out of backyard gardening:

  1. recognize patterns
  2. improve yield
  3. adapt/optimize patterns
  4. streamline effort

When Stacey began her backyard gardening project, she had a decent vegetable harvest but noticed that her garden could have produced better with better space utilization and a little planning ahead. This sounded a lot like us. The following year she got busy planning and put together her own road map for greater yield as well as to save energy, time and resources. All this by analyzing trends, patterns, and crunching some numbers.

Here are some wonderful resources from Tracy that anyone can use to increase their crop yield and to make their home garden a much more efficient and streamlined endeavor.

  1. Garden Geek Garden Template
  2. Your Guide to Understanding Growing Zones (sign up on Stacey’s Facebook Page and get this guide)

blog-slide-show-ladybug-on-carrot-greens

Other Resources to help you create a vibrant ecosystem in your yard with minimal effort:

  1. Permaculture Principles
  2. Creating a Bee Friendly ecosystem in your backyard
  3. Secrets to Growing Plump Tomatoes
  4. Companion Plants that Ward Off Unwanted Pests (including mosquitoes)
  5. City of Vancouver Urban Garden Agriculture Guidelines

 

img_20160721_201758

Posted on

Feeding the Local Community: Guest Blog by Archie McNab, Farmer & Entrepreneur

It is an honour to have Archie McNab write a guest blog post for Recipes of My Home. One of the reasons we moved to Vancouver Island was to have access to fresh produce and farm stands. I have been buying food from his Farm Stand in Yellow Point on Vancouver Island since we first moved here almost 2 years ago. I was ecstatic that fresh produce was only 5 minutes away from where we live. In the summer, I make a weekly pilgrimage to buy carrots, cucumbers, beets, squash, beans, peas and patty pans.

mcnabs-farm-produce-stand-07-w1600h1600

I had the pleasure of formally meeting Archie this fall. Archie, along with five brothers and sisters, operate a small scale farm in Yellow Point. The farm was purchased by their parents in 1960 and has been in a constant state of evolution and change ever since as they move towards a much more inclusive version of farming. Read more about the evolution of the McNab Corn Maze & Produce Farm here.

mcnabs-farm-produce-stand-10-w1600h1600

To make a long story short, I took Archie up on his offer to write a guest post for Recipes of My Home. My hope is that he will continue to share his experience, wisdom and point of view as a local, small scale producer. His first post gives an insight into the changes small scale farming has undergone over the last several decades and how those changes impact farming families.

With demand for local and sustainable produce growing exponentially, there is no time like the present to bring awareness to and discuss the challenges as well as opportunities that come with such a venture.

mcnabs-farm-produce-stand-05-w1600h1600

Feeding the Local Community‘ by Archie McNab:

I have watched with a mixture of bemusement and admiration as society makes a massive sea change in how they view food. It isn’t just in the growing of it, there’s more to it than that. It’s in how it is viewed, presented, obtained, cooked (or not), eaten and even being used as a status symbol. And finally, in how we treat the discarded or unused food.

When I grew up with my five siblings pretty much everything we grew, we ate. And if we shot it, we ate that too. All leftovers either went to the dogs (who also served as guard dogs for the animals) or to the chickens. Waste was minimal and if there was any at all, it went out into the pea patch along with the wood stove ashes.

Trees were selectively harvested. We only cut what was marketable or what was dead and would make good firewood for that winter. Old machinery was patched up, wired together and repurposed. Oil was used over and over until there was only sludge left and then it was used as chain oil in the power saws or as lubricant for shafts and couplings. Lumber was used and reused and used again. Used nails and spikes were straightened for another go round. Old hot water tanks became culverts.

However, as one brother points out, we weren’t green to be fashionable or to score brownie points or even because it was the right thing to do. We were green because we were poor. And we weren’t alone. Every other farmer that we knew was poor too. Of course, growing up inside this culture, we kids had no idea we were poor. We had clothes (often hand me downs) and always had lots to eat. In fact, I would say it’s safe to say we ate more pheasant and venison that most of the royalty in Europe did back in the day.

But my point is this. If you want local food, and I am very sure that we do, support your local producer. Whether it’s the wine or beer you drink, the honey you put on your food or the greens that you fill your bowl with, do your very best to make sure it’s local.

As a farmer, I promise you this. If you show us that you are willing to spend your dollars for our food, we will bend over backwards to keep producing more and to encourage others to do the same. If farming is a viable way of making a living don’t you think more people would be inclined to take it up as an occupation?

There are benefits in being a farmer, you are your own boss (when the spouse isn’t around), you eat well and most of all you have the satisfaction of knowing you are producing good food for people to eat. It is also very humbling to receive all the thanks that we are given for doing what we do.

I encourage everyone to take the time to grow some of your own food, to appreciate the effort that goes into it and the satisfaction when you harvest it. Look up your local producers of food and get to know them. They in turn will gladly tell you of other local producers and before you know it we will have a vibrant, local food economy.

Our island once produced over half of the food that was consumed here, now it’s down to less than 10 percent. That is something we can change, if we choose to.

Thanks for listening.

Archie

Further Reading

  1. Small Farm Canada is a national magazine that  promotes small-scale farming as a legitimate and viable endeavour. The magazine’s editorial position is that the lives of small-scale farmers and their families are worthy, complex and rich in possibility, and that the communities serving small-scale farmers are unique and dynamic. Through attractive, well-written, independent-minded articles (free of orthodoxies) the magazine entertains, informs, inspires and challenges readers across Canada.
  2. The Canadian Organic Grower Magazine is for those who are interested in growing or consuming organic and sustainably produced food, then you’ll enjoy this magazine!  Our aim is to provide practical and timely information useful to growers and eaters across Canada.  We also cover important developments on social, economic and regulatory issues relevant to organic production in Canada.

mcnabs-pumpkin-patch-13-w1600h1600