Cultivate your food gardening skills with these spring workshops and seminars

April 18th, 2014
Photo by Hazel Owen (via Flickr)

Photo by Hazel Owen (via Flickr)

Spring in Ottawa brings a feast of workshops, seminars and other food and farm-related events, all geared to getting people to start growing their own food or thinking about it. The events run the gamut from vegetable gardening and tree propagation to seed-saving and food security.

Here’s a sample of what’s happening over the next few weeks.

Food gardening

  • Beginner organic vegetable gardening workshops

This Just Food workshop is designed for the total novice and presented by David Hinks, from Master Gardeners of Ottawa-Carleton. Choose from 3 different dates and locations.

When &               Wednesday April 23, 6-8 p.m.

where:                 Dempsey Community Centre, 1895 Russell Rd.

Monday May 5, 6-8 p.m.

Lowertown Community Resource Centre, 40 Cobourg St.

Wednesday May 21, 6-8 p.m.

Eastern Ottawa Resource Centre, 2339 Ogilvie

Cost:                      $5.00 or pay what you can

Register:              e-mail or call 613-699-6850 (x12) to reserve a spot on your preferred date

  • Organic Gardening in the City seminars

Put on by Canadian Organic Growers, upcoming seminars include:

Designing an Urban Organic Garden to Support Pollinators, Pest Eaters, and Pest Deterrents, April 22

Prolonging and Winterizing an Organic Garden/Herbs & Edible Flowers, April 29

When:                  7-9 p.m. (both seminars)

Where:                Ottawa City Hall, Colonel By Room, 110 Laurier St. W

Cost:                     $20 per adult; $14 per seminar for seniors and students with valid photo ID. Register for 6 or more and get 1 free

  • Permaculture workshops & courses

Permaculture refers to ecological design principles that can be applied to agricultural, architectural and other systems. In terms of food production, permaculture is often associated with food forests that mimic natural ecosystems and integrate multiple layers such as trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, cover crops, green manure, root crops and vines. The Permaculture Institute of Eastern Ontario delivers a variety of workshops on permaculture design, including:

Design: Your Life and The Outer Landscape (April 26) and Ecological Design & Gardening: Introduction to Permaculture (May 31, June 1).

Visit for more information on prices and registration.

  • Urban fruit and nut tree propagation workshop

Learn about the abundance of food that hardy fruit and nut trees provide and how you can grow them here.

When:                  May 3, 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Where:                Ecclesiax Church, 2 Monk Street

Cost:                     $65 – $125


  • Wild edible and medicinal plant course

Amber Westfall of The Wild Garden has been leading plant walks and workshops for several years. In 2014, she’s introducing a 10-class program, spread out over four months. Classes can be taken individually but are structured to build on one another.

Each session contains a short theory portion, learning activities, and hands-on experience with a select group of plants. By the end of the course, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to recognize more than 45,000 species of plants by family, correctly ID dozens of local, edible and medicinal plants, and more.

When:                  10 Wednesdays and Saturdays, May 7-Sept 6

Where:                 Various Ottawa South locations, and Amber’s CSA at the Just Food Farm, 2389 Pepin Court, Ottawa

Cost:                    $165 for 10 classes, $85 for 5 classes


Food security

  • Back to Our Roots: Parkdale Food Centre Gala

Support the work of the Parkdale Food Centre while enjoying delicious food and drinks courtesy of  the Urban Element, The Merry Dairy, Stone Soup Foodworks, Supply & Demand, Beyond the Pale and Stratus Vineyards. Each ticket includes three complementary drinks, with a cash bar also available for the duration of the event as well. The event will also feature a silent auction and live music.

Tickets are limited, so don’t delay if you’d like to attend!

When:                  May 1, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Where:                Urban Element, 424 Parkdale Ave

Cost:                     $150 (with a $65 tax receipt)


Seeds and seeding saving

  • Seed justice: A talk with Tesling Andrews of Aster Lane Edibles

Presented by Transition Ottawa, this talk by Telsing Andrews of Aster Lane Edibles will cover the different reproductive strategies of plants, germination requirements of seeds, plant selection, and ways to share your seeds including swaps, seed libraries and public domain plant breeding.

When:                  April 30, 7-9 p.m.

Where:                Jack Purcell Community Centre, Room 201, 320 Jack Purcell Ln.

Cost:                     Free; donations are encouraged and go towards room rental fees, guest speakers, and other Transition Ottawa initiatives.


  • Seed-saving workshop for farmers and serious gardeners

Learn about the benefits of seed saving, selecting seed crops and varieties, how to plant and produce crops for seed, when and how to harvest, seed cleaning and storage, and record-keeping. The workshop will focus on producing peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and brassica greens for seed and is part of Just Food’s new regional seed bank program being developed in partnership with Seeds of Diversity. The workshop will be facilitated by Greta Kryger of Greta’s Organic Gardens which specializes in certified organic, open-pollinated, heritage varieties of vegetable seed.

When:                  April 28, 6-9 p.m.

Where:                Just Food Farm, 2389 Pepin Court, Ottawa

Cost:                     $30 (payable at the door)

To register:       Contact or 613-699-6850 (x15)


Starting a farm business

  • Is starting an agricultural business right for you?

The course is designed to help aspiring farmers learn what is involved in starting and managing their own farm business and also looks at other possibilities to participate in agriculture. Course content reflects agricultural trends and opportunities in the Ottawa region.

When:                  Course is held over 4 Wednesday evenings: May 14 and 28, and June 11 and 25. All sessions run from 6 to 9 p.m. and cover different content.

Where:                 Just Food Farm, 2389 Pepin Court, Ottawa

Cost:                      $225 (includes manual and visit to an area farm. Reduced cost for a second person from the same potential farm).  Pay when you register.

To register:       Contact Leela at or 613-699-6850 x15



What food will you grow in your backyard or on your deck this year?

Be Sociable, Share!

Why a diverse local seed supply is key to a secure food system

April 11th, 2014
Photo: peppergrass (via Flickr)

Photo: peppergrass (via Flickr)

Having reliable access to local foods, in Ottawa or anywhere else, depends on the ability to cultivate crops from a wide variety of seeds grown in the region and adapted to its soils and climate.

The problem is that the genetic diversity of seed is declining worldwide, thanks to industrial farming and industrial seed production. For example, in Canada, we now rely on four plant species (wheat, maize, rice and potato) for nearly two-thirds of the calories we eat.

According to National Geographic, in the early 19th century, 302 varieties of sweet corn were grown in the U.S.  By 1983, there were just 12. Over the same period, the 408 varieties of tomato, 497 types of lettuce and 341 strains of squash available for cultivation dwindled to 79, 36 and 40, respectively.

“About 75% of the world’s crop diversity has disappeared,” says Aabir Dey of the Everdale Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre and Ontario’s regional coordinator for the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security. “Of the remaining 25%, only 10% are available to farmers.”

Industrial agriculture has also eroded the age-old practice of saving, exchanging and passing on ecologically grown seed – a practice that’s essential to conserving varieties that thrive in local conditions.

If we want a secure, resilient food supply that’s able to withstand climate change, Dey insists, we need to nourish local seed capability.

Seed diversity under pressure

Many factors are taking a toll on local, national and global seed supplies:

  • a handful of companies dominates global seed production, producing high volumes of uniform seed for a narrow range of crops and crop varieties
  • 95% of the seeds that produce Canada’s major food crops are bred for uniformity
  • most vegetable seeds that Canadian farmers buy have not been bred for our soils or climates
  • the lack of diversity makes food production more vulnerable to pests and disease, as well as to the extreme weather events that go hand-in-hand with climate change
  • habitat loss and environmental exploitation put further stress on plant biodiversity; as a result, about 100,000 plant varieties around the world are now at risk

USC, Seeds of Diversity and Everdale

In response, efforts such as seed banks and libraries, and seed exchanges (Ontario’s Seedy Saturdays are a good example) have sprung up to help farmers and food gardeners preserve ancient and heirloom varieties of key food crops.

In addition, USC Canada launched the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security last year in partnership with Seeds of Diversity. The initiative works with farmers, researchers, businesses, governments and others across the country to boost production and conservation of high-quality Canadian seed that’s regionally adapted and ecologically grown.

Everdale acts as the initiative’s regional hub for Ontario. The Guelph-based teaching farm offers hands-on food and farming education, operates a CSA, hosts an on-site seed library managed by Seeds of Diversity and provides workshops on seeds and seed-saving. It also works with regional growers on variety trials and conducts “grow-outs” for Seeds of Diversity.

“Let’s say you have bean seeds in a seed library,” Aabir Dey explains. “You need to plant them periodically, and grow them out to create a crop of back-up seeds. It’s an important way to scale up the seed supply.”

But don’t think you have to be a farmer or seed specialist to help develop a diverse local seed supply for the Ottawa region. There are several easy ways you can make a difference, Dey says.

Buy local, save and swap

  • Buy from local seed providers who grow out a lot of their own seed, such as Greta’s Organic Gardens which specializes in organic fruit and vegetable seeds, and Castor River Farm, a small-scale diversified operation that focuses on different types of wheat, buckwheat and other grains.
  • Attend a Seedy Saturday event to swap seed with local growers, meet local vendors and attend seed workshops. Ottawa’s 2014 Seedy Saturday is over but, as with seed-saving workshops, you can put one together yourself.

“Seed skills are very valuable and we’ve lost touch with them,” Dey notes. “If we want more local, organic food, we need more local, organic seed.”

Where do you buy your seeds?

Be Sociable, Share!

The Food Read Round-up: GM alfalfa launch delayed, plus — food insecurity in the Far North, regional food hubs, and why food sustainability matters to consumers

April 2nd, 2014
The Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto is one of a growing number of food hubs that aim to make healthy, sustainable and fair accessible to all. Photo: Toban B. via Flickr

The Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto is one of a growing number of local food hubs that aim to make healthy, sustainable and fair food accessible to all.
Photo: Toban B. via Flickr


The Food Read Round-up curates media stories about food and farming in Ottawa, across Canada, and around the world.

Farmers and consumers force delay in introduction of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa in Canada. Opposition from farmers and consumers has forced Forage Genetics International to delay its plan to release GM alfalfa seeds in Eastern Canada this spring, according to the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

If launched, the seeds would have been the latest in a line of GM products sold in this country. The list includes corn, canola and soybeans and could eventually include GM varieties of apple and salmon. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has approved five types of GM alfalfa for sale, deeming them to be safe for people, animals and the environment.

The GM alfalfa from Forage is engineered to resist Monsanto’s Roundup, a herbicide farmers spray on their crops to kill weeds. Since alfalfa is a perennial that’s pollinated by insects, the GM varieties would be guaranteed to spread, contaminating non-GM alfalfa and hurting the livelihoods of conventional and organic farmers.

Alfalfa is Canada’s most widely grown forage crop. Besides feeding livestock and dairy animals, it helps enrich the soil and represents $80 million in exports to other countries, many of which don’t accept GM foods.

Visit to find out more about GM alfalfa and how you can help stop its sale in Canada.

Food insecurity affects a disproportionate number of Aboriginal peoples in Northern Canada. A new report on food security* from the Council of Canadian Academies urges Canadians to deal with the disproportionately high levels of hunger and malnutrition among northern Aboriginal peoples. Entitled Aboriginal Food Security in Northern Canada: An Assessment of the State of Knowledge, the report provides data on the different rates of food insecurity among Indigenous populations, outlines the factors that contribute to it, and explores the health implications, which can include anemia, heart disease, diabetes, child developmental problems and more.

Among the data it presents, the report points to the results of:

  • the 2007-2008 International Polar Year Inuit Health Survey showing that Nunavut had the highest documented levels of food insecurity for any Indigenous group living in a developed country
  • the 2011 Canadian Community Healthy survey indicating that off-reserve Aboriginal households across the country experienced rates of food insecurity more than double those of all non-Aboriginal households

Given the many factors involved, from climate change to cultural and economic realities, the report recommends that Northern communities, governments, business and institutions work closely together to find solutions.

The report uses the widely accepted definition from UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Food consumers are making sustainability a priority.  Good news: new research suggests that more North American consumers are making sustainability a priority when they buy food. While safety and nutritional value remain the biggest considerations, the survey shows that at least two-thirds of Americans also take sustainability into account, placing importance on where the food was produced as well as on eco-friendly production and packaging, animal welfare and  GMO-free. About 66% would pay more for food produced closer to home. In Canada, consumers demonstrate similar concerns. According to a 2011 survey from Vision, an agriculture research panel, 95% of Canadians reported that buying locally grown food was important to them while 43% said they would pay more for it.

Regional food hubs catch on. Regional food systems practitioners, supporters and food hub developers gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina, last week for the sixth National Good Food Network (NGFN) conference. It’s another sign of the growing popularity of food hubs. According to a March 22 piece in Food Tank, hubs are the key to scaling up the system for food that’s healthy, eco-friendly, fair and affordable.

What’s a food hub? There are different definitions, but basically hubs are managed locations that bring together food producers, distributors, processors, consumers and other buyers. Food that’s been verified at source as local or regional can aggregated, stored, processed, distributed and marketed. Hubs may also provide space for wholesale and retail sales, social service programs, community kitchens and other food-related activities.

There are an estimated 200 food hubs across the U.S. and many have sprung up in Canada as well. For example, the Toronto’s The Stop Community Food Centre works to increase access to healthy food   through a comprehensive program that includes a food bank, food and community gardens, a greenhouse, bake ovens and markets, education on sustainable food systems, community cooking, and more. Closer to home, Ottawa’s Just Food Farm is being developed as a community food and sustainable agriculture hub. In Ottawa West, the Torbolton Institute is planning a multi-purpose hub that would combine a community SPIN garden with a food storage facility, farmers market, forest farm, and space for food and recreational activities such as cooking demonstrations.

What food stories have you been reading?

Be Sociable, Share!

The Unrefined Olive: Ottawa tasting bar gives global food local, sustainable roots

March 2nd, 2014
Kilvert 2

Elizabeth Kilvert, owner of The Unrefined Olive
Photo: V. Ward

Ottawa’s Elizabeth Kilvert sells premium, extra-virgin* olive oils from around the world and aged balsamic vinegars from Modena, Italy, but her business is all about local community and sustainability.

A former biodiversity specialist and environmental educator, Kilvert took a leave of absence from her job at Environment Canada in 2012 to launch The Unrefined Olive, an olive oil and balsamic tasting bar on Second Avenue in the Glebe.  Not only did the concept appeal to her love of food and travel, it met her stringent ethical priorities. “I wanted to specialize in a nutritious food with a long history,” she says. “I also wanted to reach out to the local community and run the business with as low an eco-footprint as possible.”

*Extra-virgin refers to the first pressing of whole unblemished olives within a day of harvest.

The products

The Unrefined Olive offers:

  • 13 single-estate olive oils (from olives grown on a single farm or estate and bottled on site, delivering a more authentic product with tighter quality control)
  • 22 oils that are either flavour-fused (olives and whole fruits, herbs or vegetables are crushed together) or infused (a flavour is added after the olive oil has been pressed). Available flavours include Persian lime, Eureka lemon, blood orange, green Baklouti chili, organic basil, organic garlic, and many others
  • 7 specialty oils, such as walnut and truffle
  • 23 balsamic vinegars including honey, serrano honey, raspberry, pomegranate, aged black cherry, blackberry ginger, blueberry, espresso, dark chocolate and cranberry pear white

Products can be purchased in 200 ml, 375 ml or 750 ml bottles for $12, $19 and $32 respectively (other quantities and prices apply for the specialty oils).

How a tasting bar works

Tasting bars got their start with wine in California’s Napa Valley, and have started to catch on with extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The oils and vinegars are contained in stainless steel casks, with spigots. You can sample different types and get tips on pairings and information on production methods from store staff.

Kilvert sees customer education as a big part of the service she provides. “We work with customers’ taste preferences and tend to down-sell, encouraging people to buy smaller quantities until they feel comfortable tasting and cooking with a variety of oils and balsamic vinegars.”

Education seems to be paying off. Since The Unrefined Olive opened more than a year ago, she has noticed a shift in customers’ preferences. “As they learn and taste more, they’re moving to purer, more robust oils.”

A healthy food

Extra-virgin olive oil is a key ingredient in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is also an anti-inflammatory loaded with polyphenols that help reduce blood pressure, protect against cancers of the breast and the respiratory and digestive tracts, promote bone health and offer cognitive benefits. Balsamic vinegar has beneficial effects on cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Quality oils and vinegars make it easier to eat healthy, Kilvert says. “They offer a simple way to add new flavour to everything from salads to fish to pasta. You don’t have to learn another cooking style or buy a new gadget.”

She also points out that olive production is less damaging to the environment than other oil-producing crops. Olive trees are more climate-change resistant, they’re grown without synthetic fertilizers and require minimal spraying.

Shrinking the eco-footprint

Kilvert strives to run The Unrefined Olive with the smallest possible eco-footprint. For example, she selected low-VOC paints and varnishes for the store and had LED lights installed. The stainless steel tasting cups are washed, sterilized and re-used, and customers are asked to wash their oil and vinegar bottles and bring them in for refills. Packaging is made from local paper with high recycled content, paper scraps are re-purposed, and product boxes are specially designed to work for the store’s three bottle sizes.

Instead of throwing out olive oils that are more than a year old – when their taste and nutritional value have passed their peak – they’re donated to Shepherds of Good Hope, food banks and a local soap maker.

Supporting community

As part of its broader commitment to sustainability, The Unrefined Olive supports local producers and community. For starters, many of the finishes and accessories in the store (including furniture, glass and pottery) were locally sourced, and providers from Ottawa and Montreal were hired to develop business software solutions.

In addition, the tasting bar:

  • offers specialty oils produced within a 100-mile radius, such as Stony Brook butternut squash seed oil from Geneva, New York, and cold-pressed, naturally farmed sunflower oil from Eastern Ontario’s Kricklewood Farm
  •  co-promotes artisanal foods from area producers who don’t have storefronts, such as Hummingbird Chocolate and The Salty Don
  • participates at local seasonal food workshops
  • contributes to community charitable efforts by donating gift boxes and bringing a mobile tasting unit to fundraising events.

“Community involvement is an important component of what we do,” Kilvert says. “It helps make us sustainable.”

In your opinion, what characteristic(s) make a local food business sustainable?



Be Sociable, Share!

Seasonal Eats: Purée of wild black walnut and butternut soup

February 16th, 2014

Black walnut trees abound in Ottawa. The nuts can be used in a variety of dishes, including pâtés and soups.
Photo: Carol von Canon (via Flickr),

The Ottawa region is full of black walnut and butternut trees that bear tasty, nourishing fruit each fall. Squirrels love to stockpile them (as we found out last year when we discovered a huge stash of butternuts in our woodshed), but what most of us don’t realize is that they’re good food for people, too.

Thanks to groups such as Hidden Harvest Ottawa and the Torbolton Institute, more of these flavourful local nuts are being gathered and used for cooking and eating. Shelling butternuts, and black walnuts in particular, can be challenging, but worth the effort.

Greystone Locavore In-season Fetes

To show how versatile wild local nuts can be, Chef Darryl MacDougall has decided to feature them on the menu for a February 25 locavore dinner to be held at his Constance Bay restaurant, the Greystone Grill. The dinner is one of a series dubbed the Greystone Locavore In-Season Fêtes that showcase foods and producers within a 100-mile radius. The Fêtes are an initiative of the Torbolton Institute, an innovations hub whose goals include making Ottawa locally food secure by 2020.

In addition to puréed nut soup – the recipe’s below — Chef MacDougall’s 5-course menu will include:

Wild black walnut and butternut pâtés

Handmade local butternut squash ravioli from Parma Ravioli, in a butter sage sauce

Rack of lamb from Our Farm CSA, served with root vegetables and a port reduction*

Fresh apple pie from Alice’s Village Café, with ice cream, drizzled with local maple syrup

*You can choose between this main course and vegetarian lasagna with béchamel sauce.

Greystone Locavore Winter Fête

6 p.m., February 25, 2014

179 Constance Bay Road, Ottawa

Price: $40/seat

Call to reserve your spot:  613-832-0009

About Chef Darryl MacDougall

A native of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Darryl MacDougall learned his cooking skills at George Brown College and completed his apprenticeship at The Windsor Arms Hotel under Chef (and Masterchef Canada judge) Michael Bonacini. He opened the Greystone Grill a year ago and operates it with his wife Nadine. The couple is proud that the Greystone has been nominated as restaurant of the year for West Carleton by the West Ottawa Board of Trade.

Purée of wild black walnut and butternut soup

Chef Darryl adapted this recipe from one developed by his friend Chef Tony de Luca with whom he apprenticed in the 1980s. The original appears as Purée of Chestnut Soup in de Luca’s 2009 cookbook Simply in Season.

¼ c (60 mL) unsalted butter

¼ c (60 mL) olive oil

2 c (500 mL) black walnuts and/or butternuts, shelled and chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 potato, peeled and chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 small cloves garlic, minced

6 c (1.5 L) vegetable stock, chicken stock or water

3 sprigs Italian parsley

2 whole cloves

1 bay leaf

2 tbsp (30 mL) dry sherry

35% cream

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

parmesan cheese

truffle oil

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the butter and oil. When the butter foams, add the nuts, onion, potato, celery and garlic and cook, covered and stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes or until the onion is softened by not browned.

Add the stock and bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the nuts and vegetables are soft enough to purée. Add parsley springs, cloves and bay leaf and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove parsley spring, cloves and bay leaf.

In a blender (not a food processor), purée the soup until very smooth. Pour the soup back into the rinsed-out saucepan. Stir in the sherry and a bit of cream, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Keep warm until ready to serve. Top with grated parmesan cheese and a few drops of truffle oil.

What local foods do you gather and how do you prepare them?

Be Sociable, Share!

Share the love on Valentine’s Day with handmade local treats

February 11th, 2014

Go local this Valentine’s with a heart-shaped chocolate torte from Carolina’s Box of Goodness.
Photo courtesy of Carolina’s Box of Goodness

Even with climate change, it’s unlikely that cocoa beans and sugar cane will ever grow in Ottawa. But that doesn’t mean sweet-toothed locavores are stuck with mass-produced candy on Valentine’s Day. Far from it. The region boasts a growing number of small-scale artisan bakers, chocolatiers, and confectioners who make their products from scratch, using local ingredients as often as they can.

With February 14 just days away, here are some ideas for treats made in the Ottawa region.

Auntie Loo’s Treats

Ottawa’s first 100% vegan bakery, Auntie Loo’s makes fresh desserts in small batches, from scratch, using organic and local products when possible. Many treats can be made in gluten-free versions.

  • Single-layer 6-inch cakes ($15 + HST)

Available in flavours such as champagne and chocolate strawberry, and decorated with Valentine messages.

  • Cake pops (6 for $15)

Choose from double chocolate and chocolate peanut butter.

  • Sugar cookies (6 for $15)

Available in sets with and without Valentine’s Day messages, and in mixed packs.

Other Valentine treats include: Cupcakes for 2 ($10 + HST), donuts with Valentine’s sprinkles (6 for $20), and a giant heart-shaped whoopee pie ($15 + HST).

Order online or call the store at (613)238-ALOO (2566). Arrange pick-up for February 13, 14 or 15.

Carolina’s Box of Goodness

Carolina Foresti, owner of Carolina’s Box of Goodness, specializes in artisan brownies, custom cakes and dulche de leche (a kind of milk jam similar to caramel but more complex). A native of Brazil, she creates her products based on family recipes and French baking techniques.

  • Valentine’s Sweet Duo ($12.50)

A small jar of dulce de leche and a large chocolate fudge brownie, packed in a craft box with red satin ribbon. The duo is perfect for sharing, Carolina says. “Just warm up the dulce de leche, cut the brownies in small pieces and serve like fondue, with berries. Or try a brownie a la mode, only add ice cream.” 

  • Heart shaped Chocolate Torte ($10.50)

Available in chocolate fudge, dulce de leche, caramel sea salt or raspberry swirls decorated with pearls of Belgian chocolate.

  • Box of 6 or 12 artisan brownies ($13.00-$25.00)

An assortment of chocolate fudge, caramel sea salt, dulce de leche, gianduia, cookie and raspberry swirl.

Place your order online.

Hummingbird’s Chocolate’s handmade, single-origin bars with Valentine wrappers.
Photo courtesy of Hummingbird Chocolate

Hummingbird Chocolate

A small-batch producer of dark, organic chocolate, Hummingbird Chocolate  is making a name for itself with handcrafted bars from single-origin Latin American and Caribbean cocoa beans. Owner-artisans Erica and Drew Gilmour make the chocolate using 19th century methods that bring out the unique flavours of the cocoa bean varieties.

  • Cinnamon-studded bars
  • Hummingbird’s regular bars (Bolivia, Bo-nib-ia, Hispaniola, Fleur de sel, Momotombo) with a Valentine’s wrapper

All bars are 50 g, cost $6.50, and can be found at locations such as: Red Apron, Thyme & Again, Kitchenalia, Pêches & Poivres, and Equator Coffee Roasters.

Hummingbird is also hosting a Valentine’s Day “Chocolate 101” tour of its workshop in Almonte; reserve at For the month of February, it also launched a series of Saturday tours.

Isobel’s Cupcakes & Cookies

A family-run business, Isobel’s Cupcakes & Cookies makes its treats from scratch daily, working from quality ingredients (no mixes, shortening or preservatives) in a 100% nut-free environment. All boxes, cups and napkins are made from recycled materials.

  • Valentine cakes, $25 and up

Choices include white chocolate, raspberry charlotte, bleeding heart chocolate mousse cake (shaped like a heart).

  • Valentine cake pops, $2

Other offerings include and several decadent chocolate cupcakes, and chocolate cookie sticks dipped in white chocolate with Valentine sprinkles.

What’s your favourite spot for sweets in Ottawa?

Be Sociable, Share!

Mountain Path’s Robert Hogg: poet, farmer, miller, organics advocate

February 1st, 2014

Mountain Path mills organic flour on Robert Hogg’s farm south of Ottawa.
Photo by Mitch Lenart


He’s not an eco-poet, he says. Nowhere in his five books of published poetry does he rant about the contamination of natural resources or the perils of climate change.

Nevertheless, Robert Hogg — founder of Mountain Path, a specialty flour mill and food distributor south of Ottawa – has lived his life based on a deep respect for the land and a desire to protect it for future generations.

Dedicated to sustainable, organic food and farming

Since the early 1970s, Hogg has grown food organically on his 140-acre farm in North Dundas, and the small commercial flour mill he started on the property has been certified organic since 1987. The Mountain Path food distribution business he launched in the 1990s supplies exclusively organic and natural foods, and also supports regional organic farms and businesses, and fair trade.

Over the years, Hogg has been active in organizations such as Canadian Organic Growers, the Ecological Farmers of Ontario and the National Farmers Union, and has converted a number of farmers to organic practices.

Remarkably, he has managed to combine all of this with busy literary and teaching careers.  A participant in the 1960s Tish poetry movement with likes of George Bowering, Frank Davey, and former Canadian poet laureate Fred Wah, Hogg is working on his sixth book of poetry and editing an anthology of Canadian poetic theory.  From 1968 until he retired in 2005, he taught modern Canadian and American poetry and poetic theory at Carleton University.

Last November, Hogg, 71, sold Mountain Path to Signature Food Concepts but has stayed on as sales director.

Robert Hogg talked to Earthward recently about Mountain Path and his commitment to sustainable farming.

How did you get interested in organics?

It happened through my mother. When I was a child in Edmonton, she had some health issues that didn’t respond to treatment, and they became severe enough that she decided to go Vancouver to consult a naturopath. The doctor put her on a course of treatment that included a eating a diet of peeled grapes, strange as it may sound. She completely recovered. The experience turned her into a health advocate and supporter of natural foods. She founded the Canadian Health League, and some years later, when we’d moved to B.C., she opened a natural food store — the first in the Fraser Valley and probably one of the earliest in Canada.

Why did you become an organic farmer?

Once I had children of my own, I began to think about their health and how to protect it. Growing our own food organically seemed like a good way to do this. For several years, my wife and I rented land from the NCC where we planted an organic vegetable garden, kept chickens and raised goats for milk. Then, in 1973, in the midst of the back-to-the-land movement, we bought the farm we live on today. I’ve always believed in organic methods and organic certification. Farming organically and sustainably is about so much more than profit. It’s about the health of the soil and the water table, the health of people and animals.

How did you get into specialty milling?

One year I brought some Glenlea wheat I’d grown to Watson’s Mill in Manotick for grinding. The results were good so I started selling my flour to places like Herb & Spice and Rainbow Natural Foods.  When demand for the flour began to grow, I found a bigger mill – a 30-inch stone mill — to handle the volume and had it brought to the farm in 1983. We’re using it three decades later.

Stone-milling makes for better tasting, healthier flour than industrial milling. The slower process protects the grain from the high temperatures that promote rancidity and vitamin loss. Stone-grinding also maintains the original proportions of endosperm, bran and germ in the grains and preserves the nutrients that go with them.

How did the food distribution business develop?

After a while, people wanted to buy more than just flour from us so we began to source other products, like seasonings and spices from Frontier Natural Products Co-op and oils from Spectrum Organics. The business kept expanding from there.

What’s ahead for Mountain Path?

Being under the same business umbrella as Signature Foods and Natural Gourmet will benefit Mountain Path through more exposure and new customer relationships.  Just one example: there’s the potential to build on the large clientele Mountain Path already has among co-ops – rural buying clubs, basically.

What’s ahead for you personally?

As director of sales for Mountain Path, I’m still very involved in the company and excited about its future. But at 71, I’m happy with a somewhat smaller role than I had when I was the owner.  I’m looking forward to having a bit more time to farm, write poetry and spend time with my five grandchildren.



Be Sociable, Share!

Seasonal Eats: Rutabaga and beer soup from Chef Jacqueline Jolliffe, Stone Soup Foodworks

January 25th, 2014

Chef Jacqueline Jolliffe’s comforting soup features rutabaga, other seasonal vegetables and dark winter beer.
Photo: Farmanac (via Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0 License, Attribution, Non-Commercial

Frigid, freezing, biting, bitter, numbing, teeth-chattering cold – all describe the last six or so weeks in Ottawa.  The days may be getting longer, but we’re still in hibernation mode and craving comfort food.

This stick-to-the-ribs soup from Chef Jacqueline Jolliffe is just the ticket. The robust flavour of root vegetables combined with dark, winter beer really hits the spot when temperatures plunge, Jolliffe says.

“This soup takes advantage of the fact that root vegetables like rutabaga, carrots and potatoes keep into the winter months,” she notes. “It’s thick and hearty and has a hint of deep bittersweet in it that’s really comforting. Top it with homemade croutons, some nice old cheddar and Italian parsley. Bacon is also pretty great on this one!”

About Jacqueline Jolliffe

Jolliffe is passionate about teaching the lost skills of chopping, cooking and preserving what she describes as “real food grown in real soil by real people.” An avid cook and environmentalist, she owns Stone Soup Foodworks, a food truck that specializes in fresh, healthy lunches and sustainable catering. (Check out her recipe for potato and leek soup here.)

Come May or June, she’ll open a café as part of The West End Well, a new social enterprise co-operative that will include a small organic grocery store, and space for activities such as community cooking classes and workshops on sustainable living.

Rutabaga and beer soup

Allow 1.5 to 2 hours for prep and cooking

Serves 6-8 as a hearty lunch

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp salt

2 onions, sliced

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices

2 ribs celery, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 head roast garlic

2 pounds rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 tsp dried winter savoury

2 bottles dark winter beer

2 litres vegetable stock


Preheat oven to 375° F.

Place rutabaga, ¼ tsp salt and the beer in a deep roasting pan or 8.5” X11” pan. Dot with 1 tbsp butter and roast 45 minutes in the oven, covering with foil for 35 minutes, then removing the foil for 15-20 minutes to begin a caramelizing process. The rutabaga should be soft.

Roast the garlic at the same time. Cut off the top of the garlic head, drizzle with a little olive oil and wrap in foil and put in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, begin caramelizing onions with remaining salt in a large pot. When onions begin to soften, add carrots and celery and cook until the vegetables begin to brown.  Add minced garlic and cider vinegar. Cook for one minute. Add potatoes and vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Once the potatoes are soft, add the rutabaga and liquid to the soup.  Blend with an immersion blender until very smooth. You may need to add more stock or water to adjust the thickness, depending on the size of the vegetables.

Adjust seasoning, serve and garnish.

What winter dish helps you keep off the chill?

Be Sociable, Share!

The Food Read Round-up: How does Canada’s food system measure up? Plus, what’s next with GM terminator seeds and why we should celebrate the International Year of Family Farming

January 18th, 2014

Canada’s food system came in 25th in a global ranking.
Photo: Torsten Reimer (Flickr)
Creative Commons 2.0 Attibution, Non-commercial


The Food Read Round-up curates media stories about food and farming in Ottawa, across Canada, and around the world.

Canada ties for 25th place in world food system ranking

As residents of a safe, prosperous country like Canada, we may assume that we have a top-ranking food system.

In fact, a new report from Oxfam shows Canada’s food system lagging behind that of the UK (13th) and the US (21st), and tying for 25th place along with Brazil, Estonia, Slovakia and Hungary. The rankings were based on four measures: having enough to eat; food quality; affordability; and unhealthy eating. While Canada scored quite well on measures of food quality and affordability, we took a hit in the “unhealthy eating” category, based on high rates of diabetes and obesity.

Netherlands made the number one spot in Oxfam’s ranking, followed by France and Switzerland. Mexico tied for 44th place and China for 57th.

The goal of the report was look at global food conditions and obstacles to eating more healthfully. Despite ample food supplies, more than 840 million people go hungry every day, 2 billion suffer from nutrient deficiencies, and another 1.5 billion are overweight or obese, says the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Food safety system just squeaks through USDA audit

There was more negative press for the Canadian food system this month with the news that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) got the lowest passing grade in a 2012 safety audit by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Problem areas included oversight practices at meat facilities, sanitation and humane handling of animals.

Conducted on the heels of the massive 2012 XL Foods recall, the audit’s goal was to assess whether the CFIA could provide levels of food safety for red meat, poultry and egg products equivalent to US products.  Canada’s borderline grade means that future food exports to the US will face sharper scrutiny than products from countries with “average” or “well-performing” ratings.

The CFIA claims it has since fixed all the problems and introduced a plan to “develop and implement a sustainable internal inspection oversight role that allows for continuous system improvement ” (whatever that means).

Brazilian vote could threaten global ban on GM terminator seeds

Pressured by big corporate landowners and agribusinesses, Brazil’s congress will hold a vote in February on whether to allow biotech companies to sell genetically modified terminator, or “suicide”, seeds to farmers. The seeds are engineered to kill the crops after one harvest, forcing farmers to buy new seeds for each planting, threatening the livelihoods of millions of small farmers and making them dependent on giant seed and chemical companies such as Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta.

Right now, use of terminator seeds is banned under a UN treaty signed by more than 193 countries, including Brazil, which is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers. If Brazil overturns its ban, there are fears that other countries will follow suit, resulting in global adoption of terminator technology.

If you’d like to make your voice heard, there’s a SumOfUs petition you can sign.

It’s the International Year of Family Farming

The United Nations has designated 2014 the International Year of Family Farming. Its goal is to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming, highlighting their roles in providing sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty, improving food security and nutrition, and protecting the environment.  The initiative is supported by the World Rural Forum with support from more than 360 farmers’ and civil society organizations.

There are more than 500 million family farms worldwide. In developing countries especially, they represent 80% of all farm holdings and feed billions of people. Research suggests that by putting local knowledge and sustainable farming methods to work, family farming has the potential to boost yields and create millions of jobs.

Over the next 12 months, you can expect to see media coverage of reports, conferences and other activities focused on the obstacles and opportunities of small- and medium-size farming. For more information on the initiative and its upcoming events, visit sites such as the FAO, the International Year of Family Farming Campaign, the World Rural Forum, Food Tank, Via Campesina and Food First.

What have you been reading about the food system recently?

Be Sociable, Share!

8 reasons to cook at home in 2014

January 9th, 2014

Cooking at home makes it easier to eat healthier and more sustainably, save money, help your kids with kitchen literacy, and promote change in the food system.
Photo: LABabble via Flickr,

Despite the proliferation of online recipe sites and our fascination with TV shows like Top Chef, Chopped and Cake Boss, many of us are spending less time than ever in the kitchen. Whether it’s because we lack time, confidence or culinary skills, we wind up relying on convenience foods and restaurants instead of planning, preparing and cooking meals at home.

It’s a real loss. Cooking for ourselves not only allows us to eat healthier and save money, it gives us an opportunity to eat more sustainably, choosing foods that are local, seasonal, organic and fairly traded.

In fact, brushing up your cooking skills and preparing more meals from scratch could be the most important changes you make in 2014. Here are some of the benefits.

  1. Save money. Compare the cost of a takeout lunch with packing your own (60% of Canadians eat lunch out at least once a week). Figure out what you’d pay for a restaurant dinner versus   home-cooking a batch of chili or roasting a chicken that would give you several meals. Home cooking wins hands down. What’s more, planning meals each week makes it easier to stay on budget because you’ll be more likely to buy only what you’ll need to make them.
  2. Control what you eat. Whether you’re heating a frozen pizza or dining at the newest bistro, you’re consuming food that’s been defined by someone else. When you cook for yourself, you pick the recipe, ingredients and cooking method according to your taste preferences, health needs and food values.
  3. Eat healthier. Cooking at home allows you to select the cooking method that best preserves the health value of the food.  For example, roasted vegetables retain more of nutrients than boiled, while grilling chicken is a lower-fat technique than frying. In addition, by cooking with fresh, whole foods you avoid the salt, sugar and fat levels of industrial food as well as the pesticides and other chemicals used in producing them. Finally, you control portion size, which helps with weight management and reduces food waste.
  4. Throw away less food. No more supersize takeout fare: cook only what you know you’ll eat. And, equipped with some basic cooking skills, you’ll be motivated to cook with leftovers instead of tossing them out.  About  $27 billion worth of food is wasted every year in Canada, more than half of it in our homes.
  5. Reduce meat consumption. Industrial meat production consumes a disproportionate amount of natural resources and contaminates soil, air and water. If you want to eat less meat for environmental, health or other reasons, it’s easier if you cook for yourself. Restaurant, fast-food and ready-to-eat meals tend to centre on meat and poultry.
  6. Give the gift of food literacy to future generations. Find ways to let your kids participate in cooking. Even something as simple as washing vegetables or making cookies will build their sense of competence in the kitchen. Just as important, take them to a farmers’ market or a local farm so they can connect food with the people and natural resources that produce it rather than with supermarkets and burger chains.
  7. Discover a rewarding way to spend time. Providing nourishment is an essential survival skill and a meaningful activity that’s embedded in human culture. It becomes even more meaningful when you share the food you’ve cooked with loved ones, writes Mark Bittman in How to Cook Everything The Basics.  After a hectic day, cooking can be relaxing and comforting, helping to bring families together around the dinner table. It also stimulates creativity: improvise on a favourite recipe, invent a new dish, or even discover a new approach you can apply in another area of your life.
  8. Vote for change in the food system.  Whether you’re concerned about health and nutrition, environmental stewardship, food security or humane treatment of animals, cooking good, clean food for yourself and your loved ones is a powerful way to promote the changes you value. It’s been said that eating is a political act: vote with your plate.

Do you cook for yourself? How has it helped you?




Be Sociable, Share!

2013 yielded bumper crop for Hidden Harvest and Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest

December 29th, 2013

Community Harvest grows food for Ottawa’s needy.
Photo by Jason Gray

Fresh, nutritious food is often seen as a luxury only the rich can afford.

In 2013, two food security organizations – Hidden Harvest Ottawa and the Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest program —  turned that assumption on its head by producing, gathering and donating well over 100,000 pounds of fresh local fruit, vegetables and nuts to those in need.

Edible fruit and nut trees

Hidden Harvest was created less than two years ago to provide Ottawa residents with the knowledge, organizational support and legal means to access edible fruit and nut trees on public and private property. It connects tree owners with volunteer harvesters and with Ottawa Food Bank agencies that can make good use of the food, which includes apples, cherries, elderberries, plums, black walnuts, buttternuts and more. Community agencies, tree owners and volunteers all share in the harvest.

According to the organization’s results for 2013, volunteers harvested about 5,984 lbs of fruit and nuts from 142 trees and the food was likely shared among more than 7,000 people. Of the total harvest, more than 2,000 lbs were donated. This represents a huge increase over the 467 lbs harvested in 2012, of which 152 lbs were donated.

As Hidden Harvest co-founders Jay Garlough and Katrina Siks point out, the bounty of 2013 came from just 142 trees. As more of Ottawa’s 17,000 mapped, food-bearing trees become available for harvesting, how many more people could benefit?

Growing food for Ottawa’s hungry  

This past year, the Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest program grew, gleaned and gathered donations of 104,710 pounds of fresh local fruit and vegetables for those in need. This yield is an 87% increase over 2012, and well beyond the program’s original goal of $75,000 for this year, says program coordinator Jason Gray.

Community Harvest obtains food by:

  • growing its own organic crops on the Black Family Farm in Stittsville
  • gleaning unpicked produce that would be thrown away otherwise or ploughed back into the soil at the end of the season
  • gathering donations from partner farms, urban gardeners and vendors at the Ottawa Farmers Market.

If the program’s past three seasons are any indication, Jason says, the program will keep on growing. “Every year, we get more positive feedback from the Ottawa Food Bank’s member agencies, and from Community Harvest volunteers, member agencies, and farmers.”

More land, bigger yields, added volunteers

Here are more program highlights from 2013.

  • The amount of land available for Community Harvest’s growing project at Black Family Farm expanded to 4 acres from 2.5, due in part to the success of the project in 2012.
  • Total fresh produce yield rose from 56,130 lbs in 2012 to 104,710 lbs. The yield from the growing project at the Black Farm alone jumped from 15,017 lbs last year to 53,561 lbs this year.
  • The total number of crops (grown and collected) increased from 7 last year to 14 this year. In addition to staples such as beets, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, winter squash and zucchini, new crops included cucumbers, tomatoes, cantaloupe, peppers, herbs, and small plantings of Brussels sprouts, celery and tomatillos.
  • The number of crop varieties also increased (e.g., 7 types of potato). These varieties reached maturity at different times, giving Ottawa Food Bank member agencies a more diverse and even supply of fruits and vegetables.
  • 4 new farms joined the list of produce donors, bringing to 18 the number of partner farms. One of these, Shouldice Berry Farm, donated 2,781 lbs of day-old strawberries.
  • 489 volunteers worked 1,544 hours, up from 285 people who worked 1,219 hours in 2012. Corporate teams and school and community groups also participated. Volunteers help with most aspects of planting and harvesting the crops at Black Family Farm,  such as preparing beds, weeding, installing row covers and netting, setting up irrigation, storing equipment, loading supplies, and washing and boxing harvested produce.

Sign up to volunteer in 2014

Interested in helping either Hidden Harvest Ottawa or Community Harvest in 2014?

For Hidden Harvest, sign up a fruit or nut tree on your property or register as a volunteer harvester.

For Community Harvest, contact Jason to add your name to the volunteer list. As soon as farm work starts in the spring, you’ll start receiving notices about upcoming opportunities.

Read more about Hidden Harvest Ottawa and the Community Harvest program here, here and here.

Do we need to do more to get fresh, local produce to people in need? What approaches do you think would work best in your neighbourhood?

Be Sociable, Share!

Seasonal Eats: Red Apron’s Holiday Breakfast Cranberry Chocolate Chip Loaf

December 20th, 2013

Red Apron makes its own mix for this holiday loaf.
Photo: Bonnie Findlley

Need a quick-and-easy recipe for festive snacks and breakfasts? Look no further than this yummy, no-fuss loaf from Red Apron, featuring seasonal cranberries.

To make the loaf, co-owner Jennifer Heagle says Red Apron uses organic spelt flour from CIPM farm near Madoc. “Patricia Hastings grows heirloom and organic grains that are milled locally and sold in a selection of retail stores in Ottawa including the Natural Food Pantry,” Jennifer says. “We source the dried cranberries from Upper Canada Cranberries near Osgoode and use fair trade Cocoa Camino dark chocolate chips.”


¾ cup organic spelt flour

1½ cups organic all purpose flour

¾ cups organic cane sugar

1½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp salt

½ tsp dried orange peel or 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel

½ cup organic fair trade chocolate chips

¾ cup dried cranberries

3 eggs

1 cup canola oil or melted butter

¾ cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs well and add milk and oil or butter. In a separate bowl, combine the dried ingredients.

Stir wet and dry ingredients together until combined. Do not over-mix. Grease two loaf pans and divide batter between them.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.


Be Sociable, Share!

Goodbye, frozen pizza: These local businesses deliver healthy, sustainable food to your door

December 20th, 2013


Photo courtesy of Eating Well Ottawa

Most of us are so busy these days that shopping for and preparing healthy food often gets caught in the crunch. Big food corporations make lots of money on our appetite for convenience, catering to it with everything from frozen pizza to meal replacement shakes to soups you can sip while driving.

But food doesn’t have to be hyper-processed to be convenient. As demand ramps up for local and organic foods, Ottawa chefs and entrepreneurs are finding ways to provide the convenience people want without compromising on food quality, nutrition or environmental sustainability.

Several services in Ottawa allow you to order healthy, sustainably produced food online and have it delivered to your door. Depending on the service, you can get organic groceries, fully prepared gourmet meals, or boxes of recipes and ingredients to make chef-designed dinners.

The newest of these services is Eating Well Ottawa, an organic grocery business that started taking online orders last month.

Eating Well Ottawa

With the service, you sign up for a box of fresh, certified organic fruit and vegetables to be delivered to your home or office each week. Harvest and Office boxes are available year-round, and during the growing season there’s a Local box for customers who want produce from local and regional farms. Depending on the size and type of box selected, you can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $55.

The company’s emphasis on organic and local reflects its commitment to sourcing foods in an ethical, eco-friendly way, says president Brendan Gorman. “We believe in local, regional and Canada first, and we support fair trade practices and environmental responsibility.”

Another important goal is to show that eating well can be simple and affordable, Brendan adds. “Grocery stores mark up organic foods by at least 40%. We’ve chosen to cut back on the mark-up so that good, sustainable food can become a more mainstream choice.”

Come mid-January, Eating Well Ottawa plans to launch new options such as a “detox” box with juices and other products to get people healthy again after holiday excess. In addition, customers will be able to add to their regular orders with items from organic/natural food businesses in the region including Mountain Path, Signature Foods  and Natural Gourmet.

In the longer term, Brendan says he hopes to offer meat and dairy products as well.

Ottawa Organics and Bryson Farms

At least two other businesses are already on Ottawa’s organic food home delivery scene. Ottawa Organics and Natural Foods works along the same lines as Eating Well Ottawa.  Bryson Farms is a certified organic CSA near Shawville, Québec, that delivers its own fresh heirloom produce, its own line of flash-frozen vegetables and prepared foods, and organic beef.


Chefx is a new service geared to people who enjoy cooking but don’t have the time for meal planning or grocery shopping. Sign up and receive everything you need to prepare a gourmet dinner in about 45 minutes: a chef-designed recipe, step-by-step instructions, and fresh, portioned ingredients (local and seasonal whenever possible). Prices for weekly boxes with supplies for two dinners range from $59 for two people, to $139 for six.

Featured chefs include Chris Deraiche (Wellington Gastropub), 2013 Gold Medal Plates winner Marysol Foucault (Edgar), Marc Lepine (Atelier), Patricia Larkin (Black Cat Bistro), Matthew Shepheard (Mariposa Farm), among others.

Red Apron

Heading into its eighth year in Ottawa, Red Apron prepares fresh, eco-friendly gourmet meals for pick-up or home delivery.  Menus  highlight seasonal ingredients from regional producers and dinners can be ordered by the day or the week.

For the holidays, you can pre-order a whole, herb-roasted turkey – (locally sourced, antibiotic- and hormone-free) with all the trimmings, as well as other seasonal dishes such as tourtière, or bison, sweet potato and cranberry pie.

For more info on Red Apron, read my 2012 post.

Scratch Kitchen

Scratch Kitchen cooks, freezes and delivers healthy gourmet meals. Food is prepared in small batches in a commercial, health-inspected kitchen, using locally sourced and organic ingredients when possible. All meals are low in sodium and free of additives and preservatives. Order online from menus that include vegan dishes, soups, salads, pastas, ragouts and curries.

Read about Scratch Kitchen’s 2014 menu sourcing here.

What would make it easier and faster for you to prepare healthy meals?

Be Sociable, Share!

The gift of food: Stocking stuffers for locavores

December 14th, 2013

(Photo: zaimoku_woodpile via Flickr

Good food is a welcome gift, no matter what the celebration. And with the growing number of Ottawa-area food artisans, it’s getting easier to shop for the locavores on your list.

Here’s my list of ideal stocking stuffers: compact and non-perishable, with most prices ranging from $3.50 to about $20. I’ve based the list on my visit to this year’s Locavore Artisan Food Fair, a showcase of products from 20 of Ottawa’s most creative food-makers.

These artisans produce in small batches and use local ingredients when possible. Many don’t have their own retail space, so plan to contact them online, or visit them at the Ottawa Farmers’ Christmas Market or Flavours of Ottawa Holiday Food Markets. I’ve indicated where products are available at local restaurants and stores.

Artisan brownies and dulce de leche from Carolina’s Box of Goodness

Carolina’s Box of Goodness handcrafts rich artisan brownies in flavours such as Chocolate Fudge, Dulce de Leche, Caramel Sea Salt, and Cinnamon Pecan Blondie. The treats come individually packaged or in boxes of 6 or more. There’s also a Boozy Brownies Collection featuring Bailey’s Irish Cream, Amaretto & Ginger and Grand Marnier varieties.

Another option is Carolina’s dulce de leche, a simple mixture of milk and sugar that’s cooked until it becomes thick, creamy and full of complex flavours. It can be served with fruit, toast, pancakes and ice cream – or eaten straight from the jar.

Chocolate bars and Mayan drinking chocolate from Hummingbird Chocolate

Almonte-based Hummingbird Chocolate handcrafts dark, organic chocolate from single-origin, ethically traded Latin American and Caribbean cocoa beans, using 19th century methods that bring out the beans’ unique flavours. In addition to bar chocolate, Hummingbird has come out with Mayan drinking chocolate for the holidays, essentially a cake of chocolate on a stick that you melt in heated milk for a rich, spicy drink. You can find Hummingbird products at a restaurants and food stores across Ottawa. (For more information about Hummingbird Chocolate, read my February 2013 post

Chocolate truffles from koko chocolates

koko makes gourmet chocolate truffles by hand, using premium Belgian chocolate, and all-natural, gluten-free ingredients. Choose from traditional truffle flavours or more adventurous ones like margarita and spicy Thai chili.

Fairly traded coffee from The Barking Barista

These fairly traded, Brazilian, Indonesian, Ethiopian and Colombian coffee beans are craft-roasted by an Ottawa husband and wife team. For every pound of coffee you buy, $1 goes to help dogs in need. The owners are available at or in person at the Ottawa Canine School, and will ship to you for an added cost.

Gourmet jams from Michaelsdolce

Confectioner Michael Sunderland makes all-natural gourmet jams, using local produce when and where possible. Michaelsdolce jams include: Blueberry & Lavender, Ginger Citrus marmalade; Fig Blood Orange, Papaya & Pink Grapefruit, Plum & Star Anise, and many others. Find them at Isobel’s Cupcakes and Cookies or contact for more info.

Oil and balsamic vinegar from The Unrefined Olive

The Unrefined Olive is Ottawa’s only oil and balsamic vinegar tasting bar. It sells 50 fresh premium olive oils from around the world as well as balsamic vinegars and flavour-infused oils.  All balsamic vinegars come from Modena Italy, are aged for a minimum of 12 years, and are available in flavours such as fig, cranberry pear, pomegranate and dark chocolate. Flavour-fused olive oils include mushroom sage, Tuscan herb, basil, garlic, and hot chili. Drop by the tasting bar at 151 A Second Avenue in the Glebe or call 613-231-3133.

Elizabeth Kilvert, owner, The Unrefined Olive
(Photo: V. Ward)

Preserves from Top Shelf Preserves

Chef Sara Pishva makes her small batch pickles and preserves from locally sourced produce. Top Shelf wares include: spicy pickled garlic scapes, pickled turnips, red pepper jelly, molasses baked beans, brandied plums, spiced pears in syrup, pickled jalapenos, dill pickles, pickled beets, and more.

Smoked seasonings from The Salty Don

The Salty Don makes its own line of natural smoked salts, as well as pepper blends, unique items such as smoked quinoa and smoked risotto, and spa products. Salt and pepper flavours include Bison Smoked, Canadian Curry, Garlic Smoked, Peppered Provence, Lemon Pepper, and Saffron Pepper Rub, to name a few. You’ll find Salty Don products at Grace in the Kitchen and other locations.

Specialty tea from Kimicha

Kimicha owner and tea sommelier Kimiko Uriu sources the best-tasting black, white, green, herbal and fruit teas from Southeast Asia; two varieties she’s chosen have won awards at the North American Tea Championships.  In addition to packages of loose tea, Kimicha sells sampler sets and tea accessories. Order online or call 613-612-5464.

Sweet treats from Pascale’s Ice Cream

Pascale’s seasonal, all-natural ice creams are renowned in Ottawa.  For the holiday season, she’s also offering less perishable treats: try her salted caramel or sour cherries in balsamic caramel, but order soon because they go fast. Get in touch at or call 613-322-4256.

What’s the best food gift you’ve received?


Be Sociable, Share!

Crowdsourcing the menu: Help Scratch Kitchen choose new dishes for 2014

December 8th, 2013

Crowdsourcing – using social media and other online services to ask the public for ideas or funding – is changing the way businesses, non-profits and individuals reach their goals. This is certainly true of food production, where crowdsourcing is being used for everything from starting farms to developing new ice cream flavours.

Ottawa’s Scratch Kitchen is putting its own stamp on the technique. To fill six spots on its 2014 winter menu, the family-owned meal -preparation-and-delivery business is asking Ottawans to contribute favourite comfort food recipes inspired by winter and cold weather. Winners will get bragging rights and a promotional code for a Scratch Kitchen order.

Of the suggestions sent in so far, Scratch Kitchen chef Sean Patrick Murphy is especially enthusiastic about a recipe for pumpkin and sweet potato soup from Andrea Woolner. Murphy adapted the recipe slightly and prepares it with vegetables from Acorn Creek Garden Farm and garlic he harvested from his own garden. “It’s not only perfect for the holiday, the soup is a perfect pick for our 2014 menu,” he says.  The recipe for it is included at the end of this post.

About Scratch Kitchen

Scratch Kitchen cooks, freezes and delivers healthy foods directly to customers. “We cook meals in small batches in a commercial, health-inspected kitchen, using locally sourced and organic ingredients whenever possible,” Murphy says. “We don’t put in preservatives or additives, and we go easy on the salt.”


Chef Sean Patrick Murphy

Chef Murphy is a graduate of the Cordon Bleu Paris Cooking School and the Culinary Institute of America, and has worked in some of Canada’s most prestigious restaurants, including Truffles, Scaramouche, and Café Henry Burger.

December 20 deadline

To have your recipe considered for Scratch Kitchen’s 2014 menu, send it to The deadline is December 20, 2013.

Andrea’s World Famous Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup

Makes 2 servings

Step 1:  Make Quick Vegetable Stock

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Makes about 3–4 cups (750ml–1 litre)

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 medium size onions

2 celery sticks with leaves, chopped

4 cups (1 litre) water

Place ingredients in a medium stock pot and bring to a simmer, partially cover and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, and use as needed.

Step 2:  Make Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup

1.5 tsp olive oil

2 cloves crushed garlic

1 cup onion

2.5 cups vegetable stock

1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped

1 cup pumpkin (or any seasonal squash), boiled, peeled and mashed

1.5 tsp cumin

1.5 tsp white pepper

1 tbsp minced ginger

1 tbsp honey

* If you are missing any of these spices, curry can be substituted for an equally bold and unique flavour.

Sweat onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent.

Add cumin, white pepper and ginger and cook lightly 2 to 3 minutes. Add cooked and peeled sweet potato and pumpkin, add vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Finish with honey and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Carefully purée the soup in a food processor or with a hand blender.

Serve with a baguette from Art-is-In Bakery and enjoy!!


What’s your go-to winter comfort food recipe?


Be Sociable, Share!

Homestead Organics: Helping fill the gap in local food processing

November 30th, 2013

The team from Homestead Organics, a certified organic grain processor about 50 km from Ottawa. Owner Tom Manley is in the back row, fifth from the right.

Eastern Ontario boasts a growing number of Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), farmers markets, local food artisans, and chefs who support sustainable local food. But there’s a gap where small- and mid-scale processors are concerned. Without nearby companies to grind grains, preserve fresh produce, and slaughter animals from area farms, scaling up the local food system will be a challenge.

Homestead Organics is one company helping to fill the gap. Located about 50 km from Ottawa in Berwick, Ontario, it’s a certified organic grain processor and feed mill with a longstanding commitment to organic food and farming.

The company started out in 1988 as a small store on the family farm. Today, Homestead Organics is a $7 million dollar a year business that handles 7,000 tonnes of grain annually. It’s also a Certified B Corporation, meaning that it has met certain standards for social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

Aerial view of Homestead Organics, Berwick, Ontario

Food processor and one-stop farm shop

Billing itself as a one-stop shop for organic farmers, Homestead Organics:

  • processes organic corn, barley, oats, soybeans, buckwheat, wheat and peas.  Grains go into livestock feed; whole grains and soybeans are destined for food manufacturers.  (Customers for the company’s soybeans include tofu makers such as Gatineau’s Soyarie and soy beverage producer So Nice.)
  • mills its own brand of organic livestock feeds for sale directly to customers or through a dealer network across Ontario, Québec, Atlantic Canada and upstate New York
  • markets individual organic grains
  • provides agricultural services and organic products such as: grain handling;  fertilizers and soil amendments; pest control; organic groceries; garden seeds and supplies,  and; professional support in livestock nutrition and farming science and technology.

Q&A with owner Tom Manley

I spoke with Homestead Organics owner Tom Manley about ways to ramp up local food processing, and invest at the grassroots level using Slow Money principles.

Q. What do you think it will take to beef up local food infrastructure?  Changes in government policy? Partnering among sustainable food businesses? More funding for small processors?

A. These are possible solutions. Above all, it requires able and willing entrepreneurs with sufficient imagination, drive, skill, and resources to get started. Various government programs are great assets: Growing Forward 2, the Local Food Act, the Local Food Fund, Foodland Ontario, and so on.

I’d also suggest a change in grassroots investment practices. Many people have investments and retirement savings, but these usually involve commercial channels in Bay Street and Wall Street.  We don’t invest in our own food chain in our own communities. People need to vote not only with their food dollar, but with their investment dollar to create the food system they want.

Q.  So you’re talking about Slow Money.

Yes. It’s a big topic, but basically Slow Money focuses on reconnecting people and their communities and using food as a pathway to fix the economy.  Slow Money aims to move the economy away from extraction and consumption towards principles of preservation and restoration. This approach fits with the fact that we’re a “triple bottom line” business that’s committed to social and environmental benefit as well as profit.

Q.  Homestead Organics is also one of about 850 Certified B Corporations in the world.  How does this status help the business?

We already knew we were a benefit corporation in principle and in practice, without being certified. But going this route allowed us to be listed on the Social Venture Exchange in Toronto, a platform that connects social businesses and accredited investors. Also, because certification is a rigorous process verified by a third party, it demonstrates to investors, customers and community that a company is doing what it says and contributing to the social and environmental good.

What do you think of Slow Money as a way to reconnect people and community?

Be Sociable, Share!

Wrapping up 2013: Holiday farmers markets, Locavore Artisan Food Fair, forest farm workshops and more

November 23rd, 2013


Koko Chocolates will be one of the vendors at the 2013 Locavore Artisan Food Fair on December 7.

As Ottawa’s local food economy puts down deeper roots, we’re seeing more locavore events year-round and not just in the growing season. The next month is packed with holiday farmers markets, the Locavore Artisan Food Fair (LAFF) is back, and the Greystone Locavore In-Season Fêtes  returns with the second of its seasonal dinners. Also on the calendar are conferences, workshops and webinars on topics ranging from market gardening to reforming the food system.

  1. Holiday Farmers Markets

Metcalfe Farmers Market 

When:                 Saturday, Dec 14, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Where:                 Greely Legion, 2081 Mitch Owens Drive

More info:


Carp Farmers Market 

When:                  Friday, Dec 6, 3 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Saturday, Dec 7, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Where:                 Carp Fair Grounds, Carp

More info:


Cumberland Farmers’ Market 

When:                  Saturday, December 7, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Where:                1115 Dunning St, Cumberland

More info:


North Gower Farmers’ Market 

When:                 Saturday, Dec 7, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Where:                North Gower RA Centre

More info:


Ottawa Farmers’ Market

When:                  Saturday, Dec 14 & Sunday, Dec 15, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Saturday, Dec 21& Sunday, Dec 22, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Where:                 Ernst & Young Centre, 4899 Uplands Drive

More info:


  1. Locavore celebrations 

Locavore Artisan Food Fair (LAFF)

LAFF brings together 20 of Ottawa’s most creative food artisans to showcase their wares in time for the holidays. Participants include: Auntie Loo’s Treats, Barking Barista, Carolina’s Box of Goodness, CHEFX, Hummingbird Chocolate, The Flatbread Pizza CompanyKimicha, Michael’s Dolce, Milkhouse Farm & Dairy, Pascale’s Ice Cream, Seed to Sausage, Stone Soup Foodworks, The Unrefined Olive, and more.

When:                  Saturday, Dec 7, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Where:                 Memorial Hall, 39 Dufferin Road, New Edinburgh

More info:


Greystone Locavore In-Season Fêtes

Sample fresh food from local producers, inventively prepared by Chef Darryl MacDougall of the Greystone Grill. The Locavore Fêtes take place four times a year to showcase the products of local farmers and food gardeners from within 100 miles. They’re also linked to a roster of sustainable food initiatives, such as a SPIN Farm, being planned by the Torbolton Institute in collaboration with Just Food Ottawa. The Torbolton Institute is an innovations hub whose goals include making Ottawa locally food secure by 2020. 

When:                  Wednesday, Nov 27, 6 p.m.

Where:                Greystone Grill, 179 Constance Bay Road, Woodlawn

Cost:                     $35 per person; free for children under 5

Reserve:              Call the Greystone Grill at 613-832-0009

  1. Conferences

National Farmers Union 44th Convention

The National Farmers Union (NFU) is made up of Canadian farm families who share common goals. Its is to work to achieve agricultural policies that promote dignity and income security for farm families while protecting the land for future generations. The theme of this year’s convention is “Growing Resistance” and will focus on the issues underlying food seeds, including the symbolic and real economic value of seeds, their role in food sovereignty and the debate over their ownership (farmers or corporations?).

When:                  Wednesday – Saturday, Nov 27-30

Where:                Travelodge Ottawa , 1376 Carling Ave

Cost:                      $15-$175

Register: or

More info: 


  1. Workshops and webinars

Torbolton Forest Farm Workshop

The Torbolton Forest Farm Project aims to create a food-producing, urban forest farm CSA in rural Ottawa, with a first planting date within three years.  Lead by the Friends of Torbolton Institute and their partners, the farm project will produce nuts, fruits and berries, vegetables, and aquaponically*-raised fish for farm gate sales as well as delivery to local consumers and farmers markets; gleaned surpluses will be donated.

This workshop will define the project and estimate start-up costs and is open to all who are interested.

*Aquaponics refers to the production of fish and plants together in a closed, mutually beneficial system.

When:                  Saturday, Nov 30, 1:30 – 3 p.m.

Where:                 3924 Woodkilton Road, Ottawa

Register:               project-registration-6927234545

Fermentation Workshop, presented by Radical Homestead and Transition Ottawa

Radical Homestead will demonstrate how to make some delicious beverages and dishes such as sauerkraut, sourdough bread, kombucha, and kefir sour cream using the healthy, age-old technique of fermentation.  Group size is limited to five to guarantee personal attention. Each participant will leave with a jar of sauerkraut, a kombucha mother, sourdough starter, kefir grains, and recipes.

When:                  December 8, 2 – 5 PM

Where:                At private home near St. Laurent mall. (Address will be                                   provided at registration.)

Bring:                   4 jars or other containers

Cost:                      $50
More into:                                     workshop/


Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers – Two-part Webinar with Dan Brisebois

Discusses the fundamentals of profitable market gardening, including choosing and planting the right crops at the right time.

When:                Thursdays, Dec  5 & 12, 7:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m

Cost:                   $40+HST

More info:

Do you attend holiday farmers markets or food fairs? What do you enjoy about them most


Be Sociable, Share!

Why does sustainable local food cost more than conventional?

November 15th, 2013

It costs more to produce food that’s tasty, healthy, safe, humanely raised, eco-friendly and that provides the farmer with a living wage.
Photo: Irene Knightley (via Flickr)

Why do we pay more* for food that’s grown sustainably – that is, closer to home, and produced using organic methods – than we do for conventional supermarket fare?

After all, some argue, if you buy an organically grown tomato or naturally raised chicken direct from a local producer, it hasn’t been shipped from hundreds of miles away. There’s no retailer in the middle to mark up the price. And the farmer you bought from didn’t have to buy expensive “inputs”, such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for crops. So why aren’t these savings passed on to consumers?

Food pricing is complicated, but here’s the short answer. Sustainable food costs more because it takes more labour and care to produce food that:

  • is tasty, healthy and safe
  • safeguards the environment
  • raises animals humanely
  • protects the farmer’s  health and pays him or her a living wage.

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

Sustainable farming: lots of labour, management and time   

Instead of depending on chemicals and mechanized systems, sustainable farmers rely on their own labour and on their knowledge of the land and the surrounding ecosystem.

For example, to build healthy soil with plenty of nutrients, sustainable farming practices involve crop rotations, planting cover crops, and using compost and green fertilizers to discourage weeds and produce healthier plants. Crop rotations are essential to restore soil structure, but by periodically removing areas of land from cultivation, they reduce the farmer’s income.

Sustainable farmers control weeds by hand  and with mechanical tilling, and keep pests in check by encouraging a variety of soil organisms, beneficial insects and birds. When pest populations get out of hand, they set up traps and barriers, or use insect predators.

By the same token, sustainable animal production means less mechanization, and much more human care following higher animal welfare standards. In addition, sustainable livestock farmers often raise heritage breeds, which tend to be hardier, healthier and tastier than those favoured by conventional producers, but take longer to reach maturity. As a result, the farmer incurs higher costs for feed, labour and overhead and can’t raise as many animals as quickly.

Supply and demand

The supply of sustainable food is growing, but for a variety of reasons (including soaring farmland prices that make it difficult for new farmers to get started), capacity falls short of consumer demand. This is compounded by the lack of sufficient infrastructure for storing, processing, and distributing these foods. 

The hidden costs of conventional food

Maybe the whole price discussion needs to be approached from another angle.  Industrial farming has kept production costs low, but it has added a range of long-term environmental and health costs that don’t make it onto our grocery bills. Some of these include:

  • contaminated air, water and soil from heavy use of fossil fuels and chemicals, and from the volumes of animal waste that factory-style farms produce
  • record levels of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other illnesses linked to the North American diet of hyper-processed foods
  • rising levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria due in part to the routine use of antibiotics in industrial animal production
  • health risks to farmers from exposure to pesticides
  • a food system that makes it hard for small family farmers to earn a living from what they do.

Instead of asking why sustainable food is more expensive, maybe we should be asking why conventional food is artificially cheap.

*In this post, I’m just looking at the reasons behind the price difference, not at affordability. That said, sustainable food can’t be restricted to the well-to-do and we need strategies to make it accessible to everyone.

What’s most important to you in buying food: Price? Where it was grown or raised? Labels such as Certified Organic or Fair Trade?

Be Sociable, Share!

Organic dairy: an alternative to industrial milk

November 6th, 2013

Cows on pasture at Ferme Gerstrasser, an organic dairy farm near Casselman

Canadian dairy farming trends in recent decades can be summed up this way: fewer farms, more cows per farm, and more milk per cow.  Here are some of the stats.

  • In the late 1960s, there were 135,000 dairy farms in Canada. In 2013, there are 12,592.
  • Between 2001 and 2011, the number of cows per farm rose 32%.
  • Over the same decade, the size of the national herd shrank 10%.
  • Average milk production per cow climbed 16% between 2001-2011; average production per farm was up 56% over the same period.

The ability to produce more milk with fewer animals and farms is often seen as beneficial, the result of improved feeding and milking systems, disease control and genetics. But the high volumes of milk come at a price — to the animals, consumers and the environment.

For example, the animals tend to be treated as commodities, kept in small pens throughout their lives, without access to the outdoors. While free-range dairy cattle can live as long as 20 to 25 years, intensively farmed animals are culled after three or four years of intensive milk production.

In addition, dairy farms that focus on maximum production at the lowest cost may be more likely to use chemicals such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, to which the animals (and their milk) are then exposed. These chemicals also pollute the air, soil and water.

Organic dairy

In September, I toured two Ontario dairy farms that have chosen organics over the industrial model: Ferme Gerstgrasser, near Casselman, and NewCare EcoFarms outside Iroquois.  Both are members of Organic Meadow Inc., a farmer-owned organic dairy co-operative whose name-brand products are sold across Canada.

As certified organic operations, the farms must demonstrate that they follow practices such as:

  • providing the animals with outdoor access year-round, and to certified organic grazing land during the growing season (pasture must provide at least 30% of the animals’ dry food)
  • avoiding pesticides and synthetic fertilizers
  • feeding their animals 100% organic rations — no antibiotics, added hormones or other drugs, no genetically modified feed.

Ferme Gerstgrasser

Manfred and Inge Gerstgrasser’s 150-acre farm is home to 40 milking cows and about 80 replacement heifers. The animals are out on pasture when I arrive so we sit down to coffee and fresh-baked muffins in the Gerstgrasser’s immaculate kitchen. Having time to relax like this is one of the benefits of switching to organic farming, Manfred says. It also allows him and his wife to produce high-quality milk more sustainably.

The couple was already familiar with organics when they arrived in Canada from Austria in 1992, and they followed sustainable practices long before beginning the transition to organic that they completed in 2009. “Our methods were always low-input*,” Manfred says. “I’ve always hated GMOs because they pit farmer against farmer.”

Manfred takes me around the farm, starting with the spic-and-span milking parlour and storage facilities. Next we head to the paddocks where the cows spend much of their day. When they’re on the all-grass diet they’ve evolved to eat, cows avoid digestive and other ailments common among grain-fed cattle. “No grain, no pain,” Manfred says. He rotates the animals from paddock to paddock to renew the grass and improve the soil.

While he clearly enjoys what he does, he’d like to see changes in the food system. “We need more public education about food,” he says. “It’s a necessity but many people don’t know where it comes from.” He’d also thinks it’s time to relax the rules that make it difficult for new farmers and producers of organic, local and other alternative foods to make and market their products.

 *In farming, the term “inputs” refers to manufactured items such as commercial fertilizers, pesticides and fuels.

NewCare EcoFarms

Josh Biemond and his wife Ellen have been working their 350-acre farm since 2005, raising a small herd of dairy cows on about half of it and growing cash crops on the rest. Josh’s brother, Rudi, partners with them.

The farm was originally owned by Josh’s parents, Pieter and Maria, who turned to organics in the late 1980s after Pieter suffered health problems from using pesticides.

Josh Biemond of NewCare EcoFarms

Rather than raising single-breed cows, the Biemonds focus on cross-breeds with traits that support life on pasture, such as strong legs, extra body capacity for converting forage to milk, and hardy immune systems. The animals are milk-fed for their first six months before being switched to grass and hay, and they’re offered supplemental minerals on a free-choice basis, on the assumption that they will instinctively choose the ones they need.

“Farming organically is about sustainability and looking after the future,” says Josh, who’s father to four young children. “The price premiums for organic milk give us a better quality of life and new opportunities. Without the premiums, we couldn’t have partnered with my brother and taken over the farm so our parents could retire. We wouldn’t be farming today.”

Are you willing to pay more for food that’s been produced with attention to things like animal care and environmental impact? Why or why not?

Be Sociable, Share!

Seasonal Eats : Chef Andrée Riffou’s Local Apple Pie

October 30th, 2013

Apple pie from Chef Andrée Riffou of C’est Bon Cooking


Apples rank among the most popular fruits consumed in Canada. It’s not hard to see why. They’re good eaten raw, cooked or baked, and the many common and heritage varieties of the fruit offer different colours, textures and flavours. Apples are also packed with antioxidants that protect the heart, help regulate blood sugar and provide anti-cancer benefits. And they’re good sources of vitamin C and dietary fibre.

Apples are at their best in the fall. Chef Andrée Riffou of C’est Bon Cooking uses apples from the Hall’s Apple Market at the Ottawa Farmers Market in Brewer Park for this elegant, easy-to-make, single-crust pie.

About Andrée Riffou

Chef Andrée studied cuisine and pastry with Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and Paris, attaining the school’s highest qualification: Le Grand Diplôme de cuisine et de pâtisserie. She launched C’est Bon Cooking in 2008,  offering classes, team-building activities, and food tours that allow participants to explore neighbourhood food markets, discover local produce and dishes, and meet area chefs and food artisans.

Featured regularly on local television and radio, Chef Andrée is a staunch advocate of simplicity and homegrown cuisine. She believes in eating locally, sustainably and seasonally,  and in getting to know the people who grow and sell foods. She also believes that cooking and eating are activities to be shared and enjoyed with family and friends.

Local Apple Pie

Prep time – 15 minutes

Cooking time – 20 minutes


1 pie dough recipe (below)

500 g apples, Golden Delicious work well

50 g sugar

50 g butter

apples for garnish, sliced

sugar for garnish

Roll your dough to the desired thickness. Place over pie plate, pinching the edges and making sure there are no holes.

Peel and core the apples. Cut them into cubes.

Melt butter and sugar over medium heat. Add apples and cook until apples are a caramelized colour and al dente (i.e., tender but still firm).

Pour the filling into the pie dough, and arrange sliced apples on top.

Bake in 350° oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sugar.

Pie Dough

Makes 2 shells

Prep time – 20 minutes

Time in fridge – 1 hour

1/3 cup (70 ml) cold water

2 cups (220 g) flour

1 tsp (5 g) salt

1 cup (225 g) butter

Mix flour, salt and butter together until completely combined.

Add water. Mix well, stirring and folding, until there are no dry patches.

Chill at least 4 hours or overnight until firm (you could probably justchill for 1 hour and be fine), or freeze. Just be sure to defrost for a few hours before baking.

What apple varieties do you prefer and how do you like to prepare them?

Be Sociable, Share!