Posts Tagged ‘food security’

Cultivate your food gardening skills with these spring workshops and seminars

Friday, April 18th, 2014
Photo by Hazel Owen (via Flickr)  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Photo by Hazel Owen (via Flickr)
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

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 communitygardening@justfood.ca 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 http://eonpermaculture.ca 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

Info:                      http://ottawa.hiddenharvest.ca/featured/spring-workshop-series-2014

  • 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

Info:                     http://thewildgarden.ca/weed-walks-and-workshops/2014-wild-edible-and-medicinal-plant-course/

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)

Info:                      http://www.parkdalefoodcentre.org/2014/04/01/uepresentspfcgala

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.

Info:                      http://transitionottawa.ning.com/events/seed-justice-tesling-andrews-of-aster-lane-edibles

  • 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 mailto:startupfarm@justfood.ca or 613-699-6850 (x15)

Info:                      http://justfood.ca/start-up-farm-program/farmer-training-workshops

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 leela@justfood.ca or 613-699-6850 x15

Info:                      http://justfood.ca/start-up-farm-program/farmer-training-workshops

 

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

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

Wednesday, 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 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

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
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

__________________________________________________

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 www.cban.ca 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?

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

Sunday, 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?

4 reasons to care about sustainable food

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

When I tell people I write about sustainable food, they often look puzzled. Do I mean organic food, they ask? A 100-mile diet where you can’t eat oranges or drink coffee? A fad for hipster foodies?

 Explaining what sustainable food is and why it’s important can be challenging because food itself touches on so many other issues, from energy consumption to health to social and political issues. That said, there’s general agreement that a sustainable system is one that produces food on a smaller, less invasive scale than the industrial system most of us grew up with.  Sustainable food is produced closer to home, without using genetically modified seeds or crops, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or — in the case of animals — antibiotics and synthetic hormones.  Increasingly, a sustainable system is also viewed as one in which everyone has access to a stable, adequate supply of nutritious food (food security) and all participants are treated fairly (food justice).

 There’s growing demand for food produced this way. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. The food tastes better.

Because locally produced foods haven’t travelled thousands of miles to reach you, they keep their basic flavours better. In addition, varieties of local produce, meat and poultry are more likely to have been grown or bred for their taste rather than for characteristics such as uniform appearance or long shelf life.

  1. It helps protect the environment.

Producing and transporting food accounts for about 30% of the world’s fossil fuel production and 20% of its greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a heck of a carbon footprint. Much of the food we eat is grown with petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, processed in factories that run on non-renewable fuels, and then trucked or flown an average of 1,500 miles (2,414 km) to consumers.  Producing food closer to home reduces the distance from farm to table, cuts greenhouse gas emissions, and keeps toxins out of soil and water.

  1. It strengthens the local economy.

How? By supporting endangered family farms and creating opportunities for new businesses. In Ottawa, as demand for local has food risen, new family farms have sprung up, farmers markets and small-scale food retailers have multiplied, and area chefs have kicked culinary tourism up a notch by building their menus around fresh local ingredients.

  1. It’s better for your health.

Despite the recent kerfuffle about whether organic food is better for you than conventional, it’s clear that eating whole, unprocessed, chemical-free foods is a healthier choice. Conventionally produced food tends to be highly processed, and contains more salt and sugar than we need, not to mention additives and artificial flavours. Our convenience-food diets and sedentary lifestyles have contributed to record levels of obesity and type II diabetes among adults and children, and are also implicated in heart disease and certain cancers.

 What problems do you see in our food system? How do you think they could be solved?

About Earthward

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Earthward is a blog about sustainable food in Ottawa, Ontario.

It looks at the farmers, entrepreneurs, chefs, eaters and policy-makers in the city and across the region who are growing a local food economy that respects the earth, nurtures community and strengthens our appreciation of good, healthy food.

The goal of Earthward is to spark conversation, and to engage people who want to know more about sustainable food and help bring it to their neighbourhoods.