Posts Tagged ‘grow your own food’

7 ways to dig deeper into local, sustainable food

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Brushing up your cooking skills is one way to deepen your appreciation of fresh, local ingredients. Photo by Amarpreet K via Flickr

 

You care about healthy food and protecting the environment. Maybe you’re a regular at the neighbourhood farmers market or you’ve joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.  But you want to do learn more, and do more, to support the growth of a local, sustainable food system in the Ottawa region.

Where to start? Here are some ideas.

1. Grow some of your own food. Whether you plant a backyard vegetable  garden or tend a solitary pot of basil on the windowsill, you’ll develop greater respect for the work involved and the harvest that results. You’ll also enjoy edibles straight off the plant or in your kitchen steps away – that’s about as local as it gets.

2. Brush up your cooking skills. Getting culinary basics under your belt, or honing the skills you already have, will deepen your appreciation of food and reinforce the importance of fresh, quality ingredients.   Knowing some simple techniques will also make it easier to prepare no-fuss, nutritious alternatives to fast food and other convenience fare.

Check out The Urban Element’s schedule of cooking workshops this fall. C’est Bon! Cooking also emphasizes local, seasonal food and offers gourmet tours of Ottawa farmers markets and local food artisans.

3.  Help bring healthy fresh food to low-income people who may not otherwise have access to them. Volunteer to plant, weed and harvest organic vegetables with Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest program or glean seasonal fruit with Hidden Harvest Ottawa.

4.  Eat less meat. Not only is it better for your health, it’s easier on the environment. Meat production – mostly industrial — is set to double by 2020 due to a growing global population and increased meat consumption.

Why is this a problem? Large-scale livestock production accounts for 18%-25% of greenhouse gas emissions. More than two-thirds of all agricultural land grows livestock feed compared with just 8% that grows food for direct human consumption. And there are other downsides to industrial meat: it depletes already declining supplies of fresh water; damages forests and grasslands; erodes soil, and; produces runoff from fertilizers and animal waste that creates dead zones in coastal areas. In addition, the routine use of antibiotics in livestock production has been linked to rising levels of antibiotic resistance in humans.

Eating a bit less meat is a simple, effective way of making a difference. Check out Meatless Monday for more information and ideas   for meat-free meals.

5.  Dining out? Choose restaurants that source from local, sustainable producersSavour Ottawa lists restaurant, hotels, caterers and B&Bs that source a set minimum of food from local farmers. Some of Ottawa’s new food trucks also serve local, seasonal food.

6. Read more about the food system and ways to change it. Dip into these books from Canadian writers:

Margaret Visser’s Much Depends on Dinner, the pioneering 1986 classic that explores the history and mythology of a basic meal, touching on the environmental, economic and political implications of food

Sarah Elton’s latest book Consumed: Sustainable Food for a Finite Planet, or her 2010 best seller Locavore: From Farmers Fields to Rooftop Gardens – How Canadians are Changing the Way We Eat

Jennifer Cockrall-King’s Food and the City, which looks at the rise of urban agriculture in Vancouver, Toronto and other urban farming hubs in Europe and the U.S.

7. Go to Netflix or iTunes to download some of the best food documentaries to come out in recent years. Although these films cover the U.S. and Europe, the issues they explore apply to Canada, too.  A few examples:  King Corn, Our Daily Bread and Food Inc. probe the effects of industrial food and high-tech farming. Farmageddon shows what happens when small-scale farmers who produce safe, healthy food run up against government bureaucracies. Dive! demonstrates the scale of North American food waste by following a group of friends as they dumpster-dive behind L.A. grocery stores.  The Harvest investigates the use of agricultural child labour. For other ideas, try sites such as First We Feast and Organic Authority.

Share what you’re doing to  learn about local, sustainable food. 

Related posts: Hidden Harvest Ottawa; Community Harvest grows fresh produce for Ottawa’s hungry; 8 reasons to grow your own food; Ottawa’s new food trucks boost sustainability; Join a CSA in 2013

8 reasons to grow your own food

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

 

Photo: Brian Everett, EVRT Studio

If you’re thinking about starting a vegetable garden, you’re not alone. According to an October 2012 report on garden trends, 53% to 54% of U.S. households with a yard or garden report growing fruit and vegetables – a figure that’s remained constant over the past three years. Although there are no comparable figures for Canada, the consensus is that food gardening is as popular here as it is south of the border. In addition, Canadian retailers of heritage seeds – that is, seeds from plant varieties introduced pre-World War II, before the era of mass-produced fruit and vegetables – are noting increased demand for their products.

Growing some of your own food is a simple way to:

  1. Save money.

Whether you buy a packet of seeds or a flat of plants, what you harvest will cost a fraction of the price you’d pay a retailer for the same foods.

  1. Eat more, tastier produce.

With the many varietals available as seeds and seedlings, you have the chance to sample produce you won’t find at the grocery store. And it will taste better. It’s hard to beat the flavour of beans you’ve just picked from the vine or the aroma of fresh-snipped basil leaves in a pasta sauce.

  1. Shrink your carbon footprint.

Instead of schlepping to the neighbourhood retailer to buy California lettuce or Chinese garlic, collect fresh food from your balcony or backyard. Food miles?  What food miles?

  1. Know what’s in your food.

You grew it yourself, so you know that you didn’t use GMO seeds, load the soil with synthetic fertilizer or spray the plants with pesticides.

  1. Teach your kids about food.

Let them plant a row of carrots or water the blueberry bushes. They’ll have fun and learn that food doesn’t really come from a supermarket or fast food outlet.

  1. Improve your health.

For one thing, gardening gets you outside. For another, whether you’re standing, stooping, kneeling or digging, gardening can burn anywhere from 120 to more than 300 calories an hour, depending on the task. There’s also evidence to suggest that connecting with nature – in particular, with the smells of nature – lowers blood pressure and increases anti-cancer molecules in the bloodstream.

  1. Learn about seasonal eating.

We’re so used to eating whatever we want whenever we want it that most of us no longer recognize that food is seasonal. When you grow your own food, you see that each fruit and vegetable grows at its own rate and is ready for harvest at a particular time: asparagus in June, tomatoes and corn in August, beets and squash in the fall. If you grow enough food, you’ll also be motivated to learn about food preservation techniques like canning, freezing, dry and storing.

  1. Benefit from an activity that doesn’t require a lot of space or pricey equipment.

If you have a back yard, great. But all you really need is a sunny windowsill, a few containers,  and some seeds to get started. If you want to grow more than you have space for, consider growing vertically, or find out if there’s a community garden in your neighbourhood. And remember that there are lots of resources available in the community and online to get you started. Here are a few:

What food do you plan to grow this summer?