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This blog isn’t getting the attention it deserves, and that’s probably because I have another personal blog, Slow Coast, to which I post almost weekly. (I’ve put myself on an every-eight-day deadline.)

This week’s post, “Why don’t we have a local food incubator?”, concerns an idea that has come up time and again since I’ve been coordinating the Powell River Food Security Project. We have all kinds of produce in the summertime and fall, but very little local food available during the cool wet months. many people have preserved or revived the traditional skills of food preservation, but many have lost those skills or never learned the in the first place.

It seems to me that we need to work towards this, and probably from a few different angles. We have the skills, materials, and facilities. We just need to put them together to support individuals and small businesses to help us feed ourselves throughout the year.

Anyway, take a look at the Slow Coast post and the Ecowatch post that it links to. Any thoughts? Leave a comment.

Had the last meeting of the year last night, and (I think) the first meeting of the second year of meetings… meaning, if I remember rightly, that the first meeting ever was in December 2007, back when we had no name for these monthly gatherings.

About 8 people showed up, which is not bad for a December evening. The food was great: a delicious curry and rice, some mashed (local) potatoes with parsley & smoked salmon, deviled backyard (illegal!) eggs, and yummy shortbread and other treats for dessert.

Conversation was, as always, fairly free-wheeling. But we did do a go-round and give everyone a chance to talk about what they’re up to, what’s going on in the garden, and all that good stuff. I handed out copies of the first draft of the seed-saving plan and we talked about that. I’m pretty certain that this is a project that will really spark people’s imaginations and lead to good conversations about the importance of local seed-saving, the fragility of the global food supply, backyard gardening in hard times, and all sorts of other topics near and dear to the heart of the Kale Force.

For anyone interested in getting more involved, the seed-saving project — which badly needs a jazzy name — has a blog. There’s not a huge amount of information there now, but this is the place on the web where we will be creating and following this local project, answering questions, sharing information and results, and all that.

See you in the new year!

Well, it’s been while since I’ve posted to this blog. But we had a good meeting of the Kale Force this week. A dozen people showed up, shared some good food, and talked about the usual good stuff: growing more food, eating more food, and working towards a proper local food economy.

The special guest for this month was Wendy Devlin, who very kindly agreed to come out and talk to us about saving seeds. She ran down some of the good reasons to do so, and helped us get our heads around how to get started saving seeds. It looks as though we’ll have a follow-up meeting in September to go out to her place and do some hands-on seed-saving.

I reported to the group on the demonstration garden project up in Sliammon. I’m working with some folks up there to set up a little garden in the front area of the Ahms Tah Ow School. On July 21, we are holding a public consultation meeting to give people in the community an opportunity to offer their ideas and advice.

I also reported briefly on our little effort to start a cooperative for the purpose of increasing local food production. So far we’ve been thinking about urban farming, maybe creating a small farm or network of backyards in the city, and using that as a way of producing food which can be distributed through a CSA or to the Open Air Market, or some other way of getting the food to where it is needed. It’s early days yet, but we have a core group of people working away at it and I hope that we’ll come up with something good in a few months.

Doug Brown asked about the by-laws regulating animals in the City of Powell River, and I agreed to pursue that. More details to come soon.

The Kale Force met again on Wednesday night this week, with about 14 people in attendance. As always, we spent some quality time at the beginning, eating the food that people brought, and catching up with each other. Then we went around the room and everyone introduced themselves and said a word or two about what they were doing there, what their interests were in food security, and so on.

I gave a pretty long-winded spiel about some of the stuff that is going on in the Food Security Project. Besides the obvious stuff like Seedy Saturday this past weekend, and all kinds of other administrative overhead (bleah), the most exciting new development is that I went out to Sliammon a couple weeks ago and had a very positive meeting with Laurette Bloomquist, Dawna Pallen, and Rose Adams of Sliammon Health; and Maureen Adams from the band office. They’re all very concerned about nutrition and access to good food out there, and our meeting was a first brainstorming session to see if we couldn’t get something going to tackle the problem. We shot around a couple of ideas, one of which would be awesome if we could make it happen: a weekend-long picking & canning/drying festival to provide for canned/dried fruit for the community, to be used especially for elders and others really struggling during the winter months. Now I just need to keep working with them to see if we can’t chase down some funding for that idea and make it happen. Whew.

The demonstration garden is moving along well, and there will be a work party next Monday (March 17) to plant the fruit trees. Starting this week, Friday afternoons will be a regular meeting time in the garden for anyone who wants to connect with the team of folks who will be taking care of the garden now that the youth project is slowly winding down. We’ll be meeting from 1:00 to 4:00 PM in the garden behind the Community Resource Centre to plan upcoming activities, workshops, and work parties; and also to dig in and work on the garden. So come on out and see what’s happening there!

Another thing that’s happening is that Kimberley Murphy-Heggeler, the new volunteer coordinator of the Good Food Box, is keen to start boosting the profile of that program around town. She has met with Georgina Kendrick, who runs the Food Bank in town, and it looks as though there may be some way for those two programs to partner, since the Food Bank is mainly in the business of distributing non-perishables, whereas the Good Food Box distributes produce. It would be good to connect the two together. Also, Kimberley and I are thinking about getting local businesses and individuals to sponsor a Good Food Box by paying the low low sum of $12 per month. We need to work on a campaign to raise awareness, and hopefully start getting the community on board with the idea of signing up for a one-off box or a year-long subscription. There are plenty of places in the area who would happily distribute boxes of produce to their patrons.

The star attraction of the evening was Sue Moen, from the LUSH Valley Food Action Society over in the Comox Valley, who told us about all the activity over on their part of the island. They’re working on a centralized hub for food distribution, food preparation training, small business incubation, and social connection for people on the margins. It sounds like an excellent project, and similar in some ways to some of the activity that is starting to coalesce around the Community Resource Centre in Powell River. I’ll be keeping my eye on what’s happening across the strait, since we can certainly learn from what they’re doing.

We brainstormed a bit about how we can start to spread the word about the need for more local growing. Most of the people present were feeling a lot of anxiety about the gap between where we need to be in terms of production, and where we’re at. But in some ways it’s tough to reach out to the unconverted, or to people who never think much about where their food comes from and the hidden costs of food trucked in from thousands of miles away.

We certainly need more activity, and more outreach into the broader community. This is obviously part of what I’m funded to do by Vancouver Coastal Health. But somehow we need to build up a team of people who are willing to take on some of this effort. I had hoped that the regular Kale Force meetings would provide the impetus for this sort of thing; and maybe over time it will. I’m not sure yet how valuable it is to have a regular meeting which is informal and more about connecting people together than it is about trying to make sure that every meeting is full of activity and learning. There is a place for both sorts of things, and sometimes I find that an endless series of meetings which are tightly scripted leaves you feeling hungry for opportunities to just connect and talk informally, strike up casual conversations and let ideas just brew naturally.

It’s possible that the regular Friday meetings in the demonstration garden will provide the more action-oriented venue, and Kale Force will continue to work well as a more social event. I want to hold the options open a little, and let things evolve naturally as much as possible.

What’s your opinion? Any ideas for future activities?

Good meeting last night: 20 people in attendance (including me, and including Phoenix, the youngest member of the Kale Force, at a mere 8 months). After the usual potluck and casual conversation phase of the evening, we went around the table and talked about what sorts of things were on our minds. Here’s some of what came up:

Susan mentioned that she is putting together a bulk fertilizer order, and invited all of us to get in on that with her. She has been preparing her own mix of ingredients, based on Steve Solomon‘s recipe, and finds that it works really well. She also has lots of experience growing, cooking, and preserving food, and we really need to start harnessing her knowledge and experience… along with the knowledge and experience of so many other people in the region.

Doug mentioned that he is raising honeybees, and would like to know if others are keen to learn more about this. A possible workshop topic, although there are some legal restrictions on having honeybees in the City of Powell River that might discourage some people from doing this.

Lyn talked about the Community Resource Centre & the demonstration garden behind it. She mentioned that there are going to be plenty of opportunities for people to get involved, especially once the youth who are working on it start getting put on workplace training. We’re going to have to work to have a good longer-term plan to make sure that the demonstration garden is well cared for, and that people are using it as a site for workshops and work parties.

Lyra referred us to her blog, The Gluten-Free Hippie, which is an awesome resource filled with good ideas about vegan & gluten-free cooking. I sense another worksop coming up, since there are quite a number of people around here trying to reduce their meat intake and also dealing with food intolerances; gluten intolerance being one of the biggies.

Julie, in her role as coordinator of the open-air market, talked about our real need to increase the amount of food being grown locally and made available through the market. We are seeing a decline in the number of farms locally, and we need to work on some creative ways to make farmland affordable to younger folks coming up.

This led to an interesting general discussion about cooperative land ownership and land trusts. We are very lucky to have Bryon among us now, who has some experience in cooperative land purchase and stewardship, being involved in the Horse Lake Community Farm Cooperative up in 100 Mile House. We threw around the idea of cooperative purchase of some of the ALR lands in town, and I suspect that this is a discussion that will come up again.

We also had a freewheeling discussion regarding how we are supposed to educate more people out in the community about the pressing need to become more regionally self-reliant, and about the ways to become more self-reliant. Of course, I’ve been asking myself the same thing, and the answer has to be something along the lines of: organize a group of people who are committed to strenghtening our regional food supply, keep that group growing, and find opportunities to connect with regular folks out in the community who might benefit from knowledge about how to grow more food, how to eat well for cheaper, how to preserve the summer’s bounty into the winter, and so on. No one said it would be easy!

We took care of a little administrative business having to do with the meetings and some of the activities of the Food Security Project:

  1. we decided to stick with the name Kale Force, which is good news for me, since I had already started this blog;
  2. I mentioned this blog, and let people know how to find it — hopefully over time we can use it as a more interactive thing or else connect it to a forum or something;
  3. I mentioned the Sustainable Microfarm Forum in Roberts Creek on Feb. 24, and it looks as though Susan & I will be going to that;
  4. I intend to order some seeds from various catalogues, so I encouraged people to let me know if there was anything they were hoping to order this year, especially harder-to-find seeds.

We need to start lining up some activites and workshops to get more people in the door. We all want activities… now that we are doing show-n-tell, we need arts-n-crafts!

So for the next meeting, we picked up on Lyra’s excellent suggestion to make seed balls, as stage 1 in world domination by seditious guerrilla gardening. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now, and it’s a nice tie-in with Seedy Saturday, which will be on the Saturday immediately preceding the next Kale Force meeting. So we’ll figure out what ingredients we need, and start releasing seeds out into the community. This would be an awesome kids’ activity!

I’m going to look into a lactofermentation workshop, since there is interest in that. Anyone with expertise to share, contact me!

Well, there has to be a first post in every blog, and baby this is it.

This is the official blog of the Powell River Food Security Project, and I hope it will become a clearinghouse of information about growing food, sharing knowledge, working together, and generally boosting regional food security here on the Upper Sunshine Coast.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Direct them to me, David Parkinson, coordinator of the Powell River Food Security Project.

David's recent links of interest

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