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Sandra sent me a link to this recent article from The Tyee which discusses a cooperative grain CSA project being started in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island:

Hand over $65, and McLeod and Walker will lease you a 200-square-foot slice of Makaria Farm, their 10-acre organic spread near the town of Duncan, in the fertile Cowichan Valley. They’ll also give you a grain seed of your choice, seminars with guest experts, and basic infrastructure support, including irrigation and tools.

The idea is that they take you through the growing season with support, workshops, help you harvest and thresh your grain, and then you get to keep the grain you grew in your own plot during the season.

There is so much interest in growing grains: last year we grew out some of Dolores de la Torre’s kamut in the demonstration garden at the Community Resource Centre in Powell River, and it was beautiful and delicious (I ate some right out off the tops as it was drying, still in the ground). And grain advocate Chris Hergesheimer visited the Open Air Market during the summer to talk about growing wheat, kamut, and other grains. He also handed out free samples of various types of grains for people to try.

Here is a fun fact about how little space is needed to get started:

Quoting tables provided in Gene Logsdon’s book, Small Scale Grain Raising, McLeod explains that 1,100 square feet — a 10 foot by 109 foot plantation — could produce about 60 pounds of wheat.

“You can probably get about two loaves of bread per pound,” he says, “so that would be up to 120 loaves of bread per harvest.”

That’s two loaves per week for a year. Out of what might presently be a lawn.

And while we’re on the subject of grains, here is a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiative being started in Vancouver:

Urban Grains is a community supported agriculture program based in Vancouver, B.C. Currently in the early stages of development, we hope to be the first ever CSA to provide local B.C. grain to people living in the Vancouver area. Our first year of operation (2008/2009) will be a pilot project, aimed at increasing the viability of grain farming for B.C.’s producers, while also broadening the options for local eating in our region.

Although we are not yet soliciting members, we encourage everyone interested in the program to join our mailing list. Not only will we keep you updated on the project’s development, but you’ll also be given priority when we begin the membership registration process. Keep in mind that, while no commitment is necessary, spots are limited, so we highly recommend that you sign up early.

If you follow the link above, you can sign up for their newsletter. Here is the latest one:

Much has happened since our last newsletter in January – we’ve moved in leaps and bounds, in fact. As many of you know, in December we held a meeting with a small group of farmers who are growing grain in the Delta region, primarily either as a cover crop or wildlife set-aside. Although the meeting was quite encouraging from the point of grain availability (there is no question, these farmers have grain for sale), we were confronted with two key hurdles: 1) our original vision of a CSA model, similar to the one in Creston and Nelson, would not work in Delta. It became clear that if we were to base the program in Delta, we would be forced to adopt a more conventional distributor role requiring significant start-up capital and a less direct consumer/producer connection; 2) the region was lacking the necessary infrastructure. Before grain can be milled, it has to be cleaned, and we were unable to find any individual or business nearby with the capacity to clean for human consumption.

Unsure where next to turn, we were contacted by a part-time farmer living in Agassiz, who is keen to become involved in the project. Jim Grieshaber-Otto, together with Diane Exley and their two children, manage a community-minded family farm that has been growing small amounts of grain for several decades. About 100 acres in size, Cedar Isle Farm partners with a neighbouring dairy farm to produce silage and hay (for both cows and horses), and pastures Angus beef cattle, layer hens, and free-range broiler chickens. The farm grows a few acres of grain each year – mostly oats and wheat – which is either used as animal feed or sold to friends and neighbors. This year the farm has three acres of fall-sown winter wheat and one acre of triticale (a cross between wheat and rye), and will soon be planting two acres of hard red spring (bread) wheat, for harvest this autumn. Jim estimates that, given a decent growing season and harvest conditions, they will have enough grain both for the CSA and for their own on-farm and local use. Although not certified, the farm has long operated under organic principles and is in the process of seeking certification.

Despite there still being some questions about infrastructure, our partnership with Cedar Isle Farm places us in a relatively strong position. The farm has a well-maintained 1958 combine (pictured in the attachment) and a functional, heritage (circa 1901!) fanning mill for cleaning grain. While the current cleaner should work in a pinch, we’re trying to track down a better piece of equipment, possibly paying for its purchase through funds raised in the first year of the CSA. We have spoken with the people at Anita’s Organic Grain and Flour Mill (http://www.anitasorganicmill.com/) in nearby Chilliwack, and they appear willing to custom mill the relatively small quantity of grain we would need. We have also identified a small-carbon-footprint transportation and distribution option; an Agassiz-based delivery truck operator has agreed to add wheat and flour to his regular delivery trips into the Vancouver area.

That’s all to report for now. While we do have some other exciting plans to announce, they are all rather tentative, so you’ll have to wait until the next newsletter. We hope to be visiting Cedar Isle Farm sometime in March to check on the progress of the grain, and then determine the logistical details (price, size per membership, delivery schedule, etc.) for the CSA program. At that point, if all goes well, we will start accepting memberships.

Thanks for your interest and support. Stay tuned!

Martin & Ayla at Urban Grains

All these little tentative projects give me hope that we’re working on lots of possible solutions to the big food security problems we’re facing. I’d love to see some kind of cooperative grain project get started around here. Anyone interested??

Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva is one of the most inspiring thinkers and speakers on the subject of food sovereignty, which refers to the right of all people to control their sources of food according to their own social, cultural, and political needs and not according to the requirements of transnational corporations.

This article, an excerpt from Shiva’s 2008 book Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis, is a great introduction to her thought. The core of it is in this paragraph:

We need an alternative. Biodiverse, organic farms and localized food systems offer us security in times of climate insecurity, while producing more food, producing better food, and creating more livelihoods. The industrialized, globalized food system is based on oil; biodiverse, organic, and local food systems are based on living soil. The industrialized system is based on creating waste and pollution; a living agriculture is based on no waste. The industrialized system is based on monocultures; sustainable systems are based on diversity.

And if you just can’t get enough of Vandana Shiva, here is a talk she gave back in March of 2007, titled “Defending Food Freedom in a Period of Food Fascism”. Unfortunately, the links to the video files appear to be broken, but there is a working link to the audio.

February 2009 plan for turning a lawn in Powell River, BC to a veggie garden, using the “lasagna” method. I used seaweed from down the street, and cardboard boxes from up the street, along with some straw and compost in the backyard. Visit this link  for a long-range look at what a lasagna garden looks like over time: http://www.witsendbb.com/lasagna1.html And see here too: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/1999-04-01/Lasagna-Gardening.aspx
lasagnalasagna

Hello all:

There are a few things to announce, relevant to food-security efforts here on the Upper Sunshine Coast:

  1. We had a wonderful Kale Force meeting this past Wednesday (Feb. 11). There were about twenty people present, the food was awesome, and Wendy Devlin talked us through some of the information we need to know about seed-saving, including the details of the new seed-saving initiative starting up this year. Some of the participants in the seed-saving pilot project came to the seed-packing bee, and were able to pick up the seeds that they will be growing this year. Very exciting!
  2. Carol Engram is planning a series of monthly workshops this spring and summer to help people learn how to create and care for a productive food garden. She has asked me to see if I can help her find someone willing to let their garden be used once a month for a hands-on workshop and work party. During the course of the summer, Carol and the workshop attendees will build up a garden, learn about composting, weeding, planting, and other aspects of food gardening. If you’re interested in having some part of your property used as a demonstration garden in this way, please email me or contact Carol at (604) 485-2311.
  3. David Counsell has stepped forward to coordinate the community garden at the Seventh Day Adventist Church this coming growing season. If you are interested in helping out at that garden, which is on Manson Ave. near Alberni St. in Powell River, or are interested in having a garden bed for yourself or your family, please contact David at dcounsell@shaw.ca or (604) 413-1499. Or you can just drop by the church on Tuesdays or Thursdays between noon and 1:30 PM and talk to David in person.
  4. Hana-Louise Braun is continuing to coordinate activities in the demonstration garden of Powell River’s Community Resource Centre. If you would like to get more involved there and spend time learning how to grow food in your own garden, you can drop by the CRC any Monday between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM and talk with Hana-Louise. Bring work clothes, gloves, and hand tools if you have them.
  5. Come and ‘Dig-it’ on Sunday March 1st 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM in Wildwood. This free workshop demonstrates the division and the digging up of  of berries and other food plants. Volunteers are invited to bring their boots and extra large pots to Farmers’ Institute member farms: 1:00 PM at Hatch-a-Bird Farm (6603 McMahon Ave.); 2:00 PM with Wendy Devlin at 6834 Smarge Ave. The newly potted plants will be donated to the Seedy Saturday plant exchange.
  6. Seedy Saturday is March 14 2009, at the Community Living Place on Artaban in Powell River). Bring your seeds in dry, sealed envelopes and swap them for other seeds. Or you can buy seed packets for fifty cents. You can exchange bedding plants, perennials, roots/tubers, berries, shrubs, and trees. Community groups will be there to give out information on gardening, permaculture, composting, beekeeping, and seed saving. There will also be five free garden-related workshops during the day.

So, as you can see, there is a lot going on in and around Powell River, even though we’re not even into the growing season yet!!

As always, if you have any ideas for a workshop that you would like to attend (or facilitate), please contact me at david@prfoodsecurity.org, or phone me at (604) 485-2004.

On January 23, 2009, Liberal Members of Parliament across Canada hosted community meetings to discuss the need for a comprehensive food policy for Canada. The following statement was read to launch the nation-wide roundtable broadcast on the net.

Why Canada Needs a Food Policy, by Wayne Roberts

Thanks to Members of Parliament Dr. Carolyn Bennett and Wayne Easter for their initiative in launching this much-needed public discussion. It’s my belief that a comprehensive food policy will contribute to an epochal improvement in government services for human and environmental well-being, and that it will come to be regarded as this generation’s gift to the future, much as Canadian medicare came to be the legacy of the last generation of politics.

For those Canadians who suffer from Obama-envy this week, it’s worth noting that a comprehensive food policy is an idea that Canada can provide world leadership for, and a key to such notable international goals as eliminating hunger, reducing obesity and protecting the climate and the environment generally. The idea is so good and will extend so many benefits to so many people that I look forward to it becoming a project that all political parties join cause in, whatever their differences.

Because food touches so many aspects of our lives in so many ways, a government that does not have a comprehensive food policy cannot, by definition, have a comprehensive health policy, energy policy, job creation policy, environment policy, global warming policy, anti-poverty policy, immigration and settlement policy, trade policy, industrial policy or – last but not least – agricultural policy. When food is torn apart, with bits stored in silos of health, energy, environment, immigration, trade and agriculture departments, it becomes like the patient who is treated by doctors as a liver, pancreas, heart, spine, ear, nose and throat, not a whole person. No patient responds well to this medical treatment, and no dynamic element of life responds well to this political treatment.

It’s been said that our problems with healthcare and food begin with the fact that the people in charge of food know and care little about health, while the people in charge of healthcare know and care little about food.  When two of Canada’s major food groups are donuts and pop, and when our medical system is overburdened with alarming rates of heart disease and diabetes, the way we keep food and health in different sectors of the economy is no longer economical and the way we divide government responsibility is no longer politic.  While various governments around the world flail their arms with various efforts to protect the climate from global warming, even the justly-praised Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fails to identify food as an area for corrective action, and we all miss the opportunity to deal with a food sector that is responsible for a third of global warming emissions, most of which can be reduced while also reducing world poverty and disease and improving farm incomes.  While various governments around the world work at stimulating the economy and job creation, and almost none of them look at food and agriculture, the traditional sectors relied on to generate the multiplier effect; this just shows how thinking inside the box has gone to ridiculous lengths.

A comprehensive food Policy will have a Plan to link all the People involved with food (from producers to consumers), all the Places where food is acted on (from homes to workplace cafeterias), all the Purposes that food serves (from communion with traditions and spiritualities to community development and personal health) and all the Parts that bring us food (from Agriculture departments to hospital cafeterias) so these elements can be connected and synchronized to optimize the multiple positive public outcomes of food.

In the absence of a comprehensive and rational food policy, Canadians suffer needlessly from four problems.  There is no good reason why these problems persist.  As many as ten per cent of the people of Canada, including a disproportionate number of children, cannot afford nutritious foods throughout the year, and have to throw themselves on the mercy of food charities or do without – this in a land where farmers produce more than enough food for all to eat, and where we spend billions more managing food waste than on under-nutrition of kids from low-income families.  Second, obesity, particularly childhood obesity, means many will live shorter and more painful lives than their parents; we can prevent this problem for far less money than we will spend on medical care for the diabetes and heart disease and related problems that flow inevitably from obesity.  Canada can, for instance, join other industrially advanced countries in providing national school lunch programs featuring nutritious, local and sustainably produced foods that introduce youth to the basics of healthy, balanced and delicious meals.

Third, at a time when the world faces likely food shortages as a result of challenges likely to be imposed by global warming, we are losing our best farm lands and young people are refusing to enter careers in food production that guarantee only poverty-level wages.  Though many want to do something positive for farmers and for global warming, we are missing the opportunity of paying farmers a fee to become stewards of clean air and water, beginning with incentives to reduce their own energy use and fees to store more carbon in their soil.

How exactly a comprehensive plan will look is a matter for serious deliberation and dialogue.  What’s so important about today is that the efforts to develop such a plan have now been joined, and we can at last start to turn the mess of disjointed food policies into the productive problem-solving of a comprehensive food policy.

Wayne Roberts is the author of The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food.