Archive for the ‘other’ Category

Eating Well: the Resurgence of Organic Farming in Georgian Bay

“With the average age of farmers steadily increasing and the massive environmental impact agriculture can have on the life-support systems of the earth, it became apparent to me that we need more ecological food producers than ever before.” – Mike Reid of Kolapore Gardens

There is a real revitalization of our rural area happening. I had the chance to visit two farms to take a look at how their newly established ventures were progressing, and I was impressed to see and feel their dedication and passion for what they wish to achieve on their land. Amy and Patrick’s farm is high on a hill overlooking Heathcote and the Beaver Valley while Mike’s farm is nestled away next to Kolapore Wilderness area. What links Patrick and Amy Kitchen’s Sideroad Natural Farm with Mike Reid’s Kolapore Gardens is their mutual emphasis on growing food organically and respecting the fragility of our biosphere.

After having lived in the Beaver Valley for 34 years I have begun to notice a recurring story in our area: young people are rapidly moving in from other places in the country. Patrick and Amy had gone to school out at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia but found it difficult to buy land out west. The fact that family was in Ontario made the choice uncomplicated: good land that was far less expensive than could be found in B.C..  Mike also came to Kolapore from Godrich, and he also has family close by.

Visits to the farms revealed real care, determination and love for the land. It hasn’t been easy setting up shop either. Both farms needed infrastructure and the ubiquitous poly-tunnel was built on both farms. Why are these plastic greenhouses showing up everywhere?  It has a lot to do with climate change. In the past 10 years I’ve watched knowledgeable older farmers build these greenhouse-tunnels to be able to insure that the now increasingly common severity of weather doesn’t destroy their crops. They simply can’t take on the plethora of risks to their livelihood due to climate destabilization without making necessary changes to how they grow their food.  Water has to be plentiful so Sideroad Natural Farm took up the task of putting in two ponds for irrigation of the crops. Climate change can pose a real challenge when water scarcity can be definitely an issue.

Both farms try to sell their vegetables at our farmers’ markets that range from potatoes, spinach to the more exotic kohlrabi. Sideroad Natural Farm also prides itself on the flowers it grows, as Amy is also a fine flower arranger, and flower decorations for weddings is an expanding part of their business. Patrick showed me a dozen hearty healthy pigs while Mike Reid’s Kolapore Gardens sells free-range eggs. At the moment the pigs are fed with non-GMO foods and the Kolapore chickens have organic grains. Both farms let their animals forage. These farms are as far as you can get from the industrial-type farm that Canada has been so criticized for recently by World Animal Protection. If you like vegetables you’ll be able to buy arugula, leeks, broccoli, squash, tomatoes, kale and more.

For some time now community-supported-agriculture (CSA) has been extremely important for organic farmers. What does CSA mean? By committing to buying a basket of food for a set number of weeks it allows the farmer to have an ‘insurance policy’ as they can depend on a basic weekly salary by knowing how many baskets of food will be bought. The contents of the basket will change week to week. It is much more than that: communities become more self-reliant when local purchasing of food becomes a reality. For new farmers this is also a way to be a part of the community. Amy feels a connection already to our area. By and large these farms prosper when communities buy and in many instances volunteer to help grow the food. People who volunteer can be local or from other countries who wish to get a flavour of rural farming life. Amy agrees: “Support for local, organic food continues to grow. It’s an exciting time to be farming and we can’t wait to get out in the field this spring.”

Please visit the websites www.sideroadnaturalfarm.com and www.kolaporegardens.com to learn more about our wonderful farmers and their organic food. Support them by being a part of the CSA initiative or visit the farmers at a few of the farmers’ markets located in Collingwood, Clarksburg, Toronto and Meaford.

Summer Readings for 2011 Take Us to New Heights for Inspiration and Action

 

“There is no such thing as a green pepper… All peppers start out some shade of green (either dark, light or yellowish) and gradually turn red, yellow, orange or even purple as they mature and sweeten. A green pepper, like a green tomato, is simply unripe.” Patrick Lima and John Scanlan’s “The Organic Home Gardener”

 

“Nature loves man, beetles, and birds with the same love.” John Muir

 

“We have done deeds of charity, made peace of enmity, fair love of hate, between these swelling wrong-incensed peers.” Shakespeare’s Richard the Third

 

Patrick Lima and John Scanlan’s just released second printing of “The Organic Home Garden” is joyously required reading for anyone who loves to garden. These Bruce Peninsula heroes of soil, seeds and thirty plus years of creative sweat have toiled to create the perfect book for both beginners and callused-handed inveterate gardeners. “The Organic Home Garden” is far more than a ’how to’ book. Yes, we learn about the proper care of raising many vegetables but also find inspiration in the photos and finely crafted words of these two men. The authors’ passion can not but strike a chord of reverence for the Earth. Patrick Lima’s quiet prose conjures up all that is beautiful in the garden. “…it is a pleasure to potter in the tomato bed, pushing in stakes, plucking suckers, tying the hairy stems with strips of old bed sheets, watching the fruit swell from week to week, then blush pink and finally redden.” And the many subject headings draw in the reader: “Of Suckers and Stakes”, Bugs, Cracks and Cat-facing”, “In the Trenches”, “Of Mulch, Maggots and Mold” and “Midsummer Miscellany” are just a few intriguing titles that make us want to read more. From the care of herbs to the potato and great cooking recipes, there is cause to celebrate the new edition of this Canadian classic. Without a doubt, a summer visit to ‘Larkwhistle’ will inspire you to be a better gardener and cherish these organic gardeners’ wisdom. Don’t wait till you are reading their book in bed on a cold winter’s night dreaming of new sowings of shallots and spinach; visit ‘Larkwhistle now and buy it there. Call 519 795-7763 for directions and hours to visit.

When is the last time you read Shakespeare’s “Richard the Third”? Although Stratford is a two hour journey, every year I find myself dusting off a play of Shakespeare’s and recall the prose and poetry of Elizabethan England’s fantastic vistas of the sublime and the treacherous: “Richard the Third” offers us both. Although we may wish to see Richard’s demise, what brought him to such murderous actions reverberates in today’s political theatres. Civil wars, greed, loyalty and love for ones kin can’t help making this play a ‘hit’ with audiences since 1593. I have never seen a play at Stratford with a stronger cast. It’s not only Seana McKenna, who brilliantly shines as the female- playing Richard but every actor is powerfully played. The stage craft is superb. Miles Potter’s direction of the play is creative and sensitive.

Donald Worster’s “A Passion for Nature: the Life of John Muir” should be on every nature lovers book shelf. Many of us know that the Sierra Club’s first president was John Muir and indeed a resident of Meaford for a year and a half, but few of us know how John’s religious upbringing was transformed into a powerful voice for Nature. Throughout this 466 page biography John Muir, the man, is portrayed first and foremost as a quiet advocate of people’s right to experience nature but never to overrule or abuse her. Muir’s adventures in the Sierra Mountains or in Alaska can be found here and in his short essays and articles. .Although he was a very reluctant spokesperson for conservation, his powerful and unadorned authentic passion for wilderness won over all segments of society, leading to the establishment of the world’s first national parks. Just as importantly, we learn about those people who shared his conservation goals, including the wonderful women in his life. Worster sums up John’s contributions this way: “The ultimate destination of the conservation …movement that Muir helped found is to transform the United States and other nations into “green” societies where pollution and waste of natural resources will have diminished significantly, where nature will become more than a ruthlessly exploited or even prudently managed “economic resource”. Nature will be granted a higher emotional, spiritual, and aesthetic value- a value in itself. No one in the nineteenth century America was more important than Muir in persuading people to move toward such a vision.”

 

We need to embrace values that restore ourselves and the Earth

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing besides remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreak, Boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Percy Shelley

That’s the meaning of life: finding a place for your stuff.”
George Carlin Talks about Stuff

Our extra ‘stuff’ is put away in storage facilities that cover an area as large as New York and San Francisco. Green consumption was meant to make us feel better about ourselves while we continue to buy more stuff, but none of this has made us any happier. It’s critical to reassess our values. In 1972 Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided that Gross Domestic Product indicators had no bearing in defining his country’s ‘wealth, but Gross National Happiness measurements did. The bottom line is that the GDP only looks at ‘success’ through the veil of capitalistic growth. Exponential growth and its foot soldier, consumption, has been anathema to a healthy and biologically diverse planet. As we approach 7 billion people, less than a billion people have participated in the west’s economic dream, and 70 percent of all consumption is created by those same billion people. Over-consumption in North America raises the GDP, but as monetary rewards surge they blithely disregard the implications economic gains have for water quality, First Nation peoples’ lack of clean water, increased greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion in ethanol production, mining for gold in Canada and why we are opening up the Northwest Passage to explore for new oil and gas while encouraging dangerous global shipping to proceed through arctic waters. The accelerating rape of our planet and higher GDP numbers go hand in hand with the inevitable collapse of ecological resiliency. Perhaps this is why there have been many credible attempts to have other indicators of ‘wealth’ such as the Genuine Progress Indicator and the Happy Planet Index, an index of well-being and ecological impact. ”The HPI is based on general utilitarian principles — that most people want to live long and fulfilling lives, and the country which is doing the best is the one that allows its citizens to do so, whilst avoiding infringing on the opportunity of future people and people in other countries to do the same.”  The HPI has shown that out of 143 countries Canada is rated 89th on the list for 2009 and ecologically balanced Costa Rica is at the top.
Fifty-three of the hundred largest economies in the world are corporations. Many of these corporations embody what the UN’s 1996 Human Development Report terms as jobless, ruthless, voiceless, rootless and futureless growth. An example of such types of growth in Canada can be found in the push to expand globalization and profits by selling Alberta’s dirty tar sands to Asian markets via unwanted pipelines and new coastal infrastructure. This adds up to a more divided society as well as an increasingly impoverished Earth including B.C.’s marine species.
James G. Speth, Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale and author of, “The Bridge at the End of the World”, promotes the well-being of people and Nature through “Being, not having; giving not getting; need, not wants; better, not richer; community, not individual; other not self; connected, not separate; ecology, not economy; part of nature, not apart of nature; dependent, not transcendent; tomorrow, not today.” Speth’s book  begins with 16 graphs ranging from population growth, great floods, damming of rivers and water use, to name a few, and in each case by the time we proceed to year 2000 from 1900 measurements, consumption has spiraled to unsustainable levels.

International Year for Biodiversity is 2010

“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise.” The Earth Charter

446px-Charles_Darwin_by_Julia_Margaret_Cameron_3Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday celebrations are coming to an end after an amazing year of scholarship and activities that have given us a better understanding of the man and his legacy. His many books have inspired many of us to want to protect biodiversity. (Biodiversity is often described as the diversity of life on Earth.)  “On the Origin of Species” is inherently much more than the theory of evolution; it is a celebration of the interdependency of all life.  Darwin’s 1831-36 voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle took him around the world. His “Voyage of the Beagle” jubilantly speaks of an Earth brimming with more life than our planet has ever known. By all scientific accounts we are losing that natural wealth created over millions of years at a faster rate than ever before.

The World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report 2006, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s ‘Red List’ of threatened species or the United Nations’ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment’s ‘Ecosystems and Human Well-Being Biodiversity Synthesis’ will enable you to understand the depth of the biodiversity crisis. As well, the Convention on Biodiversity that was signed by Canada says,” The global biodiversity target will not be reached by 2010” in time for International Year of Biodiversity. In fact, continuing habitat loss, climate change, invasive alien species, pollution, human overpopulation, and over exploitation makes any target implausible if business-as-unusual prevails. Instead of now suggesting that a 2020 or a 2050 target be considered, many scientists want the Millennium Development Goals for 2015 be the inspiration for a concerted effort to bring down the rate of biological loss. New research entitled “The velocity of climate change” published in the science journal, Nature, describes the plight of species in keeping up with moving climates. The researchers estimated that, of the protected areas such as national parks that provide habitat for species, only 8 % would have a similar climate as they have now beyond the next 100 years.  Therefore, unless we drastically lower greenhouse emissions and substantially enlarge protected areas, species will have nowhere to go when they are forced to migrate to a more hospitable climate. Humans must be included in the climate migration patterns.

No one knows how many species live on our planet. What are we prepared to do if the Earth is to continue to be home to five to thirty million species? The Earth Charter, developed as a result of the 1992 Earth Summit, is a way forward. Over the last several years, many communities have embraced the Earth Charter’s path on overcoming our greatest problems through “Respect and care for the community of life, Ecological Integrity, Social and economic justice, and Democracy, nonviolence and peace”.

Throughout the world new initiatives are taking hold to ‘take back’ the Earth. The Transition Initiative movement is based on moving from oil dependency/climate change to local resilience. It is making great headway in creating a new ethos away from planetary crisis to sustainability. www.transitiontowns.org and www.transitionculture.org

On January 16, it was encouraging to see so many young people attend the University of Guelph’s 16th Environmental Sciences Symposium. The Symposium made it clear that individuals and small groups of dedicated people do make a difference.  We can all make International Year for Biodiversity a turning point for our planet through education and behavioural change that leads us towards a new era of respect for the Earth.

On January 25 at 1PM in Thornbury I will be giving a presentation on climate change and biodiversity at the Beaver Valley Community Centre as part of the Town of Blue Mountains’ lecture series. Please join us.