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Posts Tagged ‘Farmer’s Market’

With news shifting from harvest recipes to articles of ‘how to prepare your garden for the winter’ and the Vancouver’s summer farmers markets coming to a close, it is becoming less inspiring to cook with local produce. In order to see what a household might do during this season to beat out the rainy season blues I sauntered into a home where I knew some radical foodies resided.The Red House

Stepping in through the front door of the Red House I was glad to be out of the rain. It was that kind of rainy that only a Vancouver November could bring. I was welcomed into the cozy home and greeted by the smell of roasting squash and the faint sent of fermenting. The Red House is a communal house in Strathcona. All five housemates have agreed to cook weekly for each other and tonight is Alicia’s turn to make dinner. Alicia Gladman is a local food activist and foody at heart. When I asked her what kind of treat we were in for this evening, she replied. “I made a Roasted Butternut Squash with wild rice instead of the farro that the recipe called for and I added some rosemary too ‘cause who doesn’t like rosemary!?” She was cooking for the house and a few other guests so it was a real feast.

I asked Alicia to tell me about the meal we were going to eat. “I bought the squash at the winter farmers market. The wild rice we have [the house shares] came from the Maritimes, which is interesting that it’s even from this continent. And I used this rosemary that was given to me by the man at Union market [a local market that has fueled the neighbourhood for years]. He heard that I was making squash for dinner and went back into the garden and got me some rosemary!”

It is interesting that she spoke about where she acquired the main ingredients first. It says something about the thought process and politic that goes into her cooking. She then showed me the website that she often uses for inspiration. 101 Cookbooks is an aesthetically pleasing website and offers a search option to find recipes by ingredients, which is quite handy when attempting to keep it seasonal.

Alicia always attempts to cook with seasonal food and does her own canning. Having spent most of her youth in the Okanagan, Alicia has been surrounded by seasonal growers. “I grew up canning peaches and various other seasonal fruits and enjoy putting labour into canning in the summer and enjoying it in the winter.” She showed me cans of salsas, jams and chutneys made from tomatoes, plums, grapes and other produce and herbs from The Red House’s garden and other friend’s yards.

She then pointed out the two batches of home brew that were sitting in big buckets in the corner. “I’m brewing a winter ale and a pale ale right now.” We had time before dinner and I was able to help Alicia transfer the winter ale from the ‘primary’ bucket to the ‘secondary’ glass carboy. We added cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla to give it that winter spicy goodness. Unfortunately we forgot that stirring in the spices would not be the best idea and lost a cup or two of brew to the foam that spewed out the top!

Finally sitting down to eat, I wanted to ask Alicia more specifically about her food purchasing politics. When posed with the question of buying local or organic Alicia responded, “I would choose local because I feel that there is more importance in localizing and developing relations within a local economy than buying organic, as organic can be green washing of the currently awful capitalist market. Buying local is a part of a greater revolution away from the current economic system and more directly addressed the problems within our food system.”

She continued, “If we actually want to change the relationship with our food and with each other there are systemic issues we have to address in our economic systems. Aside from being monetarily based, there are also larger social and political problems within our food system. By focusing locally in a food system, other things get considered such as the social wellbeing of the community, the local environment.”

Unfortunately the avocados and chickpeas of our kale salad had enormous food miles, and the spices we put in the beer were not from around here, but there is something to be said for the appreciation of ones own labour. The do it yourself (DIY) culture around homebrew, communal cooking and share houses seems to be a part of a larger localizing movement focusing around appreciating the labour that goes into the commodities we consume. Alicia’s efforts in supporting the winters farmers market, building relationships within her neighbourhood, sharing food and sharing the workload of maintaining her home are all small political acts that help to keep her food conscious mind at ease during this rainy season.

Rain jacket and boots back on, I trekked back through the cold wet to my own cozy home only to find movie-watching roomies taking another approach in dealing with this November lull.

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It’s an interesting thing. I grew up in South Delta, a town about 40 km south of Vancouver, a region renowned for its extremely fertile farmland and agriculture. And it’s an interesting thing, because like most kids living in South Delta, I never knew where my food was coming from. Furthermore, I couldn’t have named a single crop-type lining the highway that was growing in the fields surrounding my community. It’s an interesting thing; we would drive past these fields every day, without a clue as to what grew there and who was consuming it. It seemed normal, seemed routine to acquire food from the local grocery store, and I did little wondering as a child to where it actually came from.

Agriculture is a big part of the economy in Delta, and it is notable that especially in the past five years that this large-scale agricultural landscape has undergone drastic transformations. This has to do mainly with the economic growth of the region, and with five major mass-development projects currently underway (in addition to the ones recently completed), the landscape and community of South Delta is currently undergoing major agricultural transformation and evolution.

The South Fraser Perimeter Road, the Port Expansion Development, the Southlands Development, the Tsawwassen Golf Course expansion and the Hothouse tomato expansion project are the projects that are directly affecting local production of agriculture. It’s unfortunate that the land that is being cleared for development is extremely arable and fertile, and has undergone soil sampling and testing to determine this. The projects currently underway in South Delta are breeding misdirection from where our community and our world needs to be.

The South Fraser Perimeter road is an extreme example of wide-scale development that will be deeply affecting everything from unparalleled wetlands, current family farms, high-potential arable land, and most deeply, Burns Bog. Burns Bog is one of North America’s largest carbon sinks near a major city, and it is an ecosystem that will be irreparable, says Environment Canada, if this project goes through.

Furthermore, the tomato hothouses have been recorded for mistreating employees, many of who are migrant workers from South America. Adriana Paz, from Bolivia, arrived in Canada and got a job working in a tomato greenhouse in South Delta, which happened to be one of the first in the province to request migrant farm workers from Mexico. Adriana mentioned in an interview that:

My first observation was that brown bodies are the pickers, while white bodies are the managers. I naively asked my boss why there are no Canadian picking tomatoes. He answered me simple, “because this is not a job for them”.

This deliberate discrimination is unacceptable and wrong. Not only are migrant workers being brought north to meet the growing demands of a hungry population, it is reinforcing cultural segregation and disconnection with the land our food grows on. We have become so distant from where our food comes from, and have seemingly fewer opportunities to become engaged with agriculture communities.

In spite of all this, growing mono-crops, loss and/or corporatization of farmland in the surrounding regions of South Delta can be seen as major factor of inspiration for a rising trend in the opposite direction, one focused on biodiversity and sustainable agriculture for community members. Earthwise Farm was established in 2005, right around the time many of these large-scale development projects were proposed and initiated.

Seeds of Hope: Earthwise Farm and Garden

The butterflies were out at dawn, dancing around the douglas aster bushes. The bees hovered above the marigold flowers, and a classroom of children was tending to their plot of green beans, spinach and carrots. Volunteers hoed the ground while the ocean waves crashed on the shore only biking seconds away. This is one of the most fertile areas of farmland in the Lower Mainland. To ‘revolutionize our food systems’ and ‘learn about the environmental benefits of sustainable farming practices’ are some of the main goals of the Lower Mainland neighborhood of South Delta’s community-based farm, Earthwise Garden.

Founded in 2005 and beginning with nothing but a chunk of blackberry-infested land and a select number of dedicated individuals, Earthwise has expanded in four years to become a sustainable agricultural and educational haven for students from Kindergarten up through University. Furthermore, it has become a full operational farm, including eco-tours, workshops, and events.

From July through September, nearly every single weekend there was some sort of event or celebration of local and organic agriculture. From Farmer’s Markets to a Grow Local Fair, to a Biodiversity weekend to exploring other farms in the South Delta area by bike, the movement is growing stronger than ever, while meanwhile, these massive development projects continue. South Delta has always been well-known as a farming community in the Lower Mainland; the growth and development of large-scale farming in South Delta is a major contributing factor to the rise and expansion of Earthwise Garden and the sustainable agriculture movement in the community.

References

Environmental Assessment Office, 2009 User Guide. BC Provincial Government. Accessed September 28,2009. http://www.eao.gov.bc.ca/pub/pdf/EAO_User_Guide_2009.pdf

RFP for South Fraser Perimeter Road. BC Provincial Government. Accessed September 29, 2009.
http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/gateway/SFPR/docs/media/090409_SFPR_RFP_Issue.pdf

Gateway Program. BC Provincial Government. Accessed September 28, 2009.
http://www.gatewayprogram.bc.ca/

Earthwise Society. DRS (Delta Recycling Society) Accessed September 26,2009. http://www.earthwisesociety.bc.ca/

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