Posted: March 16th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Agriculture, Books, Food | Tags: Agriculture, Books, Food, locavore | 3 Comments »
The Town that Food Saved (Rodale, $25) is among the most engaging, thoughtful, and manure-stained-honest appraisals of local agriculture and edibles since Michael Pollan rocketed to cult fame with a seven-word manifesto about plants.
The town in question is an otherwise unremarkable little dogpath called Hardwick, Vermont, which popped up on the national foodie scope a few years back after author Ben Hewitt wrote a magazine piece about its happy convergence of iconoclastic producers, food-related non-profits, cafes, doers, and dreamers. The New York Times followed suit, as did assorted other buzz-makers.
Why the fuss? It turns out that Hardwick hosts a wide range of innovative agricultural businesses and thinktanks, a semi-cohesive spontaneous community of “agrepreneurs.” The mix includes salt-of-the-earth farmers, publicity-hungry eNGO executive directors, and values-driven business people who are accomplishing a great deal with minimal fuss. While many small-town Americans still get groceries from Buy N’ Large, Hardwick has cooked up an almost-sustainable honest-to-god local food system of CSAs, co-ops, value-added geniuses, and everything in between.
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Posted: February 28th, 2010 | Author: James Glave | Filed under: Eco Shed, Food, Fossil Fuel, Global Warming, Habits, Housing, smart growth, sprawl, Transformational Change, Transportation | Tags: Bowen Island, OCP, Official Community Plan | No Comments »
Bowen Island Official Community Plan Update Committee
February 28, 2010
Dear Members of the Committee:
My name is James Glave and I’m a father of two. Ours is a young commuter family, and my wife and I actively participate in many aspects of island life. I love this place, and I am proud to call it home.
My personal passion is climate change solutions, and the transportation, energy, and land-use strategies that have been shown to reduce per-capita greenhouse-gas emissions here in our region and around the world. We can talk about any number of issues, but in my mind, carbon is the ultimate deal-breaker. We simply don’t have an option other than finding ways to slash the stuff from our lives and community. If we don’t “act locally” on this “global” issue, it will eventually come home to our doorstop and find us where we live anyway.
The science suggests that climate change will, in the near-term, overwhelm our first responders and social services, exhaust our municipal budget, and place hardship on our population via skyrocketing food prices. In the long term (which is what community planning is all about, right?) it will ultimately result in waves of climate refugees flooding into Canada, and ultimately our community. This is not chicken-little stuff, it is exhaustively documented in reports by The Global Humanitarian Forum, the World Health Organization, Oxfam, and many other public agencies and non-government organizations.
Climate change is not an “environmental” issue, it is a civilization challenge. I believe we have a profound moral obligation to address it, wherever we live. I personally believe that we do not get an excuse or “opt out” pass to address climate just because we choose to live in a beautiful place that is “seen to be rural,” where fawns dance at the roadside and salmon thrash in the lagoon. We are not entitled to an exemption because we are surrounded by great natural beauty. This is not just “China’s problem.” We should see our emissions as an opportunity to lead, not barely squeak through our statutory obligations and hope nobody is noticing. That’s how we are not dealing with it now.
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Posted: February 11th, 2009 | Author: James Glave | Filed under: Agriculture, Culdesactivism, Food, top | Tags: redfife wheat grains backyard small-scale | No Comments »
Making homemade bread has taken on a whole new meaning.
Brock McLeod and Heather Walker will teach you how to start your own wheat field. Even if you live in the heart of the city.
“We want to see a reintroduction of people growing grains for themselves in their backyards,” says McLeod who, together with Walker, has created Island Grains, a new participatory farming project on Vancouver Island.
“If we can start growing wheat locally, if there is enough demand for it, well, that could really help revise the food system.”
The idea is simple: 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. (“Yes, we have a scythe!” notes the website.)
You’ll attend a few guest-expert seminars, plant your crop, then show up for at least three subsequent days — two or more to tend (weed) your plot, and one to harvest and thresh, using a low-tech plywood threshing box and a standard household fan to separate the wheat from the chaff. You’ll leave the program, and your plot, with your own grains — which you can mill into flour as needed at home in your blender or food processor.
That includes your own back yard, which McLeod says offers more potential than you might imagine. 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.
“It is a brilliant idea,” says Dan Jason, a longtime food activist and owner of Salt Spring Seeds, who will be supplying the project with red fife wheat, barley and other grain varieties. “It is neat way to introduce people to the whole concept of grain-raising without a lot of land.”
The area’s regional agrologist agrees that small-scale grains make a lot of sense. “It sounds like a really good idea, especially for people to get together and learn from each other,” says Wayne Haddow, who works for the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.
“We have a lot of under-utilized land in smaller lots on Vancouver Island, and grains do store very well,” Haddow adds. “The opportunity is there.”
McLeod and Walker certainly hope so, too. After growing a successful trial crop of red fife and barley last summer — they threshed it by stuffing a pillowcase and hitting it with a shoe — they’re opening their gates to 50 would-be micro-farmers and advisors in the coming season. (“We’re not the experts,” McLeod stresses, “but we’re bringing in the experts.”)
After launching their website on Boxing Day, the couple sold out all 50 of this season’s memberships before the end of January. They are maintaining a wait list.
The couple have come a long way in just a few years.
Two years ago, McLeod, 29, and Walker, 28, were living in a rented Victoria condo and working nice, stable — albeit boring — civil service jobs. Life was good: They ate out a fair bit, enjoyed the city. “But we weren’t really happy,” recalls McLeod.
So one day McLeod said the words that many of us say when we dream of a better, simpler life. “Let’s get a farm.”
The couple took out a mortgage, and in June 2007 bought Makaria. As they figured out what worked and what didn’t, McLeod came across Logsdon’s book.
It proved an epiphany.
“I’d always imagined that growing grains requires acres and acres of prairie just to make it worth your while,” says McLeod. “But Logsdon shows that just 1/40th of an acre — the amount of space taken up by a single-car garage, is enough space to grow the wheat you need to enjoy a loaf of bread every week for a year.”
They cooked up the idea for Island Grains after listening to the Deconstructing Dinner podcast hosted in part by The Tyee. That program documented the Creston Grain CSA Pilot Project, a community supported agriculture program in British Columbia’s southern interior region that last year attracted international attention.
“We figured, if it is doable, and there’s this much interest,” says McLeod, who grew up on an organic farm, “then we would like to do it here and invite other people to join us.”
Their timing proved perfect. Don Jason reports that his customers have been asking for grain seeds in increasing numbers. “Since about October I have been getting so many orders for barley and wheat and spelt; it is phenomenal, every second order is asking for grain.”
“If you do something inspiring,” says Matt Lowe, cofounder of the Creston Grain CSA project, “it creates a chain reaction. I’m glad to hear that what is happening on the island is inspired by what we are doing.”
Originally published in The Tyee on February 11, 2009.
Posted: November 16th, 2008 | Author: James Glave | Filed under: Food, top, Travel | Tags: marketing corona beer emissions travel tropics | No Comments »
Shift alert: This is a full back-page Corona beer ad from yesterday’s Globe & Mail newspaper. The image shows the same deck chairs we’ve seen a million times, the same blissed-out vacationing couple, the same bright sunshine, but with a key difference. Instead of a beach in Cancun, they are clearly in cottage country–the lake district a few hours north of Toronto. Click the thumbnail above to see the full image.
The copy: “Relax responsibly.”
This is huge. Corona built its brand, at least in this country, on the dream of the cold-season tropical getaway, the prospect of blazing beachfront bliss for frostbitten Canucks. It would seem that the company now recognizes that these equatorial escapes aren’t as socially kosher in the target market as they used to be. By turning the old “Drink Responsibly” liability dodge on its head, the company links frivolous air travel — its marketing stock and trade — with frivolous carbon release. Bravo, and kudos.
Of course, there’s an elephant in this room; the beer is still made in Mexico. The most “responsible” way to relax would be to instead choose a locally brewed refreshment. But we’ll let Corona bask in this moment. I know this stuff is market-tested up the yin-yang, but this ad shows leadership on the climate file. They done good here.