The following transcript is protected under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY
Nelson, B.C. Canada
February 7, 2008
Title: Future of Food in the Kootenays Conference - Workshops / Conscientious Cooks V
Producer/Host: Jon Steinman
Transcript: Mike Hesla
Jon Steinman: And welcome to Deconstructing Dinner a syndicated weekly one-hour radio show and Podcast produced at Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY in Nelson, British Columbia. This show is heard weekly on radio stations around the world and relies on the financial support from listeners and sponsors. I'm Jon Steinman and I'll be your host for the next hour.
While our weekly broadcasts can often deliver shocking revelations of what's happening behind the scenes of our national and global food systems, we have in the past few weeks explored some of the positive steps communities are taking to respond to the many destructive, unethical and exploitive practices being undertaken for the sake of convenient food.
And today's show will continue on that stream and take off where our previous two broadcasts from the Future of Food in the Kootenays Conference left off back in December. The two-day conference was hosted here in Nelson and accommodated 250 people on the first evening of keynote speakers and 170 during the following day of speakers and workshops. And as we've now heard from the keynote speakers, today, and taking up the first 45 minutes of the show, we will listen in on two of the four workshops that were hosted at the conference and in doing so get a better idea of the kind of dialogue that such a conference can help inspire in North American communities wishing to assume greater control over their food.
Some of the voices we will hear on today's broadcast will be of Jeremy Lack of Mad Dog Farm located just outside of Nelson in Tarrys, Wayne Harris, a dairy farmer in Creston, BC, Merv Sloss of Local Flavours Products and Services Co-operative also located in Creston, Herb Barbolet of Simon Fraser University's Centre for Sustainable Community Development and the many voices of conference delegates.
And rounding off today's broadcast we will feature the fifth installment of our ongoing Conscientious Cooks series, with this episode featuring Saskatoon's Daniel Walker of Weczeria.
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Back in November 2007 the community of Nelson, located in the Kootenay region of British Columbia, hosted a regional conference to address the future of food in the Kootenays. The conference was sparked by elevated concerns over the rising price of oil, climate change, corporate control of the food system, declining nutrient values in our food, environmental impacts of the dominant food system serving Canadians and the increasing difficulties facing small scale farming and food production. As such an event can act as inspiration for other communities to organize a similar conference, Deconstructing Dinner compiled a team of volunteers to capture as much as we could of the dialogue taking place there, and located on our website is a page that has been devoted exclusively to featuring all of the unedited recordings along with PowerPoint presentations of the keynote speakers.
Now back in December we did feature two broadcasts that shared a number of the conference's keynote speakers. We heard from Richard Balfour on the diminishing of all resources that our way of life is dependent upon. We heard from Justin Roller on the current and precarious state of the global supply of oil, and from MLA Corky Evans who suggested that politicians should instead be looked to to ensure government simply stays out of the way of those looking out for community interests.
With the conference's keynote speakers looking to inspire the 170 in attendance during the final day of workshops, delegates were them able to attend two of four themes, which included The Technical Aspects of Farming, Community Development, Economics, and Regulations. Now regrettably, our recording of the Economics workshop was lost due to what amounts to unexplainable technological errors, but the wonders of technology did preserve three of the four. And I will remind you that the unedited versions of these workshops are archived on our website at cjly.net/deconstructingdinner.
The first workshop we'll listen in on was the Technical Aspects of Farming. A panel of farmers was set up to help set the stage for the dialogue that took place, but what stood out first and foremost was the wealth of experience among conference delegates, and it became quite clear early on during the workshop introductions, that hiding in the recesses of our communities throughout North America exists a wealth of skills and knowledge that a conference such as the one taking place in Nelson, can help unearth.
Here's a brief clip and example of those attending this workshop
Male voice 1: My wife and I have a farm in Beasley.
Male voice 2: I'm from the Slocan Valley, and I used to raise beef cattle for 40 years.
Male voice 3: I live in Nelson, and I run the local Farmer's Market for the West Kootenay Eco Society.
Female voice 1: My partner and I are starting a small subsistence farm. In a way, it's our first year, but I farmed for eight years in Oregon on the coast. I've been in New Zealand.
Female voice 2: Rossland, and I also work for The Land Conservancy in British Columbia, and I also assisted one of the local organic farms in Fruitvale start a Community Supported Agriculture program as well.
Female voice 3: I'm from Grand Forks, I'm a certified organic farmer and I'm a member of Boundary Organic Producers Association, and I also work with the Grand Forks Fall Fair.
Female voice 4: I'm from Nelson, and I am also an eater. I found out last night that should maybe be my primary label right now. I've been gardening in this area for many years. I am interested in all sorts of things about how to that make that better and how to have us all have backyard...
Male voice 4: I work in the school of Renewal Resources at Selkirk College, and I'm a Soil Matters CSA member.
Female voice 5: I've been gardening organically since I was seventeen and raised most of the food for my five children.
Female voice 6: I'm a backyard gardener just moved from Victoria. I grew up in Rossland just trying to get the local scene.
Male voice 5: I grew enough potatoes this year in my backyard to last me until spring.
Female voice 7: I live in the Slocan Valley and I'm a gardener.
Male voice 6: Recently moved here from Nova Scotia where I've been farming all my life.
Female voice 8: According to my husband, I'm a muffing maker. I'm also beekeeper.
JS: Helping to set the stage for the workshop was a panel of local farmers, with the first being Jeremy Lack of Mad Dog Farm located in the community of Tarrys.
Jeremy Lack: We are currently a market garden in that we grow vegetables basically from "A to Z" except we plowed in the asparagus because it didn't pay. We used to do sheep. We used to do meat birds. We used to do poultry and turkeys and stuff. We had to stop that when the government screwed us, and I'm still very pissed off about that. We are trying to fix things by building a local abattoir in conjunction with a load of other people. One of the problems with not having livestock on a farm is that your fertility goes down, you can cover crop all you like. Unless you are doing very slow agriculture, you cannot build fertility in the soil without some sort of livestock input. This is what we found in the region. I think it may be a symptom of the fact that our climate is, our growing season, our warm season is so small. We grow in green houses for season extension. We grow in the fields. We use a lot of covers to keep the sun off the potatoes, so they don't cook in the soil in the summer, to stop the frost in the spring, and stop the frost in the fall. It is a very challenging environment to grow in. The only thing that makes it worthwhile is that it's relatively easy to sell the produce here. There is quite a high demand and for that we are always grateful, so thank you.
JS: Also on the panel was Wayne Harris, a dairy farmer from Creston.
Wayne Harris: So, we have a dairy operation In Creston. We milk about eighty cows. My wife and I have three kids. Our farm, when we purchase it, would have been considered a conventional farm. The cows were strictly in confinement. Shortly after we purchased it we moved to rotational grazing which, grazing diary cattle in Canada is very uncommon now. And that has, more or less, led us down the road to organics. In fact, next year we will be certified organic. That's what another challenge to us in that in this area there is no processing of dairy products, conventional or organic, but certainly if we want to put them into an organic stream we have to process those ourselves. So, we are currently building a Fromagerie on the farm where we'll take at least a portion of our production initially, and start to produce some cheese. Certainly, as we've gone down the road to organics, it's been more and more interesting. It just really wakens you up to the potential of the land to grow organically, and certainly awakens you to that agriculture isn't heading down necessarily the right road by strictly staying to conventional.
JS: The third of the four panelists was Merv Sloss, also a farmer from Creston and one of the creators of a new co-operative that is being formed that we'll learn more about later on the show.
Merv Sloss: I started off in 1991 buying a farm, converted to certified organic, and proceeded to do all the things, and make all the mistakes, that a lot of other farmers had done. I farmed, I then distributed, I found my own market, I spent a lot of time in all of the steps right through to the retail end of it, and I found that I did none of them well because I was too scattered. I needed to go back and either be a farmer, or be a processor, or be a distributor. Playing all those parts, I learned a lot of hard lessons and found that there had to be a better solution. So, about six years ago, Creston started having sustainable agriculture conferences. I became quite involved in those and about three years ago, I met people from Small Scale Food Processors and became a director of that about three years ago. And from that, in 2005, they had done a lot of research funded by the federal government, and they had just embarked on Local Flavors Products and Services Cooperative, which had been three years in the growing. I became a director of that, as well, and from that discovered that if, through an appropriate cooperative, we could have each of the players doing their respective parts and coming together for the common things that we needed, that it could work.
JS: And the final panelist at the technical aspects of farming workshop was Netta Zeberoff, a master herbalist and experienced gardener from Castlegar.
Netta Zeberoff: I'm a third generation Doukhobor, and I was raised very close to nature. I followed my grandmothers and my grandfathers around foraging for food and medicine. We never got vaccinated and we never went to doctors, so it was all home remedies and home canning, and very little was from the store, salt, but everything was homegrown. You trade with your neighbours and you've got your cabbage, your potatoes, your beets, your carrots. Your root cellar is full. You buy your salt and your sugar, and you are set for the winter. I used to grow enough for, and canned enough for three years every year. I'm so blessed to have been given these gifts and I enjoy sharing my knowledge.
JS: And this is Deconstructing Dinner where we are embarking on a journey through some of the workshops comprising the November 2007 Future of Food in the Kootenays Conference held in Nelson B.C. In this next segment we listen in on conference delegates sharing their thoughts on how the Kootenay region can become the home to a more sustainable local food system that is more socially and environmentally responsible. We will hear comments on food storage, linking willing farmers up with available land, agricultural education, the sharing of equipment, seed sourcing, sustainable water use, farmers markets and wild foods.
Male voice 1: If you're really going to eat local all during the winter, I think food storage, either in a centralized or individual households, how do you do that? Because we can't all dig a root cellar. How do you store all your cabbages and carrots and parsnips? Thank you.
Female voice 1: How to get want-to-be farmers onto land that they can farm when farmland is sitting mostly underutilized.
Female voice 2: As a farmer we have the land, we have the demand, but we don't have the infrastructure, the fencing, and the equipment. I know on the coast that there are different restaurants that are sponsoring young farmers to help them grow their farms and acquire land. Maybe that's something that we need to do in this area as well.
Female voice 3: Effective use of water. Getting the most out of your soil for the minimum use of water.
Jeremy Lack: One of the problems of small farming in this area is if you want to get into large scale cropping of anything you need the equipment to do it. There's no real agricultural base of equipment in this area, and one of the ideas we've been toying with is whether set up a tool lending library for farmers, for potato diggers, for root diggers, for whatever equipment is required that you don't use all year that can be shared adequately between farmers in an area. I don't know whether that will spark an interest in people.
Female voice 4: Can we talk about seed sources also?
Male voice 5: Sure.
Male voice 4: So, specifically, adapted for this area
Male voice 5: So develop our own sort of seed bank.
Female voice 6: We get our water from the creek, and I'd like to know more about more sustainable ways to get that water onto the crops and also possibly hydro electric...
Male voice 6: Micro hydro?
Male voice 7: I run the farmers market in town, and I can see we could use more people to come and buy products sometimes. Sometimes farmers actually take produce home with them and that doesn't sit very well, and if more people come and buy produce at our local market here, that would attract more farmers. It would encourage more farmers.
Female voice 7: We need to be planning for a no oil farming system, so animals, go back to hand plows or something. We have to rethink this whole thing and gather the resources, both the equipment and the people who are still knowledgeable in these techniques, and retrain ourselves so that we can adapt if we need to.
Male voice 5: So, Non fossil fuel alternatives?
Female voice 7: Yea.
Male voice 8: Along the same vein of seed saving, we need kind of like a resource for livestock sourcing, because we are using, sometimes, breeds of animals on subsistence farming that are rare here, but well suited for the climate, so the longer hair breeds of cattle, some of the lighter draft horses, such as the Fjords. The horses we had in the past were $5000 an animal, which is prohibitive, really, for most people. And then if you have a team that is related to each other, where do you breed that out? I know that as I am networking, I am finding a lot more small farmers in the area that sometimes have a similar breed of an unusual animal, so it's almost like we need a networking or catalogue of who has which animals for breeding purposes just to keep that sustainable part of that farming going.
Male voice 9: Well, I think we need land. We need farmland, and I can see it being like a land trust similar to, I mean land trusts are set aside for conservation, but I think we need a land trust set aside for farmland.
Female voice 8: I like the idea that I heard last night where anyone whose going to own land as part of the Agricultural Land Reserve has to be farming it, and not just sitting on it with a trophy house, because it's going to be pretty hard to turn that into a farm if someone's allowed to build a trophy house.
Female voice 9: I think a really important point is starting to become really familiar with the indigenous plants of this area, in that they're getting moved over by some of the super weeds, like these weeds that are just talking over our landscape, and that these indigenous plants were what fed the people here before we even thought of farming. And so at least starting to have a portion of our attention on that, and how to reclaim our lost, wild places back, and actually help those indigenous plants like the Saskatoon berry, like the Huckleberry, like the Camas root, and all those plants come back to their natural landscape. So, I don't know what you would call that, wild farming?
Female voice 10: I wanted to ask if anyone had already created a questionnaire I've got. Because Burton is only a little over 200 people and I'd hope to create a questionnaire, get it out to everyone. What fruit trees do you have one your land, how many of them, what are the varieties, what are in good shape, what are old, how many acres of tillable land do you have just to get a feel for our community. If anyone knows of anyone who has already created that questionnaire, so I wouldn't have to create it, but I will if no one else has.
JS: And this is Deconstructing Dinner and we're listening in on a collection of clips recorded at the November 2007 Future of Food in the Kootenays Conference. In this next segment from the brainstorming taking place during the technical aspects of farming workshop, we hear more from conference delegates and also from panelist and farmer Jeremy Lack, who speaks of the untapped potential within communities to support local farming and food production. And the untapped potential he is referring to are the many chain grocery stores who refuse to create the space for locally grown and processed foods. We will hear one idea of how the public can begin putting pressure on their local chain grocers.
Jeremy Lack: I think one of the keys of increasing agriculture in this area is to increase the market. If we can persuade the Overwaiteas, the Extra Foods and all that lot to at least put a portion of their stuff into what's produced locally would be a huge step up. When you go and talk to them as a farmer, and try and get stuff on their shelves, they are not interested. Well, they are interested, but you'd have to ship it to Calgary, or to Edmonton, or Toronto, and then they will ship it back. Well, yea, there is not much point in that. Even with the eggs, for example, small egg producers around here, you can't sell your eggs legally. So maybe one of the things we need to look at is to produce a provincially approved egg packaging plant. $20,000, $15,000, and you just bring your eggs in, get them packed, get them candled. How many more small farmers would that help? Local producers? Quite a lot, I think.
Female voice 1: One thing I've started doing, and I really encourage everybody, and we can put it to the place where we have a card that we actually hand in, and it will say, "I, today, did not buy ... because it wasn't local." And then every time we shop, as our support for farmers, we can let all these stores know that today I didn't buy my milk and my eggs from you because they are from California. Today I didn't buy my apples and soap. Every single day these stores are going to hear from this community why we are not buying their products, and eventually this is going to have to change, because as long as we keep buying it and saying that's too bad, it's never going to change. And our farmers will not be a part of this local market.
Male voice 1: Troublemaker, you.
Male voice 2: Good idea.
Female voice 2: Good one.
Jeremy Lack: Endless Harvest is great. They are very responsive. The Kootenay Coop is very responsive. But the problem is those that those are the only two outlets in this area who have taken a lot of produce. Ferraro Foods in Rossland takes local produce. There's nobody in Castlegar, they're not interested, because there's no demand, they say. If you're going to expand the number of farmers in this area, then you have to create more outlets. The current outlets are pretty maxed out with what local production there is. And local production here, for the majority of farmers, is a six-week period, July and August, and then they're fried, and there's nothing before that. Unless you can get farmers to schedule early in the season, and late in the season you have to create more market for new farmers in the summer there are very few of us who do winter extension, spring extension, and there are very few who do winter extension, and root crops for storage. We are lucky we built, not lucky, maybe stupid, but we built a cold store as one of the first things we did we started the farm so we can store our produce.
Jon Steinman: Now this will be an upcoming topic on Deconstructing Dinner - that is the unwillingness of chain grocers to provide the space for locally grown and produced foods. Back in March of 2006, we aired a show titled Local Producer Spotlight during which four Nelson area farmers and producers shared their experience of how positive of an impact it can be when a large chain retailer accommodates their product. And the misguided approach by Canada's major retailers was made most apparent during the recent advertising campaign for Loblaw Companies Ltd. private label brand President's Choice and their line of organic baby food. It was during that television campaign when Loblaw CEO Galen Weston Jr. announced that their organic baby food was produced using sustainable methods of farming. Now this statement will provide the groundwork for our upcoming broadcast on the role of national retailers in supporting local producers, because if local food production is agreed to be the most sustainable form of producing food, then selling pureed carrots or pureed strawberries from product shipped in from California, is far from being sustainable. I would even go far as to suggest that the statement is bordering on false advertising given it's products like Presidents Choice Organic baby food that because of this long-distance sourcing of ingredients, is contributing heavily to the financial instability and demise of Canadian farmers unable to compete with such cheap imports.
Another interesting comment made during the workshop was one that will yet again set the stage for a future broadcast, and that is the role of post-secondary education and, in particular community colleges, in providing agricultural programs for area residents.
Male Voice 1: The value of community colleges besides just training technicians, and people in liberal arts, and so on as we do very well, is actually the old idea of community college, which is to serve the educational needs of the community. Not just for higher education, but for skills and training. We of course have that with the trade school to some extent. What I'm thinking about more is basically a center for learning to bring together people like mentors from the community that already are the experts on many of these local skills. To provide kind of a central data bank, but also a place to coordinate that educational opportunity. It's just a hair-brained idea at this point. Some of you have read The Long Emergency that was referred to last night, that book by Kunstler who talks about that in the near future, all of us higher educators, as occurred in Cuba after the collapse of the Soviet Union, have no more employment anyway, because it's not a really valued skill. What is going to be valued are all these local, subsistence type skills, not just in agriculture but in all kinds of realms. I am a firm believer that is the future we'll be looking at. Many of you are convinced, at least after last night I'm sure, that it's the future we are looking at. So, Why not the community colleges, and high schools, and other public institutions of education start right now to look at providing some of those, and give ourselves some future employment as well.
JS: The Future of Food in the Kootenays Conference was also an event that Creston's Merv Sloss chose to use as a place to officially announce the creation of Local Flavours Products and Services Co-operative in Creston. Merv sat on the panel of the workshop we've been listening in on, and this newly formed co-operative will also make it's way into an upcoming broadcast of our ongoing series titled Co-operatives: Alternatives to Industrial Food. And here's Merv Sloss introducing this exciting and innovative idea to foster more food secure and environmentally responsible communities where instead of competing with one another, farmers instead, co-operate so that both they and the public benefit.
Merv Sloss: What we're talking about here is a lot of different aspects of farming. But where I have seen the problem in the past is that farmers have competed with each other. Jeremy addressed that. When we are fresh in the summer, we all have carrots, we all have onions, we all have potatoes. So, we sell them at the same market that Jon runs, and we compete with each other, and that keeps the price fair. But, everybody in this room eats twelve months of the year. So, what we envision is that after you have finished supplying the fresh market, you should also grow enough produce so that twelve months of the year, the food you eat in the Kootenays is grown in the Kootenays.
So what we have done in Creston is we have secured a depot, and we are now starting in January on our first processing plant. We also came to Nelson and have talked to people in Nelson about securing a depot. So, that there can be a van running from Nelson to pick up the product from the farmers, instead of each one of the farmers driving that into Nelson, or driving it to the various customers. That van picks it up and also delivers it to various places on a small van. Then we do the same thing in Creston with a small van. So we have a depot in Creston, that picks up from the farmers, brings it to the depot, and then we have a route now established from Vancouver to Calgary once a week stopping on a southern route in each of the communities that participates in this. What that allows a farmer in Creston to do is have a market for his product that he can process, or in some way store, or whatever, and then each week, the people in Nelson that want certain product, we are talking large volumes, we're talking what the grocery store's supplying you with now. Replacing that with local products. We have a large number of farmers in Creston who are sitting idle because they have no way of getting their product to the market. They can't do all the steps. So what we're suggesting in Creston especially, is that we produce as much food as you need here. That the farmer has made a lot of false starts over the years because he couldn't find the market. It is here, but the connect between Creston and Nelson has not been made. So what we are trying to do is make that connection, so the farmer now knows in March or April when he plants his product, that you are going to eat it in the fall or during the next year. So, we need some reassurance from this group that you want large-scale production from Creston, which is capable of doing it.
And right now we are looking at trucks, but there is another option that was discussed. There is a large barge in Creston that exists right now. The food could be delivered a few kilometers down the roads to Kuskanook Harbour, put on the barge, and floated along with very little diesel fuel and stop at Balfour, and stop at Nelson, and feed Kaslo from where the ferry boat landing is. So, that can only be done from a central depot where the farmer says yes not only can I grow it, but you will process, you'll make the soups, you'll make the juices, you will do all of the production in Creston for the Kootenay market. If the Kootenays absorb all of the production by Creston: wonderful. If you don't, and the farmer has more produce, we move it further along the supply chain, to Kelowna, or to the coast. We have players on the coast, in Vancouver, on Vancouver Island that are doing exactly the same thing that we are doing here. They are producing for their market. If there is excess, the farmers are making money they move it further down the supply chain in other parts of the province. There needs to be a connect with those players so that each one of them does their job the best that they can. The farmer can stay home and farm. He doesn't have to compete with his neighbour. Cooperate with your neighbor. Get a fair price for your product, because you are all selling to the same customers. With the same local branding, the same name, and that relationship works for everybody. The farmer now can stay home. He doesn't have to beat the pavement. He doesn't have to come up with his own market. Twenty farmers don't have to call somebody at the Coop saying, "Do you want my tomatoes? Do you want my carrots?" One dispatch person from Creston calls and says, "What do you need on your order sheet?" That goes back to the farmer. This is what we want, and the people in Nelson say these are the products we want and in the spring, we go back to the farmer and say, "this is what you need to grow for that market."
So there's no wasting of the product, and all of the culls that exist in our market, right now I think we compost as much as five hundred thousand pounds of cherries because they are seconds. Their elevens or smaller, they are left on the tree. If the stems are off, they are composted. We think those should be processed and used in the market. So that requires the consumer to say, "yes, we will buy your product, and yes, we want you to grow for us." So, right now the farmers don't have a way of moving past their market, because we don know where it is. Each one of them goes on the road with their little truck and uses a lot of fuel, but they don't end up with enough to make a living because they are doing all the jobs. And while they are out marketing on the road, their crop is drying up because nobody is at home to water it. You have to give the farmer support in their area to grow what you want them to grow. That's kind of the basis of it. We do have a depot in Creston, and we do have one, we are talking to Areya right now about being a depot for Nelson because she has a freezer, a cooler. She's said "yes" she would go with that.
JS: And this is Deconstructing Dinner and that was Merv Sloss of Creston British Columbia's Local Flavours Products and Services Co-operative. We'll learn more about this unique model on an upcoming broadcast but in the meantime, you can learn more by visiting their website at localflavours.coop.
JS: And this is Deconstructing Dinner, a syndicated weekly radio show and podcast produced at Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY in Nelson, British Columbia. I'm Jon Steinman. And a reminder that you can learn more about this program, listen to archived broadcasts or subscribe to our free podcast by visiting our website at cjly.net/deconstructingdinner. We also encourage your financial support of this not-for-profit project of Kootenay Co-op Radio.
In the final fifteen minutes of today's broadcast we'll listen in on part five of our ongoing series Conscientious Cooks - when we will meet with Saskatoon's Dan Walker - the owner and chef of Weczeria - a small restaurant whose support for farmers acts as a model for other restaurants looking to take on similar and more responsible roles within the food system. But first, we come back to the last segment of the farming workshop at the Future of Food in the Kootenays conference, and it's on the topic of civil disobedience - an idea introduced during part 1 of this Future of Food series. There has been for quite some time an increasing number of barriers faced by farmers and food producers when choosing to operate on a small scale and provide for their communities. With food being as integral as it is to health, well-being, vibrant local economies and environmental sustainability, civil disobedience becomes an increasingly attractive option when such barriers seem to be increasing in number. And here presents the word of the day - fruitleggers.
Male voice 1: There is a place for civil disobedience, too. Years ago, the BC Fruit Marketing Board controlled all of the fruit going out of the Okanagan. You were allowed to take out, as a civilian, two bushels of fruit was it. That was at a time when fruit growers were getting paid very poorly. There was a network of us. We were actually called fruitleggers, who took that system down by hauling fruit out in large quantities. I can remember in 1976, if you were growing golden delicious apples through the marketing board, you would get seven cents for those apples in March. We could pay thirty cents a pound in July - cash. The system came down pretty quick. It meant taking that civil disobedience step to bring it down. This meat thing kinda drives you crazy. Who are these people who think they can do this? We just carry on and when the Feds come to shut it down, maybe there's two hundred of us there. There is a place for that.
Female voice 1: This is another option for civil disobedience. I'm wondering about how many people could just start keeping chickens in their backyards in city limits? That would be a pretty hard bylaw to enforce if a lot of people were doing it. I don't know what the regulations are, if there is progress being made there in terms of changing those, but it's an idea that piqued my interest.
JS: And you can stay tuned for an upcoming broadcast of our ongoing series Farming in the City when we will explore in depth, the role of and politics behind backyard chickens.
A quick reminder that located on the Deconstructing Dinner website is a page devoted to all of the audio recordings we compiled back in November at the Future of Food in the Kootenays conference, and those include the unedited versions of the workshops we're listening to today. And again that website cjly.net/deconstructingdinner.
Yet another workshop topic was Community Development and was facilitated by Colleen Matte of Nelson-based Earth Matters - a youth-driven environmental organization and a partner of Deconstructing Dinner.
Among the panelists at the workshop was Herb Barbolet of Simon Fraser University's Centre for Sustainable Community Development in Burnaby British Columbia. Herb has a long history with food security in Canada, and among his many roles, helped launch Vancouver's FarmFolk/CityFolk - a non-profit organization working with communities in BC to develop local and sustainable food systems.
In this next clip we here Herb's definition of community development and its contrasting ethic to that of mainstream economics. We also hear from conference delegates on gardening clubs, the demographics separating healthy social interactions and the creation of land trusts among other topics.
Herb Barbolet: My background is in community development and I have been doing that for a hundred and some odd years. I realized a while back that community development wasn't community development unless it was community economic development. And the economics of it were essential. But the economics we were taught in school, the mainstream economics, is mythology, is ideology, and is nonsense. Real economics is the community economics, and the mainstream economic system just ignores community, and says it is all about corporations, trade and selfishness. I want to bring back economics into community. Growing and food are basically the most important things. The essential thing here too, is the introductions that just occurred linking and connecting forming systems, not having all these separate projects, but putting them together and building upon one another is absolutely essential. Local, yes, but as local as possible because we need to support one another on the ground in our local communities but in the larger and larger communities, as well. That's my definition of community development.
Female voice 1: Thank you very much. Now I would like to anybody who has ideas or thoughts of what needs to happen on a community scale, what kinds of projects you would like to see happen?
Female voice 2: Creston has a very good active garden club. For backyard gardeners that's a really good way to go. I would say the average age, and I look young there, and I'm not that young, is probably seventy to seventy-five. The wealth of knowledge there is amazing. They have a seed exchange, they have potlucks, they have a monthly speaker on a timely topic, they have a plant exchange in the spring, they go on garden tours.
Female voice 3: I wanted to address just one small point you said about most of the people in the garden club are seventy and up, and what I find in our communities is our age groups are very isolated, and myself and my son's father are working like dogs basically to get ahead. My son is isolated in care, and his grandparents are isolated in other areas. If we start to join our elders again with our children and actually create these communities, the kids are going to get the knowledge they used to get from the elders, the parents will have support, my child will have richer relationships and maybe together in that kind of village structure, we can start to work together a little bit more.
Male voice 1: I had this beautiful fantasy not too long ago how there's this age group that owns a lot of land and have a lot of that land. What's missing is that family connectedness. Being a young person, and a farmer, it is hard to imagine having kids and raising kids and farming. I had this beautiful fantasy of if these older people who own this land, if somehow there was this evolution where we got back to more of a natural family structure, where it's the older generation who raises the kids, and if that land was made available for people to farm and produce food, it would be a beautiful thing.
Female voice 4: To make agricultural land productive land is what your saying?
Male voice 1: Yea, and make it available because a lot of the prime land is owned by baby boomers who either don't have the energy or intention to farm it. And that's been my problem. I want to farm but getting tenure on land, getting access to land is my main problem.
Male voice 2: I think a land trust is a really viable way to take land out of the market and put it into a trust, just like we do for environmental reasons. There is The Land Conservancy. That land is made available for farming. People can live on it and farm it, and if you stop farming then you can't live there anymore. I think that is something we need to form in the Kootenays is a Kootenay Agricultural Land Trust, or at least a land trust.
Female voice 5: I just wanted to add something to this, which is I keep coming back to thinking there has to be some way we can create incentives for people who hold ALR land to use it for agriculture. There has to be a paradigm shift where it is seen as being in the greater good for this land to be used and there be incentives for people to use it. Whether it's a greater tax break or not giving you the tax break unless you use the land agriculturally or something. There has to be incentives for that agricultural land to be used, so people don't just sit on huge tracts of beautiful arable land and not use it, which is what you're talking about.
Male voice 3: Economic development is the key to community development. Without sustainable economic structures, communities are going to be dependent on multi-national corporations. That's the way the whole international system is set up right now. So that our politicians are hamstrung to be able to do some of the things that they would like to do. Some of them are. Some of them welcome the hamstringing, and the Cult of Impotence that Linda McQuaig wrote about is there. It's real and it feeds the best vested interests of some portions of the community.
JS: And this is Deconstructing Dinner. In wrapping up segments from the Community Development workshop that we recorded at the November Future of Food in the Kootenays Conference, we hear one suggestion from a delegate on how to effectively share with others, the innovative and important information that can arise out of a regional conference on food security.
Female voice 1: Jumping off on the point of only talking to our friends and on the original flip chart from this morning about convincing people not to buy their groceries at Walmart. Sometimes you just have to be provocative on the playground when you are dropping your kids off at school and start up conversations like let's talk about food. You would be surprised at how receptive people are to being challenged and not being challenged, but yes, some people are going to be irritated and walk away, but I'm actually quite pleasantly surprised usually about how willing people are to sometimes engage, just talking amongst my own family, they are pretty committed Walmart shoppers, pretty committed non organic shoppers, but just in the last two months since being here, my mother was the one who dredged up the pamphlet for this conference for me. Once people know that you are interested, they do start changing the way they think.
Female voice 2: It isn't just about being logical and getting the information out there. The information about climate change or whatever is totally out there. It's been available for a long time. Why do people turn the other way, or not go with it? It's talking about all these things so much, having to also consider the emotional health of people. How much percentage of our decisions and actions are based on information and logic, and how much is based on our emotional state? I don't know the exact detail and it's different for different people, and even different villages will have a different mentality like Burton. I know a lot what it is, I don't know exactly what it is here, but Burton, It's a lot of very independent retired people. They don't so much want to work together with other people very much. I think to get things moving in any community also takes being aware of how to speak to people, and how to present this information, and how to acknowledge where people are at emotionally. It's a big job but it truly seems to be a part of it.
JS: And that wraps up part 3 of the Future of Food in the Kootenays Conference series here on Deconstructing Dinner. Again, a full page of audio recordings and broadcasts is available on our website at cjly.net/deconstructingdinner.
And you can stay tuned for future episodes of the series when we will, perhaps most importantly, examine the outcomes of the conference in Nelson. And again, we hope that this series will act as a resource for other communities wishing to launch their own food security conferences, and the web-based resources provided on our site act as a foundation for such a community-driven response to the fragile state of our food systems.
JS: Taking us through till the end of today's broadcast will be part five of our ongoing series here on Deconstructing Dinner titled Conscientious Cooks - a series where we explore chefs who are carrying out their work using more socially and environmentally responsible practices than is more commonly found in the foodservice sector.
Back in September 2007, I visited Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where chef Daniel Walker calls home. Dan owns and operates Weczeria - a small restaurant in the central core of the city where he incorporates a set of unique values that are literally, visible on the walls of the restaurant. Adorning the walls of Weczeria is a series of black and white photographs featuring some of the farmers and producers that Dan relies upon for his menu's ingredients.
Of greatest interest to Dan Walker's efforts to support local farmers, is how surprisingly unique his concept is in a province known as "the bread basket of the world." While such a designation would suggest that that restaurants serving local food would be common, the bread basket of the world designation is only in reference to industrial and global production of grains. With the exception of factory hog production and wild mushrooms, the presence of other food industries in Saskatchewan is rather minimal.
Following a tasty dinner of freshly caught Pike from the northern lakes of the province, I sat down with Daniel Walker to learn why he chose to open such a restaurant.
Daniel Walker: The idea of doing local food, and the hospitality of taking something from the farm and bringing it to the city is the basis of our philosophy. The training I had in Vancouver with the chefs that I worked for, all French guys, basically, their whole premise of what they learned is everything within ten miles of their village is what they cooked with. Everything was in season, so you had strawberries in June or July, and that was it, and tomatoes for a short period of time. That's always resonated with me, because again I am from Saskatchewan and, theoretically, we are the bread basket of the world for, I guess, early twenties, thirties and forties. We were one of the largest producers of grain, and still are. It's a part of the heritage of being from this province. I think just taking all that and melding it together into what we do here is what has made our restaurant, I think, unique.
JS: The highlight of my time spent with Chef Daniel Walker of Weczeria was the guided tour of the many local farmers and producers who supply the restaurant with its daily changing ingredients. Now I traveled a very short distance to take this tour because Daniel proudly displays photographs of some of these producers on the wall of the restaurant,. One of his suppliers happens to be a past guest of Deconstructing Dinner - Wally Satzewich - an urban farmer growing food in the city itself. But before we embark on this stationary tour, I asked Daniel to list some of the foods that are uniquely Saskatchewan.
DW: Lentils, the wild mushrooms, our freshwater fish, beef, the beef that I deal with is pure Black Angus. They can trace it back to some of the first Black Angus brought into Canada. It's just amazing. Bison: we have several really good bison producers here. Chickpeas, red fife wheat is another one that the bakery I deal with, she bakes red fife loaves, and she does artisanal bread, so it's different every day for a week, and then repeats itself every week. You have to kind of get that when it's there. It's exceptional bread. It's really, really good, really dense. Kind of like a rye, but with a not so heavy, kind of mollasessy flavor. It's actually quite nice.
JS: We are standing right now beside a wall of your restaurant here, with eight framed photographs of your suppliers, of your farmers. Maybe we can go through each one here, and maybe you can give me a little story as to who they are and this looks like your baker's right here. Who is this here?
DW: This is Tracy and Blair Mussolini. Christie's Bakery has been open since 1932 and Tracy's dad bough the bakery in 1964, I think. I could be wrong on the date. Now he has passed the bakery along to Tracy and Blair. She learned her baking from a gentleman in Toronto, I think. She was actually one of the first employees Susur Lee ever had in Toronto. He really instilled into her, her work ethic and she really makes amazing bread. She is also a member of Team Canada. It's unreal the amount of talent this girl has, the bread is unreal.
We have Helga. Some of these people I don't know their last names. Helga does all my herbs. Basically what I get from her is the cuttings. As the herbs grow too big, I get what she cuts off. She sells them at the farmers market here. The majority of the people on the wall here are at the market. The only two that aren't is the bread, Christie's, and Paddock Wood Brewery. She has a couple of fair sized greenhouses. One of them is devoted completely to basil plants and the other is devoted to a number of herbs. She sells about thirty varieties of herbs at the market and they are relatively inexpensive. They are mainly for people who want to grow stuff in their houses or their gardens.
We have Wally and Gail. Wally you have talked to once before. Wally is, to me, the God of gardening in Saskatoon. This gentleman does such amazing product. We have carrots, about six different colours, a number of different kinds of tomatoes, different kinds of beets, different kinds of tomatoes and potatoes, all sorts of greens, swish chard, different kinds of spinach, arugula, mustard greens, now I have to think of what I get, flowers from Gail, all kinds of really cool bouquets, shallots, you name it, pickling onions, it's amazing.
JS: Not everyone listening to Deconstructing Dinner may remember our interview with Wally. They are growing food in a far different way than any other farmer. What's the story behind where they are getting their food from?
DW: He's using or recycling is a good way of putting it people's backyards and the gardens that these people have. Either that they don't want to garden anymore or they want to have a garden in the backyard, but don't want to go through all the fuss and muss of having to do all the work. Wally goes into their yards and makes all this amazing product. I'd say a quarter of what Wally grows ends up in my restaurant, and then I know at least three other restaurants in Saskatoon are utilizing what he grows, as well. Wally is an incredibly humble, amazing gardener, grower, producer that does all this fantastic stuff.
And then we have the Simpkins family: Audrey, Rob, Jennifer and Dixon. Audrey is second generation on their farm, and then she is handing off to Rob, her eldest son. They grow everything, literally everything. Corn, zucchini, eggplants, pumpkin, squashes, carrots, onions, tomatoes, peas, green beans, you can name it, and they grow it. And their farm overlooks the riverbank in the Northwest corner of the city. They used to be able to look onto great farmland, but nowadays, there's actually building, big subdivisions being build on the opposite side of the riverbanks. Their kinda view sucks now. I wouldn't necessarily say their stuff is organic. I don't think they kind of believe in that, but their stuff is incredibly fresh. It's beautiful. They grew zucchini squash flowers for me this year. Just fabulous people who have been there forever. Actually Audrey's husband, his brother has the same kind of farm, too, and he deals at the farmers market as well.
Then we have Tom Blacklock whose grandfather brought in some of the first Black Angus cattle into Saskatchewan in the early nineteen hundreds. I'm not exactly sure which year. They can trace their entire herd right back to that first steer they brought into Saskatchewan. The meat is amazing. It is all hormone free, antibiotic free, it's all free range, it's all naturalized beef that has been fed on grass and in the wintertime, I think it is all on hay and alfalfa, but I'd have to ask Tom about that. All my beef comes from him, it's amazing. He's in Grandora, which is twenty minutes southeast of us. The first time I went out to visit Tom was in the middle of wintertime, and the whole prairie's white. And then when you come up to the ranch and that, there's these huge black dots all over the place. And then you kind of realize what they are. It's actually the cattle kicking around, it's unreal. He is very proud of what he does, and he should be. It's probably some of the best beef anybody's ever had that I can think of.
And then we are going down to Steve and Brandy. Steve Cavan owns Paddock Wood Microbrewery. I'm not sure if it's still the smallest microbrewery in Canada anymore. It physically is quite tiny, but they produce a heck of a lot of beer, and success has certainly caught up with Paddock Wood, as you can now find it in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. If you're in Victoria at Spinnakers, Paddock Wood is there, and there is a premium beer store in downtown Vancouver that carries their stuff as well. It is all hand crafted with the old school recipes. He has a number of lagers, pilsners, bitters and ales. He has really amazing interesting stuff. Steve used to be a history professor at the University of Saskatchewan. My wife went to one of his classes, and he was all about the Greek mythology, and it was all sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It was very entertaining to go listen to his classes. He would always point out that he had a weblink to his beer store, so it was really cool. What we do once a month is we do specialized dinners on a theme, like French or Italian cooking, and every six months I do a Paddock Wood dinner, and I sell it out. The minute we announce it, people are like, "we want to be a part of this." Five, six courses and each course is complemented with on of his beers, and we cook with a particular beer in each course. It's opened the horizons for me to expand my cooking abilities for using beer.
We go over to Pat Gittings, who owns Grandora Gardens, which is a huge set of greenhouses that does tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chilies. Actually, Pat is next door neighbours with Tom. Their yards are not very far apart. Their lands are side by side. She too, is obviously in Grandora. The pepper plants, what's amazing is you go into these greenhouses, and the green houses are, you walk in and the pepper plants are about fifty feet long, but the greenhouse is fifteen feet high, so the plant is wrapped up and down, so it's all green on the outside, but if you lift the top layer of green, it's just color. Red, orange, yellow, green, whatever. In the case of the tomatoes, the tomatoes are all kind of on the bottom, and it's just pure red all the way across. She has yellow, orange, red, romas, beefsteak, grape tomatoes, cocktail tomatoes. There's all sorts of different kinds of stuff that she does. She doesn't run year round unfortunately. They have about three months where she has to regenerate everything. It's about from mid January to mid April that I am unable to procure anything from them. Once they start in the spring, I start getting lettuces from her because she does a little shot of lettuce and the start and the end of the seasons.
Last, but not least, we have Jim and Chris who own South River Bison. For people that would know Saskatoon, we have Warman is just north of Saskatoon by about twenty minutes. In between the two, is Wanuskewin Native Heritage Site, I think it is a historical site, where one of the first native settlements in Saskatoon was based, and there's a huge complex around that, and Jim and Chris's land butts up to that. So, if you are really lucky and you are there, you can see all the bison that they have and they have a fair sized herd. The picture that we have of them, actually, is the two of them in one of their pastures with the bison walking away from us. When we took the picture, my intrepid photographer said to Jim, "Can you please herd them back this way?" Jim looked at him steely eyed and said, "No, I don't think so. They are mating right now. They are a little bit ornery." I look at Jim and I was like, "Oh boy, is it safe to be here?" "Yea, as long as they don't come back this way." The minute Jim that, the photographer took about forty pictures in about three seconds, and started packing his stuff up, and said, "We're out of here," and left. Some of those animals are a fair size, and I'd hate to be caught in a stampede or something like that.
JS: Now, from your understanding, are all of the farmers here on the wall doing well, are they successful and are they able to continue doing what they are doing?
DW: Yes, very much so. They all thrive. They all do quite well. Tom complains about being too busy sometimes but there is not an issue with that. Wally, I think, expands every year the types of things that he grows. Steve, with the beer, after having fourteen different varieties of beer now has it down to eight. I think that is manageable for them because of the size that they have. This is maybe a third of all the people that we use. I still have Jonathon Fonos in Dory Lake who does all of my freshwater fish. He fishes off the sixth largest lake in Saskatchewan. I get Northern jackfish, Pickerel, Whitefish, Burbot, which is like a Suckerfish, Mullet which is another kind of Suckerfish. It's kind of like Monkfish, too. You eat the ends of the tail. Really succulent, awesome fish. Northern Lights Organic Foods, we get wild rice. They are the largest producers in Saskatchewan, and probably one of the largest producers in Canada, and mushrooms from them. There is a farm in Zenon Park we get our chickpeas from. Clint Ringdal in Henley, all my lentils come from him, so I have lots of people all over the place that we bring specific items in from.
JS: And this is Deconstructing Dinner, and that was Owner and Chef Daniel Walker of Saskatoon Saskatchewan's Weczeria - a restaurant clearly embodying a philosophy of social and environmental responsibility. Two of Daniel's suppliers have previously been featured on the show, and links to those shows featuring Marc Loiselle and Wally Satzewich will be linked to from the Deconstructing Dinner website and today's broadcast is listed under February 7th 2008. And you can also learn more about Weczeria by visiting the restaurant's website at weczeriarestaurant.ca, and weczeria is spelt w-e-c-z-e-r-i-a.
JS: That was this week's edition of Deconstructing Dinner, produced and recorded at Nelson, British Columbia's Kootenay Co-op Radio. I've been your host Jon Steinman. I thank my technical assistant John Ryan. And I also thank CJLY volunteers Chris Born, Neil Sorochan and David Strongman for helping with the on-site recording of the conference featured on today's broadcast.
The theme music for Deconstructing Dinner is courtesy of Nelson-area resident Adham Shaikh.
This radio program is provided free of charge to campus/community radio stations across the country, and relies on the financial support from you the listener. Support for the program can be donated through our website at cjly.net/deconstructingdinner or by dialing 250-352-9600.