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Deconstructing Dinner

Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY

Nelson, B.C. Canada

 

November 26, 2009

 

Title: "Linnaea Farm - Ecological Gardening Program"

 

Producer/Host - Jon Steinman

Transcript - Laurie Chan

 

JS: And welcome to Deconstructing Dinner - a syndicated weekly radio show and podcast produced in Nelson, British Columbia at Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY and heard on radio stations around the world including Cortes Community Radio on Cortes Island, British Columbia. I'm Jon Steinman.

 

In October 2008, Deconstructing Dinner had the pleasure of spending time on Cortes Island with a group of young enthusiastic adults who had just spent 8 months learning the intricacies of growing food using organic and permaculture principles. Cortes Island is located in the Straight of Georgia and can be accessed by a series of ferries originating in Campbell River on Vancouver Island. For over 20 years now, Linnaea Farm has been offering a program that becomes the home to about a dozen students who learn from experienced growers before they too embark on their own paths of growing food and teaching others how to do the same.

 

On today's broadcast we meet those students and instructors to learn more about this unique program, its impacts on the students, and perhaps for us as listeners, can act as inspiration to develop similar programs in our own communities.

 

Lucky for us, the students who took part in Linnaea Farm's 2008 garden program were also talented songwriters and musicians, and we'll get the chance throughout the next hour to hear some of that wonderful music accompanying these recordings.

 

group singing

 

male student 1: Before I came to Linnaea Farm I was living in Victoria with Tessa. I was working full-time on a farm and we thought it would be a great place to come and learn about how to grow food together and also with a whole bunch of other people who were interested in that too. We lived in a communal house before but there wasn't as many people there interested in growing food.

 

female student 1: Before I arrived at Linnaea Farm, I was in California doing a permaculture course. It feels now like that was kind of the tip of the iceberg-that was just getting me ready to really be here and understand that permaculture, which is this kind of new word for really old practices, is just this amazing language of relationships and way of relating to the earth and communities.

 

female student 2: Before I arrived at Linnaea Farm, I was living in Victoria with Mike, who's also in the program, in a house full of really awesome people . And we were growing a small garden in our backyard and there was just living and teaching kids about organic gardening in elementary schools and working with children and people with special needs. Sort of just waiting for Linnaea. For a while I'd known that I was going to come here for...well, I hoped that I was going to come here for about five years before actually arriving. And I chose to come to the program because there are many inspiring graduates who live in Victoria and are doing really good work, and I'd been hearing about the program through some people who are just influencing their community and increasing food security and really inspiring people to look at where food comes from and how our environmental crisis and political crisis and everything just comes back to food.

 

JS: Those are the voices of just some of the students who lived at Linnaea Farm on Cortes Island in 2008. The 8-month experiential education program has been in operation for over 20 years and during my visit there in the month of October of last year, I learned of the different paths that the students had taken to eventually lead them to the farm. Some of the students, as we'll hear in just a moment had already acquired some growing experience through what is known as WWOOFing (an international program that places willing workers on organic farms).

 

female student 3: Before I arrived at Linnaea Farm I was living in Victoria and I applied for the Entrepreneurship Program through LifeCycles. It was a program that was giving me the opportunity for about eight months to be learning about and create a sustainable business. I was focusing on creating a business based on urban edible landscaping. And so I was learning from a lot of people in the city as well as doing SPIN farming which stands for Small Plot Intensive Farming. So I was growing food in people's backyards for myself as well as them and then selling a little bit through Food Roots, which is an organization that distributes a lot of local food within Victoria. And then also I was doing some projects growing food for people, like giving people the opportunity to be growing food and composting for themselves, so I was setting up some gardens in people's backyards where they didn't have gardens as well as setting up composting systems. But I didn't feel confident with my ability to grow food and with my extent of knowledge because I'd read a lot and I'd helped out a lot of people but I haven't done a lot of projects independently, so it was sort of at this place of...I knew quite a bit about growing food but not enough to be where I was at in my leadership role, so I chose to come to Linnaea so that I could learn some more.

 

female student 4: Before I arrived at Linnaea Farm I was a stress-ball from the city. I was working my for-profit job and my non-profit contracts and doing volunteer work and probably working between 12 and 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. And this cycle was not a new cycle for me. Every year I would burn out, and go to the land, and usually WWOOF, and I've had some very special summers WWOOFing. And because of my special summers WWOOFing and my great passion for photographing the natural world, I chose to come to Linnaea Farm to really learn about growing food because my WWOOFing experiences taught me a little bit here and there about maintaining food crops but I had never actually designed a garden or planted seeds and watched them grow and was really pretty clueless about many things to do with growing food.

 

female student 5: Before I arrived at Linnaea I was living in Edmonton making money, trying to decide what to do with my life, basically. I'd done some WWOOFing overseas and have been fascinated with food production and living with animals and living in association with your food, and a friend suggested Linnaea as a great place to learn more about the theory and the practicalities about growing food. So after working at the restaurant in Edmonton for awhile I was kind of desperate to actually know where the food came from because it all came from the walk-in cooler, and Linnaea very clearly shows us where food actually comes from.

 

female student 6: Before I arrived at Linnaea Farm I was living in Calgary and spending some time with family and friends. I chose to come to Linnaea Farm because I was living in Fernie for the last ten years or so in the most magnificent place and getting to work half the year at a ski hill and half the work at a...I was working at the time at a commercial greenhouse. And then I started working at an organic farm just outside...in Hosmer...and there was one girl that wanted to apply to this program. She'd heard about this fantastic program...she came into the greenhouse and she said 'You know that program absolutely changed my life, changed everything of the way I saw food...'

 

male student 2: I think my journey to Linnaea began about four years ago when I moved out to the west coast. At the time, I was completing a Master's in Political Theory at the University of Victoria, because I was really interested in understanding the way that power works in our society today and the opportunities that we have in order to resist forms of power when they don't seem quite right to us. And so I started really trying to understand how some of the biggest changes that we seem to be able to enact are changes that occur closest to us in our own localities. And so I guess that's kind of also what started to get me interested in growing food and in some of the ideas of permaculture. So I came to Linnaea because it's an opportunity to learn some of these skills and to do so in a community of other people who are also really passionate about doing the same, and then taking those skills back to wherever it is that we may go in three weeks time and beyond.

 

male student 3: Before I arrived at Linnaea Farm I was pruning fruit trees in the Similkameen Valley at a friend's farm. It was the first winter that I'd spent away from the city and it was a quiet time, and it gave me lots of time to reflect on the steps I had taken in the last few years. I'm a recovering engineer and over the last couple of years I've been exploring the ways in which I can, for which I feel I can best contribute to a healthy community.

 

group singing

 

JS: This is Deconstructing Dinner. Beyond the dozen students who took part in the Linnaea Farm garden program each year are the instructors. David Buckner has been involved in the program since its inception and I sat down with David to learn more about the farm and how it came to be.

 

DB: Well, the beginnings of Linnaea...I think I'd have to say it was an accident. There was a couple, Robert and Penny Cabot, that were traveling around North America looking at intentional communities...looking to join an existing community I guess, and they happened to come to Cortes for other reasons, and see this place. They heard a rumour that it was for sale, which in fact wasn't true. And they ended up reaching a deal to buy the place. But as far as the community, they found a community called the Texas Lake Community Society that was running a hostel down in Hope that they got excited by and wanted to join. But they wanted to have the community move here. That group of people didn't actually own the land they were on and they were raising money to buy their own land. When I heard they bought this place with a licensed raw milk dairy, I came up right away and I was herdsman on the dairy for the first couple years I was here, and then I started growing garlic for market in the early 80's, I guess, and decided to start the garden program. Eighty-eight was the first year of the garden program more or less as we see it now. It's an eight-month program-they come for the growing season, so they arrive the end of February, and start planting seeds. And the idea is that they have the foundation skills to start the real learning which goes on out in the world after they leave here and they're growing gardens of their own in whatever form. I guess our real hope is that we're sending out teachers.

 

outdoors

 

JS: Linnaea Farm instructor Adam Schick

 

AS: Okay, one of today's major tasks is...well, we can cover that compost after, but that's not major. We're going to take that compost pile and that compost pile, spread this out as a base, and make one compost pile. So, a couple people on either pile, forking stuff...you know...you're going to peel off the outside layer...you know...you're going to try to get the inside to the outside, and the outside to the inside, thoroughly mixing everything. If we just leave these ones...obviously the other problem of being a little bit short on compost, right, so if we don't do something to sort of make these speed up a little bit, it's just going to make it even...we're gonna have...even the compost piles we have aren't going to be finished compost piles. And you guys can remember there's different piles we use, that the more sort of broken up it is, the better and easier it is to work with later on in the year. When you've got big chunks of corn, and bits of fish, it's a little harder to work with than when it's all nice and crumbly and totally finished. Each student has their own plot so they get the chance to experiment on their own. They plan out their garden. They eat what they grow. They water it, and they get support from the instructors who come around once a week or so, and give advice and pointers.

 

male student 1: Right here, these are a few different types of pole beans. This one here is called Grandma Walters. It's a dry shelling bean that produces these big shelling beans that we've been eating in our stews lately. Here's another variety of pole beans growing up here, which are just a fresh green bean.

 

JS: So when you first walked in here was it just bare plots that were already used the previous year, and you had to do whatever it is you wanted with it?

 

male student 1: Yeah, the gardeners of the previous year had put the garden to bed. The garden student that was in this plot last year put a lot of work into it...at the end of the season built a lot of compost for me. I've cover-cropped most of the beds, put a lot of mulch down to protect the soil over the rainy winter months.

 

There were a few crops that he had left in the ground, but not very much, just some strawberries. It was essentially a blank slate for me to work with but it wasn't just a blank slate-there was a lot of diversity in the beds that he had left me. Some of the beds had different cover-crops in it. There was a cover-crop of clover, a cover-crop of rye, a couple of permanent mulch beds, a couple of beds that were mulched in seaweed. And so I had the opportunity to work with those different styles of bed preparation, and I was able to come up with some cool...able to work on some interesting techniques of no-till gardening based on the different cover-crop systems and mulches that were left here from the year before. And all the compost that they made me-these two big piles, was enough for all my needs within the garden. And so I've taken the same approach to my garden, and most garden students this year are as well. They're trying to leave as much beneficial stuff in the garden for the garden students next year, and we've all built loads of compost and take a lot of care to build up the fertility of our soil.

 

I'm planting, this year, a lot of crops to go over into next year's garden. There are some leeks that are going to be over-wintering. I planted a bed of lettuce, over-wintering lettuce, some fava beans that are going to flower early in the spring and produce fruit, and lots of parsnips, which I don't want to harvest too early, because they don't really get good until the first frost...until the sugars condense in the flesh. We've got some corn over here-some old-fashioned sweet corn variety called Country Gentleman, which is completely different from any corn I've ever eaten before. It's got these rows that are all askew, and it's got no order to it whatsoever. And they grow really really big fat ears of corn. We had one for Friday night dinner this past week-it was bigger than my forearm, and we passed it around the table as part of a ceremony and everybody took a bite out of it, and gave a birthday wish to one of our friends. I've got a variety of squash over there, called Black Futsu-it's a Japanese heritage variety....grows these big, big black squashes, that I'm also saving for seed. There's a whole row of espaliered apple trees the back of my garden. They were part of a student project...

 

JS: Espalier is the method that they're trellised here?

 

male student 1: Yeah, so it's a method of trellising apples in which their branches are spread wide and the apples are kept cropped quite small. It's a great example of being able to grow fruit in a very small space. It doesn't require huge orchard space in order to get apples. These little espalier trees can be just snuck into the little corner of the garden...it gets a little bit of light. So these espalier trees were planted by students back in 1996 as part of their course on grafting.

 

JS: This is Deconstructing Dinner where we're listening in on our October 2008 visit to Linnaea Farm on Cortes Island, British Columbia. The farm offers an eight-month garden program for students wishing to learn more about growing food using organic and permaculture principles. We just heard from Daveed Rotsztain one of the dozen students who were enrolled in the program. Each year students are given their own garden plot to manage from seed to harvest, but students are also exposed to more production-oriented growing through the farm's production garden which in part is used to grow food for the 22-member Community Supported Agriculture box program offered to residents on the island.

 

During my time at the farm, I was also treated to the musical talents of the students there, some of which we heard earlier... and here's another student, Leah, lending her musical voice to Deconstructing Dinner before we wander off with the students to the farm's production garden.

 

Leah singing

 

male student: Yeah, generally on Mondays we work together on the production garden during the morning, then we stop and eat lunch, and we each have our own individual garden plots that we're given time to work on on Monday afternoons.

 

AS: Well, the garden looks pretty awesome at this point right now. Most of it's to bed. That's sort of what we were joking about having production garden at the end of the month. We probably won't need to but maybe a little weeding in that bed of leeks there, because those are the ones that are going to feed next year's garden students and us through the winter-time or in the late winter, early spring-time, you know. Those will probably be our winter-time eaters...when the next group gets here we'll probably be going 'those are the leeks for you to eat'....so it wouldn't hurt maybe to do a little bit of weeding.

 

So lets do a quick little walk down here-I think we're going to start in the greenhouse and let's do a little walk-around and look at stuff. Let's go to the greenhouse.

 

For sure in here we need to sift some soil-that's the major thing that has to happen. We need all those barrels full so we can fill up those flats in the springtime. And...what are we going to sift? Maybe we should start with the stuff under here. So all this stuff under here...so that's going to be a couple people sifting. And that's a nice job. It's kind of wet, not too hot, and there's a lot of compost under there. So that should hopefully fill up the barrels. We don't have much vermiculite but that's okay. Besides that, everything...all the pumpkins are in here drying, there are some seeds in here. If these spent like a few days in the house then we'd probably be able to thresh out the seed at this point. We just need it to be dry. The seed looks pretty good inside there. And this year I'm excited about this leek seed because we have two different leeks, right. We sort of took, the year before, we were running out, like inbreeding depression because we were just sort of saving Linnaea leek seeds for so many years. We stuck a bunch of a different variety in there. The idea was that they'd cross-pollinate and we'd sort of bring a little vigour back into the Linnaea leek line. We'll see what next year's leeks look like.

 

JS: Each day at Linnaea Farm begins with a run-down of the upcoming day's activities and it so happened that the day Deconstructing Dinner visited the farm, the morning was greeted with an announcement from one of the students, that the pigs had gone missing.

 

female student 1: I watched the whole thing...like I can't see them anywhere. Normally they'd be like out doing their thing but...

 

female student 2: they're swimming off island

 

laughter

 

female student 3: they're building huts...One has got straw...

 

laughter, joking comments from students: ...one's on the phone getting some bricks...one's mixing concrete...Oh like out of the whole...they're gone...crescent...yeah they're gone. They're not gone, they're just hiding. I think it would be a good idea to bring them in so as not to attract wolves and cougars and things like that. Yes, can't wait for that. No, no. They're ours, the wolves can't have them...

 

AS: Did you get the cover crop seeded?

male student 1: I did

AS: Oh wow

male student 1: I was wondering about that. I was thinking maybe we could sow that by hand out there and then rake it in and just trample all over it.

 

AS: The idea here is that well, I want to expand, I want more garden over the next few years and... We want to give Kirsten a permanent spot, there's another two acre garden over there that's all fenced in, right. And there's been a potato co-op here for some 25 years now, where 20-25 island families pay, sort of like a membership fee, and that helps cover the costs of the machine time, and we've used some different organic fertilizers in the past to sort of boost the soil. And so they come to five work bees...we have a planting work bee, two weeding work bees, a big harvest work bee, and then a composting work bee. And these are like Saturday afternoons, or Saturday mornings throughout the summer. David and myself end up doing a lot of the ground preparation with the machine and stuff. So you're kind of just showing up to do the work at hand.

 

It's a pretty amazing experience because you have twenty families and all their kids and everybody running around, and the work goes pretty quickly. So that garden, and the four-year rotation...what's happened is we've planted hazelnuts, and Kirsten, one of the other stewards on the farm, has a seed garden, and it's been really hard for her to have to move the whole garden, because there's a four-year rotation in there. So if we can expand that to put another couple acres of production out here, that garden can become like more of a vegetable garden. Already for next spring I'm going to do a few big beds of carrots out there for over-wintering and what we have here...we're about as far away on the farm as you can for the lower garden where we started our morning off and that's a really wet by the lake. And out here it's a lot drier because we're so far away from the lake and the water table is a little lower and the soil's a little less silty. It's a little bit more sandy out here, where it's a really silty loam down at the bottom of the garden. So we're out here today is to sow some cover crop. I came in here with the tractor with a Rotovator on it and I broke up the sods. But you don't want to leave your soil bare like this for the winter, especially on the coast, because everytime it rains everything starts to just leach out. So by sowing a cover crop, that crop grows, it holds the nutrients, and instead of the water just rushing through it, you have plants there to hold the nutrients, keep your soil together, because any time you have bare soil it's...the erosion happens through all the elements; sun, wind, rain, you know so we put a cover crop on it to protect it.

 

Normally we sow rye grass, and rye is great organic matter accumulator-it grows really fast, and it's also one of the least expensive cover crops you can buy. It's grown in Canada where out here, what we have to do...we can't grow rye because we have Canada geese come in really big time, right...and one of the favourite things for geese is fresh grass. So out here where no one's living for the wintertime if we sow rye grass it's just basically saying 'here's a goose salad bar'. And that's not what we want. We want to have the soil to be held, so we grow hairy vetch. Now vetch is quite expensive, about 50 pounds of it I think we paid almost $150 for it, and on this half an acre we're going to sow about a third to a half of it. We're going to sow a little more than we normally do because the ground is so new and there's lots of sod in there. And because it's so wet now, we can't get the tractor on it. I would have liked to do this two weeks ago. We'd ordered the vetch but the vetch just didn't come to our local feed supply store. So here we are today, October the 6th, which is about a week or two later than I would have liked to sow this, but you know, that's the way things work out, you do things when you can. So yeah, we'll just go out there and sow the cover crop, and then our jobs basically going to be to cover up the seeds and sort of tamp it down again. So there's quite a lot of ground there, that's why there's quite a few of us here.

 

So, here's the vetch. Just going to open this sack up...it's little tiny little black seeds. And you pretty quickly understand why it costs so much for the vetch, because I could imagine how long it would take me to even if you say if we left this half-acre here, you'd definitely want a machine to harvest it because it's the world's smallest looking little pea seeds that are all very black and hard. And the nice thing about vetch is it's... like the rye grass, it usually doesn't really...if you use two year old rye a lot of times it won't germinate in the seed. But vetch I guess just because of the way the seed is, it lasts for quite a few years. And vetch fixes nitrogen. This is one of those iconic, fun farming machines. You put the seed in there, and you stand there, and I crank this thing, and it flies the seed out everywhere. And it all depends, one of the things you sort of get used to doing, the harder I crank this, the further things flow out there, so I'm just going to do a little pass here.

 

So I get here at the edge, and I basically...it's sort of a speed...you've got to...have to pick a line, and you can sort of see this tractor, the tractor tires have sort of left me a space. So I'm basically going to pick a point there on the end, and I'm going to open this thing up. And I've got to make sure I've get it right to the very outside edge. So it's going about eight, ten feet on the left side of me, and only about four feet on the right side of me. Vetch is hard, because it's a little black seed, really hard to see once you've spread it out there. And when you get to the end, you do sort of a little bit of a bow, and you're done. So I was throwing vetch out to about here, so then I walk myself about ten feet over.

 

JS: This is Deconstructing Dinner a syndicated weekly radio show and Podcast produced in Nelson, British Columbia at Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY. I'm Jon Steinman. On today's episode we've been visiting Linnaea Farm on Cortes Island, British Columbia where, for over 20 years, an 8-month long garden program is offered to students wishing to learn how to grow food using organic and permacultural principles. Instructor Adam Schick has been heard hear teaching students on how to sow a cover crop. Adam has been living at Linnaea with his family since 2000 and is also a graduate of the garden program himself and enjoyed the farm so much, he chose to return to the farm after leaving the program in 1998. If you missed any of today's broadcast, it is archived on our website at deconstructingdinner.ca and posted under the November 26th, 2009 episode.

 

AS: Now we're going to cover it up. The rule of thumb is twice the depth of the seed, right. So here we're just... want to make sure that some of those seeds have been covered, right. So what we do...we don't want to just rake it all one way. But we sort of want to work it strategically, right, starting at this side, working like a four-foot strip, and it's okay to walk all over it too, right, because that's just going to help pat things down. But...so just getting those seeds just in the surface. I'm going to go get myself another rake.

 

AS: I guess that's the nice thing about being at the farm is we're not, we're not sort of driven like most farms, to sort of make a mortgage payment or pay for the equipment. All the equipment is from the 50's and 60's, and we just sort of keep it limping around. We do just enough to keep the machines and everything running but the whole society of Linnaea Farm Society, we're a non-profit society, so the idea isn't anyone to get rich. What's supposed to get richer is this piece of property. And because we don't own it...we're stewarding it...I hope my kids can be here and my grandkids can be here. So I'm looking forward two, three generations, where when you're in business, and you've got a 50,000 dollar mortgage payment and a new combine that you've just paid for...then all of a sudden you are behind that brick wall because you've put yourself behind that brick wall. I'm not saying...I mean I have total respect for anyone that grows food like on whatever scale. But when you're all tied up with the banks, I realize how stressful that is, but it's...People want to eat good food, and there's lots of ways you can transition your big farm, slowly, into something that's sort of more organic and sustainable.

 

And you don't have to do it all just at once-you have to...I mean, right here, we have all these young students, and that for sure helps me. And I'm not an old man yet, but it really helps to have people in their twenties and coming to the farm and being excited about it again...I mean you put a seed in the ground and it comes up...it's a huge epiphany. You're like 'wow, I did that!' and it's just a pretty amazing feeling, and I think as you farm more and more, you get more and more involved in trying to worry about how much money you're making, and the future, what am I going to do next year, and what are the prices of pork bellies. Whatever it is, when you stop forgetting about how absolutely amazing and miraculous the things are that you're doing, you get sort of jaded, and you can't see it any more, and then your kids don't want to do it because you're unhappy doing it. I have a ten year old and a six year old and both of them are amazing gardeners. My wife is sort of a herbologist, and she knows all...I go into the garden and my girls know way more about the medicinal plants and stuff going on...they know when a carrot's ready, they know how to plant a carrot, they know how to do all that stuff, because they've seen me doing this stuff with my wife, and we've been excited about it all the time. So it's something they want to do...I'm not bitter about it, I'm excited about it. So hopefully that rubs off on everyone that I come in contact with, and through that excitement and all these people learning these skills, it's just going to spread and get more and more and more.

 

You know, if the big farms can't support it, well, we'll have to start tearing apart our neighbourhoods and our front yards and our back yards. You know, the CSA, actually my partner got a grant from the Vancouver Island health authority, and one of them was to encourage a farmer to start a CSA. There's no capital costs, she just got a little bit of money to help me with the newsletters and all that sort of stuff. It's just one of those things, finally, even the government is recognizing the fact that if you eat healthy food, you live a healthy life, you encourage people to be outside, garden to grow things that in the end, you don't have to pay as much for cancer rates, people are healthier, there's no heart disease. Like, how long has it taken us to figure that out. It's like a no-brainer, but finally, the bigger society, if you want to call it, is starting to realize like, wow, food's really important. Hopefully, we haven't realized this just at the last minute before everything just goes to shit. But even if it does go to shit, I'm really excited, because what you've going to have is this-people out in fields making food for themselves and there will be just less machine stuff because that's just the way it's going to go and I mean, I'm really encouraged. I think about the shit hitting the fan, or whatever you want to call it and I look at all these pastures, and I think of all the people that live on Cortes Island and it's like, you know what, we'd just have a really big garden program that year. There'd be 70 of us, we'd all have forks, and hell, we'd grow enough food for ourselves. I actually am really sort of looking forward to that reality I mean I'm happy and I'll live in this one, but change doesn't scare me-in fact, I'm really encouraged by change.

 

One of the things we teach here is permaculture and I think one of the best things is like if say, stuff starts to go wrong, if there's enough people with a permaculture mindset, where there is no problems, there's only solutions. And then there's enough people like that on the ground when things get a little bit crazy...so it's like disaster response. If you have the skills to be...okay, everyone's panicked right now...don't worry...how about we go outside, we'll break up some ground, we'll mulch a yard...like there's lots of amazing, positive ways to deal with it. Even just sort of like organizing composting toilets when the sewer systems don't work anymore. There is no problem that a good designer, a human, cannot...we can figure it out...we got ourselves in this situation and I think we can get ourselves out of it, no problems...as long as there's enough people that have enough faith in our species and the planet, because all this stuff it's humans that have the problem. The planet - no problems. It's the humans.

 

JS: Deconstructing Dinner arrived at the farm on a Sunday and coincidentally is the evening that the students had already gotten into the routine of listening to Deconstructing Dinner on their local Cortes Community radio station. Sure enough, it was that evening that the tables had turned and Deconstructing Dinner was in their kitchen recording them as they prepared a local food potluck. The meal lent a nice glimpse into the lessons learned at the farm that go beyond just growing food, and extend into the importance of preparing and sharing food together.

 

male student 1: I brought to the local food potluck, some rye that was planted in the fall of last year by one of the garden students here at Linnaea Farm, and I decided to let the rye grow this year so that I could harvest it. After I harvested it I put it in some boiling water for about an hour.

 

male student 2: Local water.

 

male student 1: Yeah, it was ocean water that Brendan brought because it's nice to have some salt.

 

female student 1: Me and Mike decided to collaborate on making some mashed foods. So we went out to the garden and we both harvested some squash, and I harvested squash from a hugo pile which is like a really big compost pile that you make, and I planted those squash really late, but because the squash plants were growing in the compost pile, they ended up producing quite a few squash. So we brought all those squash in, and then we got some milk that came from Sunday the cow that was milked by one of the students today. And I made some mashed squash.

 

female student 2: I brought a Chayote salad, which is a spaghetti squash that has taken over the student plots in the lower garden, because these large watermelon-size squash that produce kind of noodle-like textured noodles. And it has carrots and beets and a lot of other vegetables from my plot in the production garden, as well as yoghurt from the cow and some fresh toasted coriander.

 

male student 3: I mashed potatoes from the potato co-op, which is actually older institution here at Linnaea Farm than the garden program itself. It's been operating for probably somewhere between 20 and 25 years. There's about 25 families from the island who are members of the co-op and we get together about four times per year to work during an afternoon, and the product of that beautiful festive labour is all the potatoes we can eat for the entire winter, which are stored in the root cellar here at Linnaea Farms, and which are available for people to come and eat throughout the year and to feed their families.

 

male student 4: I'm staying at Linnaea with Michael and,not Linnaea, Blue Jay Lake so everything that we brought was from Blue Jay Lake. And we put it in a salad and it was a carrot, apple, and grape salad, I think one green pepper, and everything was picked at Blue Jay Lake, today.

 

female student 3: I brought a chicken casserole kind of thing, and the chicken was from last year's laying hens. And there are eggs from this year's laying hens, and milk, and thyme and onions and cauliflower and broccoli and green peppers from the garden.

 

female student 4: My mom and I harvested probably about six or seven different types of salad greens and a whole bunch of nasturtium flowers and I think maybe six different types of tomatoes, and made a big salad with blackberry, kefir, fennel garlic salad dressing.

 

JS: So I have food in my mouth, so maybe I'll finish chewing...group laughter...

 

female student 5: Yeah...deconstruct your dinner...

 

JS: Well, I can probably do it. I arrived today, so didn't really have time to prepare anything from any garden that I don't have. But I was at Natural Pastures Cheese on Friday, where I bought the buffalo cheese, water buffalo cheese with the milk that came from Fairburn Farm in Duncan and Natural Pastures, which you all probably know is in Courtney. And they also have a cheese they call Amsterdamer, which is the other cheese that was on the plate. And the crackers are from the Kootenay Bakery, which is a workers' co-op in Nelson, that they bake these crackers there, the grain is not local, because they can't get it yet, but next year they'll be a member of the grain CSA, so maybe some of that grain will be local next time. And then there were tomatoes from is that your plot?

 

male voice: ...production garden at Linnaea.

 

JS: ...production garden...and some basil from your plot...(yeah)...from David's plot.

 

male student 6: I made a soup for the local food pot-luck. In it I put potatoes, sun-chokes, some wild chanterelles that I just harvested this afternoon, some ocean water, some milk, bay leaves from Martha's garden, a woman on the island, and leek bulbs. I never knew that leeks had bulbs, but they produce these little bulbs at the base of their stalk after they go to seed, and that was a really exciting discovery the other week, so we harvested a whole bunch of leek bulbs.

 

male student 7: I brought pumpkin pie, without the pie...I essentially just roasted a pumpkin in the oven filled with milk, and we're going to have it for dessert.

 

Leah singing

 

male student 1: Of all the things that we've learned, I can say that some of the ideas of permaculture have really resounded with me.

 

male student 2: The most impactful lesson I've learned during my time here at Linnaea is the idea of phenology, which is of observing how there's a very strong cycle of time and evolution of the seasons, within nature, and one can understand the different events that take place in the garden by watching how nature evolves alongside your garden. For instance, we understand here in the garden at Linnaea, that when the Gravenstein blossoms bloom in early spring, that the cabbage root maggots start to lay their eggs around the base of the cabbage plants. And so we time our activities in the farm to correspond with that incidence in time, so as we see the blossoms on the Gravenstein apples blooming, then we know that we have to take actions to protect our cabbages from these root maggots.

 

female student 1: It's really changed my mind. Like going back to the city and walking into a standard grocery store when we visit Campbell River or something like that, I'm really squeamish about eating non-organic processed foods, things that I don't know where they came from. So it's had a huge impact on me, knowing where my food came from.

 

Leah singing cont'd

 

female student 2: The most impactful lesson I've learned during my time here at Linnaea is about observation. I feel like living in an urban setting really lends itself to needing to constantly move and constantly do and constantly think and constantly react. And a skill I was really missing for myself was the ability to observe and watch how things work, and it's one of the skills, I think, that the program really wants to impart to their students. And we begin the year with a silent walk up the local cliff here at Linnaea, and the part of that is just observing what's happening in the natural world.

 

female student 3: The most impactful lesson I've had here during my time at Linnaea has probably been milking a cow. Because I haven't spent very much time with animals in my life and I really haven't been around large creatures whatsoever...so it's been really amazing learning about building our relationship with such a large animal and also building trust with them. And then have been blown away by how much they've been giving to me as well as the community with all of the milk and yoghurt and cheese that we've been eating.

 

Leah singing cont'd

 

male student 3: Most impactful lesson my time here has been my time here has been about how plants are related to so many different things that I learned about in high school that I never quite grasped like sine waves and this kind of mathematic stuff that I never paid a lot of attention to. Now, through this course, I've sort of tied some of those things that I wasn't interested in high school, to growing food. So it's gotten me more interested or re-awakened an interest in all of the stuff that people tried to teach me in the past and I just wasn't ready to learn it.

 

female student 4: Kind of impossible to say what the most impactful lesson I've learned here is, because there's millions of them. Living with 11 people is like living with mirrors all the time, and learning how to function in community is life-changing and totally inspiring and challenging and frustrating and invigorating. And how do we live together and create relationships with each other and with our food.

 

Leah singing cont'd

 

female student 5: The most impactful lesson I've learned during my time here, there's so many, but definitely seeing and learning about all the different systems that keep me alive, whether it's like a food system, where my food comes from, the community and how the community's structured and how that provides the water and cleaning facilities and food systems that I need. And also, looking at tools, I was just so excited today, realizing how excited I am about sickles, and just the simple tools that a lot of my ancestors and parents and grandparents were familiar with and had been using for many generations, and just sort of rediscovering those through the program is something that's valuable.

 

Leah singing cont'd

 

JS: This is Deconstructing Dinner where we've been listening to students who were enrolled in Linnaea Farm's 2008 garden program. Linnaea Farm is located on Cortes Island, British Columbia.

 

farm animal sounds

 

male student: I'm going to be feeding the pigs some leftover mash from some beer-making, they are really excited about this (JS: from here?) Yeah. (JS: do they know that's it's beer?) I think that they can sense there's a little bit alcoholic, a bit sweet, I think they're going to like it.

 

JS: Garden program founder David Buckner on past graduates of Linnaea Farm, and where they are now.

 

DB: One of our youngest participants was 15, I think, maybe 16 when she started. She went on to work from here at Hollyhock, and does her own garden business for other people on the island and has just left the island. But she is a very accomplished gardener now we're talking 20 years ago. Jeff Johnson, who has worked for years at the Victoria Compost Education Centre and has now started his own nursery business, and you know, is far more knowledgeable now about a lot of permacultural plants than myself. Christopher Shine in the San Francisco Bay area has done a lot of work in poorer communities, getting people involved in gardening. And David Castle now he's working with Glen Valley Community Farm in Abbottsford. So yeah, our graduates are going on to make a difference.

 

male student 1: My time here at Linnaea has definitely encouraged me to be a farmer. I am farmed and dangerous. I'm in it for good. I realize that it's the greatest contribution that I can make to community sufficiency and towards a just world.

 

female student 1: My time at Linnaea Farms has definitely encouraged to be a farmer. I've had a few visits to the city and my favourite thing to say to people who are constantly wanting to know what I do for a living to make money, is that I'm a farmer. And I feel like it's a revolutionary act in our North American culture to be a farmer, and all the farmers I've met...most of them have been joyfully, amazingly vibrant, happy people. And I feel a lot of pride in growing food, and I may not be a farmer in the sense that I'll commit myself to growing huge fields of food, but wherever I am I hope to be farming something on some scale. And I hope to support other farmers.

 

female student 2: I think just like Kim and Leah said, I definitely want to be farming in my life, but I really want to be encouraging people with my skills, to be growing food for themselves and understand how to be practicing permaculture within their own lives.

 

female student 3: Has my time encouraged me to become a farmer? I have a hard time with calling myself a farmer, or just saying I want to be a farmer, because the picture I have of my life in the future is even more than just growing food, I would say homesteading more than farming. Maybe because of all the crazy farms and industrial farming practices that I picture when I hear that word. But I definitely want to grow food in my life and live with people in a way where we can put our energy towards creating healthy environments and sharing with each other.

 

female student 4: Have I become encouraged to become a farmer? To become a grower, for sure. I really resonate with what you guys said about not wanting to be called a farmer, and I was thinking about that as you were talking, and it's because farming in my mind also implies some exploitation. You know, farming means just trying to wring every little bit out of whatever resource you're using, you farm it up. But I'm really encouraged to become a grower and I don't think I could ever go back to having at least a good portion of my diet coming out of the land around me.

 

female student 5: My time here has definitely encouraged me to become a farmer. I'm not sure, I suppose, as Leah said, if I want to call myself a farmer, but I definitely want to focus my life around growing food and creating the systems that keep me alive, myself, so using animals and growing fibre and making my own clothes and doing art and growing food and just practicing life on a really local level. So if that means being a farmer then definitely I want to be a farmer.

 

female student 6: Has your time at Linnaea encouraged you to become a farmer? See, when I hear the word farmer I'm from a family of farmers, so I don't associate it with the machine that farming's become. It's too bad that it's just caught up in this money round and it's not about just feeding people. I don't know, we're grain farmers, and then they're cattle farmers now, and it doesn't resonate the same way to me. So has it encouraged me to become a farmer? I think I've been a farmer my whole life but I really appreciate so much of what it means now to grow the food that I can sustain on, and a lot of people have inspired me an awful lot about how much it might actually take. Also the amount of work that we can get done in an hour, it's unbelievable some of the things that we've been able to go and do in one hour, and just kind of devour some weeds in a garden or something like that. It's been really amazing to just kind of go and, like, locus.

 

male student 2: Will I become a farmer because of this experience? Well, what I really respect about farming is that what farming offers us is precisely that relationship, you know it offers us some skills that we're able to use, build our communities strong and healthy again. So if that can be considered farming then that's something that I want to always carry forth with me.

 

group singing

 

JS: Today's broadcast of Deconstructing Dinner is archived online at deconstructingdinner.ca and posted under the November 26th, 2009 episode. A thanks to Linnaea Farm for hosting Deconstructing Dinner and for sharing your thoughts, music and inspiration. Thank you's go out to David Buckner and Adam Schick and students Mighk, Daveed, Sara, Corry, Leah, Jonathan, Tessa, Meg, Brenden and Kim and to all of those friendly animals we heard earlier.

 

ending theme

 

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.

 

The theme music for Deconstructing Dinner is courtesy of Nelson-area resident Adham Shaikh.

 

This radio show is provided free of charge to campus/community radio stations across the country and relies on the financial support of you the listener. Support for the program can be donated through our website at deconstructingdinner.ca or by dialing 250 352 9600.


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