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Posts Tagged ‘organic farming’

Sustainable Table produced the following video in 2003:

There are two more videos available on The Meatrix – Canada is mentioned in the second video (I mention this as Well Preserved is Canadian based though we are fortunate to have many loyal followers in the US and UK).  I am a junkie for all things involving The Matrix, food or Keanu Reeves.

The comments on YouTube are eye opening and remind me of how divisive and emotional the subject of food, eating animals, politics and sustainability are.  Some find it funny, others find it offensive that some find it funny, some sing it’s praises and others criticize it for making light of eating meat.  I encourage everyone to challenge everything you watch, do your research and then make the best decision possible.  Communicating with each other will tend to open eyes rather than hitting people over the head and wondering why they aren’t being persuaded.

I lived more than 5 years without eating pork or red meat, raised on and continue to hunt wild meat (both were covered more fully in the article that was my introduction to hunting as a one-time “vegetarian”), supported, withdrew and re-supported our organic system, participated in food debates and briefly helped on farms.  My views change with the more I know and the more I learn.

I worked on a pork farm for about week in the late 1980’s.  There were almost 700 pigs in residence – I was visiting a childhood friend who grew up on the farm and was excited for a vacation and time to help out.  It was a fascinating time.

The family farm had raised pigs for 30 years.  They were second-generation farmers who also raised crops and a small collection of cows.  Their cows grazed openly in fields while the pigs stayed inside for most of their lives.  There were about 30 to a pen (less as they grew).  The pigs had room to run around the pens and keeping the stalls clean was an absolute priority.  The barn was well ventilated and pigs were rotated between pens and fed sour milk (and I believe grain though memory fades).

I learned that if you took pigs in one pen and put them in another pen with more pigs that a fight would ensue as they are very territorial.  If you took both pens of pigs and put them in a previously empty pen, everyone would get along.  I saw the sadness when a trusted sow passed and learned the commitment to cleanliness when my friend had to wade into the septic system (up to his chest) to unplug it so that the pens would not get clogged with manure.  It was clear that this was a priority and could not wait until after breakfast.

I was also there when the pigs were loaded into a truck and off to the abattoir.  It was a bittersweet moment of the completion of a cycle with the reality of what was ahead.

I’ve recently thought that it would be neat to go back and visit and examine with my new eyes just how good or how poor the pigs had it here.  They certainly didn’t have the run of the yard that is offered by family organic farms but they weren’t locked down under Marshall law and have visited other farms which have been much worse.

My theory these days?  Cooking food that was made (or raised) by people you know, including yourself, tastes better.  Get to know a farmer and their farms – a remarkably easy thing to do, especially in cities these days.

If you have a twitter account, you can follow Sustainable Table here.  If not, would love to hear everyones thoughts on the Meatrix – as long as we don’t beat each other up 🙂

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Urban Homesteaders?  That’s what the Dervaes family (of Pasadena, California) calls themselves as they challenge the rest of us to try to live a 100 FOOT diet.  They run an urban farm on one-fifth of an acre (to put that in perspective, if their lot was square it would measure approximately 93 feet at each side).  They grow enough food for themselves as well as supplying some of the local community around them.

Watch the following 2-minute video from 2006 to get an idea of what they have been up to since 2001:

The project goes far beyond growing food and is a journey into self-sustainability.  They grow their own food, harness their own energy, produce their own wine, share educational info and share their journey.  Check out their journal for a glimpse of their urban farm and the bounty so far this summer.

It’s an interesting site and certainly offers a challenge to each of us to consider.  Cheers to them and fascinating stuff!

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This article is indeed about local food and a local group of farmers.  The photo`s are local though not from those mentioned.  We met Mark at a dinner featuring his food and did not have access to the whole product to snap some shots.  That will change in the future… 🙂

I feel so lucky for so many things – the most valuable being the fortune of great people in my life.  Dana and I have a bounty of wonderful friends and family and our time with them is our favorite treasure.

The term “friend” is near sacred to me – it is reserved for people with whom I share a special bond that cannot be quantified (nor qualified).  Some of my friendships are based on history, others on present, many on mutual respect and love, some on mutual interests and some are rooted in the soil of many good laughs and shared adventures.  There’s not one specific thing that friendship is to me – I cannot tell you what the difference is between a friend and an acquaintance but I will insist that there is a definitive difference and it’s simply something that I know when I see.

Recent weeks have brought many new people in to our lives – people I think will become friends.  It’s an odd occurrence to me at almost 36 years old that we are meeting so many fascinating people that have potential to form solid bonds over the test of time.  Recent events in the family (a wedding planned and executed in 30 days) and the commitment to this blog have brought a lot of people into our lives.  Some were met over meals and drinks to celebrate the union of two families, others were met as we explore the local food community around us more intensely than we have in the past.  Well Preserved has given us the push to meet more people and a reason to strike a meaningful conversation with them.

Our recent introductions have been wildly diverse.  Travel the world for 6 years studying how to make wine from the world’s best?  Preserve hundreds of bottles of “stuff” every year for fun?  Quit your secure job for a year to try to produce a movie?  Buy a farm with a graveyard to grow your own wine?  Join a Ukulele Troupe for kicks and giggles?  These are just some of the examples of the wonderful madness which has entered our lives in recent weeks.  Passionate, engaged, excited and willing to share is a common element of all of these people.

The above is a long way of introducing our next two posts (Norman Hardie tomorrow, Mark Trealout today).  Both appeared as guests of honour at the Farmer and Wine Maker Dinner that we gushed about at Gilead.

It takes a special kind of someone to be a farmer in Canada.  It takes an entirely different kind of special (and I truly mean that in the most respectful way) to decide to resurrect a forgotten piece of land which laid dormant for about 20 years.  There’s a third category for those who did not grow up on a farm trying it cold.  This is the story of Mark (and his family).

Mark had studied cooking, travelled west and his eyes were opened to unique foods not common to the local mass supermarket.  Excited by the adventure, tastes and purity of the food a small dream was formed that would reap a real harvest in years to come.  Mark started his organic farm about 6 years ago with the permission of his Father-in-Law who closed a strawberry and raspberry farm on the family property many years previous.  His family and new friends are instrumental in providing wisdom, tips and support to make the farm come to life.

The small family farm includes a catfish pond, a small amount of poultry, pork and local produce – domestic and wild.  It`s been a strong year for fiddleheads and he shared food I didn`t realize I could eat (cattail and stinging nettle as examples).  We are surrounded by food and so many of us (including yours truly), have lost the ability to recognize the bounty hiding in plain site in front of us.

It`s a hard go and their sacrifice is great.  They bought his first tractor two years ago – the first 4 years of the organic farm was entirely worked by hand.  Mark freely shares his unbelievable knowledge and even greater passion for making it work.  He tells stories of the men and women who, like him, are trying to make a difference.

I met Mark after a long day of driving a few hours to Toronto, dropping orders off at local customers, working a Toronto farmers market and then off to dinner representing Kawartha Ecological Growers.  The group is home to more than 20 family farms and represents many of his cohorts int he local Amish community.  They are pioneers of a different time – when the rest of us are moving so fast, willing to consume chemicals and ethically oblivious food sources, they are insisting on a better way and committing to making that happen.

The odds are stacked against them.  Beyond the climate of Canada, we are competing in a global market where price seems to mean more than quality.  I remember meeting a young farmer in St Jacob`s who could not understand how garlic can be shipped from Asia cheaper than he can grow it by hand and yet it sits there on the shelf, thousands of miles from it`s origin.  To put this in perspective, we started growing our own garlic last year by dropping a few cloves in the ground and covering them.  We have not done a thing since and their shoots are alive and healthy.  How much labor must one save (and HOW) in order to be cheaper after shipping it across the world?

There are victories though – weekly drives to farmers markets and restaurants insisting on quality ingredients (Jamie Kennedy, The Drake Hotel, The Gladstone Hotel, Table 17, Chez Victor, Starfish and Vertical Restaurant are locals who support the organization).  People are also growing wiser about their food choices and recognizing when `local farmers`are not necessarily what they seem (local lemons for sale in January and a sign for local fresh lobster are examples of questionable claims we`ve encountered).

You can participate as well.  The full details are on their site – click on the Community Shared Agriculture link here.  Weekly baskets of food are provided on a share-plan (with pickups in Toronto, Oshawa, Lindsay and more).  For $25 a week (or $35 for enough to share with 3-4 people), you can receive a weekly basket at a local pickup for 23 weeks.  KEG offers a great arrangement in that you are stocked with a `base` selection of weekly goods and receive credits to immediately customize the rest of your basket.

If you live close enough to pick up a weekly shipment, jump on board and support.  If not, look for them (and others like them) at your local farmers market.

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