All posts in category “Food Security”

  • Get growing: Find a community garden in Niagara

    My column, Eating Niagara, runs every second Wednesday in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.

    Call me a keener, but soon after the calendar changed to Jan. 1, I bought myself some squash seeds to grow in my garden this summer.

    I got a seed catalogue in the mail the week before, so I figured I had the all-clear to start planning what I’d like to do months from now with my tiny patch of earth.

    I won’t be planting those butternut or bush delicata seeds in my backyard, though. That’s the domain of a big, old silver maple casting shade over my postage stamp lot. It’s heavenly if you’re a human sitting outside on a hot July day, but not so much if you’re a tomato plant clamouring to catch some sun rays.

    Those squash, along with a handful of tomatoes, perhaps a melon, and most definitely some kale will take root in my own 10×20-foot plot behind Grantham Mennonite Church in St. Catharines instead. My tiny tract is part of a sunny swath behind the church that’s used as a community garden run by Links for Greener Learning.

    This will be my third summer as a community gardener with Links for Greener Learning, an non-profit dedicated to providing newcomers to Canada with experiential learning opportunities. Links is one of a handful of local groups running community gardens in the region. It’s currently taking applications from green thumbs who need a place to plant this year.

    Selfishly, Links fulfils my need to feel like a master gardener with every vegetable I successfully harvest. (I hoist each haul skyward like baby Simba from the Lion King and celebrate by snapping a pic.) But that community garden has given me more than fodder for Instagram and fishing hole-type stories about giant tomatoes I’ve grown.

    It’s given me one of my favourite ways to while away a lunch hour, take a break from writing or spend an evening outdoors. I get to be in the company of ambitious amateur horticulturalists who have a whole world of experience growing eggplant, tomatoes, sesame seeds, corn, herbs and leafy greens.

    It was the highlight of my summer last year to pull weeds around my peppers while my gardening neighbour from China tended to her sesame plants, the family from West Africa tied their prolific tomatoes, and a couple from the Middle East raked between fertile rows of inky black eggplant.

    We broke ground together in our fertile mosaic, and broke bread together at potlucks and other events Links held to celebrate the growing season.

    Read the rest of the story and find a community garden in Niagara.

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    Category Food Security, In the Garden

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  • Peach Tree
  • Raising a Glass to Food Literacy with Garage D’Or Ciders

    Thanks Shutterstock!

    This post was sponsored by the Greenbelt Fund. What does that mean? I was paid to write about a topic of my choosing inspired by the most recent story published in The Toronto Star related to Ontario’s Greenbelt. The ideas, interviews and writing are my own. The Greenbelt Fund fact-checked all information, including numbers and statistics, about the Greenbelt in this post before publication.

    There’s a landmark on the other side of the Welland Canal that my daughter points out every time we drive by.

    “Fruit farm!” she yells from the back seat whenever we pass the shuttered Werner’s Fruit Farm stand on Lakeshore Road.

    She wants to stop at the red plywood hut and buy peaches, plums, apricots and raspberries, just like we did every week in the summer. Enter Killjoy Mom.

    “We ate all the fruit last summer. We have to wait for more to grow,” I say.

    She got equally excited on CSA pickup days this winter at Creek Shore Farms in Port Dalhousie.

    “We go see Amanda and Ryan? They give us carrots?” she’d ask every Wednesday when I picked her up from day care.

    At nearly three, she knows the names of most of the folks at our local food stops. Olivia also loves to help me water my community garden plot, too. And she stands next to me in the kitchen, taking on the important job of stirring, or raiding the utensil draw so she can pretend to whip up something  of her own. Continue reading

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    Category Food Finds, Food Security

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  • Peach Tree
  • Meet four Niagara food entrepreneurs who want to feed you

    Small Batch Co. Granola from its early days in 2014.

    This post was sponsored by the Greenbelt Fund. What does that mean? I was paid to write about a topic of my choosing inspired by the most recent story published in The Toronto Star related to Ontario’s Greenbelt. The ideas, interviews, writing and editing are my own. The Greenbelt Fund fact-checked all information, including numbers and statistics, about the Greenbelt in this post before publication.

    There’s more to education than the three R’s.

    At Mohawk College in Hamilton, there are also the three P’s: production, preparation and procurement. They aren’t related to anything learned in a classroom. Instead, they’re all about what’s on students’ plates come lunch, and they offer a lesson about the importance of local food.

    Production teaches students about growing food. Preparation is about cooking what they grow. And procurement is about buying it, particularly food with origins close to home.

    With the help of a $100,000 grant from the Greenbelt Fund, Mohawk is leading a project to create a common model for that third P, local food procurement, for Ontario’s 24 community colleges.

    Public institutions from schools and hospitals to universities and government offices have talked for years about how they crave more local food in their cafeterias. Here at home, Brock University sources regional ingredients when it can for the daily offerings served on campus. The French fries there, which were a real weakness of mine when I worked at the university, are made with potatoes that have local roots.

    This weekend, a story in the Toronto Star talked about some of the  inroads made when it comes to getting local food into schools, and the recognition by students that cooking and eating good food grown nearby matters as much as math class.

    Offering local food doesn’t merely nourish students’ bodies. It feeds their imaginations and plants the seeds for fruitful careers in food. And Niagara, which is on the southwestern periphery of the Greenbelt, is fertile ground for such career ambitions.

    The Greenbelt is two million acres of land protected from urban sprawl.  It’s bigger than all of Prince Edward Island. That makes it one big insurance policy we’ll have some of the best farmland to continue providing us many local meals in the future. It also makes it one giant muse for people pursuing careers in food.

    Continue reading

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    Category Food Finds, Food Security

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  • Peach Tree
  • Grape Expectations: Meet fruit scout Michael Kauzlaric

    Michael Kauzlaric of the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.

    An apple a day keeps the doctor away. It also keeps fruit scout Michael Kauzlaric at work.

    Kauzlaric travels the world on behalf of the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, looking for the next big thing in fruit for farmers to grow and for everyone to eat.

    In the latest episode of Grub, he dishes on finding great fruit and determining whether we should make room for it in Canadian orchards and grocery stores. He’s got his eye on new (to these parts) varieties of apples, pears and table grapes.

    Vineland is a testing site for six new varieties of green and blue table grapes to grow locally. I sampled three when I interviewed Kauzlaric last fall. I’d invite them into my kitchen — and belly — anytime. They were lively with flavour unlike those woody orbs from faraway places.

    I also sampled different varieties of Pink Lady apples that Kauzlaric is growing at Vineland. My fingers are crossed one of them proves itself perfect for Ontario’s growing seasons. I love me a Pink Lady. I’d love her even more if she were from around here.

    Another Cut from Grub

    The previous episode of Grub is about terroir in beef, in case you missed it. Niagara chef Michael Olson and Marty Carpenter from the Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence discuss the sense of place in steak. It’s an unexpected subject for a vegetarian me, but the influence of the natural elements on flavour fascinates me. I need to do an episode on terroir in tofu some day, if only because I’m a huge fan of alliteration.

    Happy listening!

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    Category Food Finds, Food Security

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