Tag Archives: Local Food

Eartheasy – A great resource for better living

Eartheasy is a wonderful, rich and well executed site about sustainable living. It offers information, activities and ideas which help us live more simply, efficiently and with less impact on the environment. Here are some examples – have fun!
Enhance your backyard, create a fun project for the family and contribute to local wildlife conservation – develop your own Backyard Wildlife Habitat. Young children especially can learn the basics of nature appreciation through their own window into the natural world.
“This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change.” — Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008. Here are six ways we can start building a sustainable future for ourselves and the world.

Compost is the single most important supplement you can give your garden soil. Composting is a simple way to add nutrient-rich humus which fuels plant growth and restores vitality to depleted soil.

One-pot cooking used to be the exclusive domain of bachelors, campers and college students just moved away from home. Here are a few variations on the “one-pot” theme, which broaden the possibilities for creative cuisine, while maintaining the simplicity and energy savings of one-pot cooking.

The cost of clothing goes way beyond the price tag. The environment is impacted by the growing of fibers for textiles, the manufacture and distribution of clothing, and even the care and maintenance of garments. Here are some tips to help reduce the environmental costs of clothing.

The World War II home front was the most important and broadly participatory green experiment in U.S. history. Is it a model we should use today?

You can also visit the Eartheasy Shop to find products suitable for energy efficiency, water conservation, composting, gardening, food security, natural lawn care and pest control, and lighting.

Local Local Food – Guerilla Gardening

“The Age recently had an article on the emerging practice of “guerilla gardening“, taking a look at the “Gardening guerillas in our midst“. This concept seems to have steadily increased in popularity in recent years (admittedly from a very low base) as the permaculture movement’s ideas have been propagated through the community.

Unlike the usual approach taken when trying to grow food in the suburbs – converting spare land on your own property (as discussed by aeldric previously and, more recently, in Jeff Vail’s series on A Resilient Suburbia) – guerilla gardening involves cultivating any spare patch of urban land that isn’t being used for another purpose, which could provide a substantial addition to the food growing potential of suburbia.” (The Oil Drum)

The full article is linked here:

Jobs and Taxes – How going Local will get you more Jobs and Less Taxes

So now we have elections on both sides of the border. All parties in both countries will be making promises about jobs, gas prices, taxes, security, families, health care and education.

In short the deal will be I will get you more for less.

I think you can get more for less but not in the conventional way. Let’s see how a more energy and food independent PEI or your place can deliver on the idea of “More for less”.

Taxes – One of the biggest taxes we all pay are our energy bills – our oil bills. More than $300 million leaves PEI in our payments to non Island providers. What stays here are the wages of a few tanker drivers and gas station workers. This “tax” affects the poor more than the rich and buys us NOTHING. It is just a drain.

As the price of oil rises, so will this tax. Look at the heating bill of the Eastern School Board – up a million dollars in the 2008 season. I wonder what the heating bill for the Hospitals and Manors are? The money we pay as individuals and as a province on oil takes away from every thing we do. It will reduce our ability to have an education and health system, it will reduce our ability to feed our families and it will reduce our ability to go to work.

So reducing every litre of oil we use as individuals or as a province, puts more money back into our pockets.

Jobs – We are in the last stages of a work design model of centralization and bigger and bigger. With the Maple Leaf crisis we have found that ONE plant in Canada that makes most of the processed meat. With the pet food crisis, we found that one plant makes all the pet food in North America! We have said good bye to our bottler – soon there will be only one bottling plant for Canada! Will there be a Canadian car making plant left soon? How long will we have 5 banks

PEI and other places that are on the edge lose out in two ways. First of all, we are not at the centre. None of these jobs will be coming here. They can’t. Secondly, these jobs are going to disappear anyway. So long as we operate in a global market, wages will have to settle to meet the reality of a 6 billion person world. All factory wages will move to a global price.

The traditional jobs that working people had are going away and being replaced with minimum wage jobs. The few entry jobs that used to take the well educated up the ladder now take you to a dead end in a call centre.

There are no traditional good jobs coming here. They can’t so long as we stay inside the old model.

So where will be the new GOOD JOBS? The new good jobs will be local and they will be in doing things that are valuable locally not Globally. What might these be?

  • Growing local food. We grow almost none of our food locally. Like for Oil, we pay companies like National grocers and Sobey’s to supply our food. Like for oil, most of our food dollar is a “tax” that leaves the Island – only the minimum wages of the local staff remain here. Most of the income of our traditional farmers goes to their suppliers in oil and chemicals. They get left with the scraps. The interest and fees that they pay go to a financial system that sucks the money from our region. What might growing our food locally look like? It would be lots of small high intensive mini farms with large regional local farmers market where nearly all the money we spend would stay on PEI
  • Building and operating a local energy system – pellets, wind, hydro, hydrogen – and conservation will all supply jobs that have to stay here and will be paid in connection with local realities

I am sure that out of these will come another host of good local jobs. For as we ourselves become more local on PEI, work of all sorts will return to our local communities. The village store, the village school, workshops …

Health care – With a more local world, there will be less alienation and hence better health anyway. It is not access to drugs and doctors that keep us well. The more control you have in your life is the most important factor in health. With better food, the healthier we will be.

Education – With a more local world there will be less stress in family life. The single most important determinant of a child’s potential is the stability of its family life. The village that we will need to raise our kids can come back in a more local world.

Of course none of this is on any official agenda yet. I am sure that we will be offered to take it on trust that governments will lower our taxes and yet put more money into jobs etc.

What’s your take?

The Farm of the Future

When you think of “farm” – what is the picture you have in your mind? When you think of the future of farming do you see this – ever larger ever more industrial systems?

I did. I could not get out of the idea that farms have lots of acres, lots of equipment and need lots of capital. I could not get my mind around that they also came with a price.

This was the “price” that we have been asked to pay to keep the farms on PEI going.

For years many people have struggled to find another way. Many of us have protested against the current view but few or none of us had a real alternative. What I mean by “real” is one that would feed a lot of people, at a price that they can afford, make money for the farmer and also keep our natural resources in good shape.

For shouldn’t a real alternative do all those things?

Many thought that the answer was simply in going organic. But then the issue of distribution and power came back into play. If you are organic and you sell to a large supermarket, unless you have scale – they don’t want you. In the end the distributor makes all the calls and all the money.

So the answer was not all about organic either.

But I think I saw the future the other day as I chatted with my old friend Raymond Loo – a leading light in both organic farming and in selling direct in the farmers market on PEI.

Raymond has a 250 acre organic farm called Springwillow Farms. You can get a sense of it here.

He has also been a leading light selling direct at the various markets on PEI.

As we were chatting he made the following revelation. “You know Rob – I have 250 acres but I make all my money on 6!”

I asked him why this was so. “Because what I have to do I can only do on a small scale. I can’t get the quality if I go any larger. I can’t get the control I need”

6 acres sold direct provides Raymond with a good living. He is also largely immune from weather and disease threats that any large commodity operation is exposed to. This summer we have been drenched with rain. Not only are the grain and potato crops in trouble – we can’t get the large equipment that is needed to harvest onto the land because it is too soggy. In a micro farm – you have all sorts of moves.

So what may be next?

What do you think of this idea that is percolating around Raymond’s mind?

That he offer a “Micro farm package” You rent 1-6 acres from him on his land. It is already certified organic. He provides:

  • Advice
  • Equipment and Tools
  • Community
  • Access to direct markets

What might you get? A good living based on a very high ROI. For the capital required is nominal unlike other farming. The risk is much less as well.

What does PEI get? An emerging local food system based on a very low entry and risk threshold.

We get a “Real” answer. A system that would feed a lot of people, at a price that they can afford, make money for the farmer and also keep our natural resources in good shape.

We get a farm system that also consumes way less energy. Needs very litle equipment and is very close to the market.