Category Archives: Farmland Conservation

Prophetess of the soil

“In this handful of soil is your future.”

  • Thus spake Vandana Shiva, 14 July 2016, Indian Summer Festival

In this troubled time of brutality, inequality, political corruption and injustice, I’ve been swallowing the bitter pill of disillusionment as GMO labelling was undone today in the US Congress.  Another blow to democracy where over 90 percent of Americans want to know what’s in their food.

The silver lining is that my spirits were bolstered by being in the presence of the great Vandana Shiva: eco-prophetess, woman warrior, seed saviour.

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She overflowed the church tonight, sitting in an armchair decked out in a gorgeous sari.  She effortlessly hurled one pearl of wisdom after the other.  She was like Kali-Saraswati-Durga Devi. Her pronouncements were interrupted several times with ovations.  It’s intense stuff.  Life and death, suicides, oppression, the history of the industrial agricultural movement with its violent roots in the machines of war… Here is a sample of one-liners I scribbled down on the back of my e ticket (folded into quadrants.  I hope I got these right):

  • “We are pro-Earth, not anti-GM”
  • “The real problem is the war against the Earth.  You take care of the Earth, the rest just happens”
  • “The seed is a self-organised auto-poetic system. Not a machine”
  • “It’s anti-science to not know how nature works”

I could go on and on but I think lists are boring.  Better for someone to take these one-liners and make convenient facebook memes….?

Afterwards, powerhouse Elizabeth May joined Dr Shiva in conversation and my fave line from her was “Foodie is a radical concept that people want to eat food that actually tastes good.”  May also urges us to stand up for the Peace River, against Site C Dam (which is primarily to enable fracking) and support the last-stand family farmers who refuse to leave their homes in the best farmland in BC.  The Peace River protests are all about food security.  Let’s join them.

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Dr Shiva’s premise is that we are at a fork in the road: on one hand is total obliteration, a warlike worshipping of killing (bugs, pests, “weeds”) under the guise of progress/science.  On the other hand is peace and prosperity.  Once we replenish the soil and respect the integrity of the seed and all that nature has to teach us, we will be able to solve many social problems from water supply to displacement of peoples.  Her case is compelling.  She’s written more than 20 books on these subjects.  Nine honorary degrees…

Although we have so much fighting against nature and the sustainable food movement – the huge lobby dollars, the subsidies, the bought scientists, the paid-for trolls and smear-ers… despite everything they throw at us to convince of their flawed paradigm… we aren’t buying it. Organics is growing. Yugely.

Smile. Go ahead. Yes, you see through the elaborate deceptions.  And your eyes are open and the future is pregnant with possibilty.

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Now, since it’s getting late, I’ll end with a positive quote by Dr Shiva.

“We can seed another future because we can live with peace with all the creatures on the Earth.”

Amen.

 

Isha’s Frustration

Isha is my seven-year old hellion.

Once she realized that GMOs caused cancers in rats, she wasn’t having them.  See my post Isha’s Epiphany https://thedeepersideblog.com/2013/09/16/ishas-epiphany-2/

However, Isha is exploring the depth of conflicting emotions.  Wanting something that is harmful.  Because it tastes good.  And she’s taking it out on me.  Like today.  She picked up a handful of individually wrapped mints at Harbour Air’s counter.  They are in a bowl for the taking.  I think she grabbed as many as she could stuff in her little fist.  I was busy checking in and I didn’t see her although I did notice that she was eyeing them.

While on the float plane, she banged me on my back (I was in the seat in front of her).  It was noisy on the twin engine 15 seater plane; I was wearing my earplugs.  I had to take out said earplugs to understand.  She also had to take out her earplugs.  She yelled over the noise of the engine, could she eat the mint?  I was kind of impressed that she would ask me.  But I was annoyed at the same time.  Because she knows what my answer would be.  Man it’s hard for this mother to be patient.  I shrugged and made a face indicating my position on the matter.  I told her that it was up to her.  She pretended not to understand  She tapped on my back and asked me again. She knew instinctively it was wrong for her body to eat the candy.  But she asked me over and over.  Finally I spelled it out for her “Look Isha,” I said with a modicum of exasperation,  “You know that the sugar isn’t organic.  You know that it’s bad for you.  That the sugar rots your teeth. You know that the sugar has GMOs.  You know that GMOs cause cancer.  If you want to eat it, you should know better.  Why are you asking me?”

She growled at me and threw that candy at my head.

And immediately hid her face in shame, in frustration.

“You made me feel bad,” she sobbed.

I leaned across the awkward tight space (any of you ever flown in a full Twin Otter?) and rubbed her back til she calmed down.

It’s not my fault that GMOs are allowed here in Canada, unlabelled.  It’s not her fault.  It’s not the fault of Harbour Air who are offering slow-acting poisons.  Gleefully and proudly.  How should they know differently?  Poor Isha.  Poor moms.  How can anyone know what they’re eating if it’s not labelled?  It’s not fair.
girl guides

Girl guides petitions cookie makers to remove GMOs from their ingredients.  Sign it here!

http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/girl-guides-of-canada-take-all-gmo-ingredients-out-of-girl-guide-cookies

The same corporations who oppose labelling here in N. America were forced to label in 64 other countries including Europe China and Russia.  They are blocking efforts in Washington State as I write this.  Biotech companies and the Grocery Manufacturers Association have put in over 17 million dollars to block GMO labelling.  This is the most amount of money ever poured into a political campaign by out of state corporations.  They are trying to drown out the truth with deceptive and false advertising.  They won’t.

Because the truth is spreading like wildfire.  Mexico just yesterday banned GMO corn!   It’s just a matter of time til everybody understands that GMOs are untested, use more pesticides and herbicides, are outperformed in the long-run by organic, and are unethical.

To contribute to Washington’s YES on 522 campaign to label GMOs – who can oppose the right to know – apart from unethical corporations?  The vote is November 5th.  Visit http://yeson522.com There are many ways you can contribute!

BC GE FREE PASSED BY UBCM

This morning, in an unprecedented step, the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), at their Annual General Meeting in Vancouver, passed a resolution “that UBCM ask the British Columbia government to legislate the prohibition of importing, exporting and growing plants and seeds containing genetically engineered DNA, and raising GE animals within BC, and to declare, through legislation, that BC is a GE Free area in respect to all plant and animal species.”

Dag Falck, the Expert, Replies

As the saying goes, let other people advise but never let them decide for you.

Yesterday, while gathering signatures for the GE FREE BC Petition, I met a working scientist with 3 biology degrees including a PhD, who only bought organic local food and was carrying his precious sleeping baby in a baby bjorn.  Guess what?  He was reluctant to sign the petition.  He knows the data about fertilizers creating a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the data about glyphosate toxins in fetal blood, the poisoning of water by atrazine, the death of bees by GMOs since the seeds are coated in neonictinoid pesticides.  He knows that and accepts that but was still unwilling to sign.  The GMOs we accept and grow right now in N. America – not the theory of them, not the hope of them, not the promise of them – are terribly catastrophically wrong for our planet, bees, health and society.    This scientist holding his baby said that he was holding out for the possibility that GE technology was in theory helpful (for Africans, Asians, for a remote possibility that they would solve future problems).  Again, we said that GMOS that are grown right now were not solving anything especially given that over the long-run organic yields are higher that GMOs!  He hummed and hawed.

But Victory!  After a 10 minute debate – we convinced him to sign.  It was the hardest-earned signature from yesterday!

I wanted to formally address Amy’s reply from yesterday.  Not only Amy brought this up but several others too – Amy is a political scientist.  She asked important questions that were also asked by thinkers and scholars, University Professors who are using their powerful logic and splendid gifts of deduction to understand GMOs (as they are currently grown in N.America for N. Americans).  I asked Dag Falk, Organic programs manager at Nature’s Path if he would respond to questions several of you asked me following the film screening about Organic.  He has spent his entire life advocating for organic methods. He answers Amy’s questions point by point.

Dag Falck, Organic Programs Manager, Nature's Path Foods

Dag Falck, Organic Programs Manager, Nature’s Path Foods

do you know for sure that certified organic does not include GMO? What about GMOs in grain that found its way into the food chain — feed that is given to cows/pigs/chickens?

What we know for sure is that Organic does not contain any GMO that was knowingly allowed to enter the product either through growing or handling.  Unfortunately we live in a polluted world where these pollutants in the last 17 years have started to include GMOs.  Imagine whale fat containing DDT which was banned in most developed countries decades ago?  So there is no safe place, there is no way to build a wall tall enough, As Arran Stephens said many years ago, “there is no wall tall enough to keep out GMO”.  We are all very sad that this is the case, and after we grieve for this most terrible and unforgivable fact, we need to shake our heads and take a hard look around and ask ourselves, what is the best protection I can give myself and my family from GMOs?  And the answer is that certified organic food, and food with credible standards and oversight like the Non GMO Project, are the best ways to do that.  Is it perfect? — no, but it’s the best there is, and let me tell you exactly how much better it is than conventional non organic food, or food where no effort has gone into protecting it.  Organic food production has strict rules about not using prohibited materials like pesticides, herbicides GMOs etc. ect.  Buffers are required towards any neighboring crop that uses any of these.  Harvesting equipment, silos, trucks etc used to handle crops must be either used exclusively for organic, or it must be cleaned and documented according to a very high standard.

Can contamination still happen?  Yes it can, and there is pesticides in millions of public wells in America, groundwater is polluted many places, rainwater contains industrial particles that fall out in rain.  It just simply cannot be avoided 100%, even if we really really want to.  But what organic does do is two things: A) it does not add any more to the pollution, because its forbidden to use any of the materials that pollute like pesticides, herbicides, GMO’s etc.  B) the contamination of organic products is miniscule compared to conventional crops.  Consider potatoes, sprayed routinely 12 times between planting and harvest, consider GMO corn or soy that is “stacked” and contain both BT toxin (a pesticide) in each cell of the plant including the corn and soy we eat, and Round Up Ready®, which means that every cell of the plant including what we eat is impervious to the pesticide Round Up ® or Glyphosate.  And it’s not just a little bit, it’s 100% present in entire fields- as a matter of fact it’s in 100% of over 80% of all cotton, corn, soy, canola and sugarbeet that is grown in North America.

If you’re not paying attention, it’s a foregone conclusion that each and every meal you eat contains large portions of 100% GMO ingredients.  The EU, and the Non GMO Project agrees on a threshold of 0.9% GMO contamination.  Anything above that is not allowed.  Organic foods don’t have the threshold, but attain a similar level through all the practices mentioned above.  It’s actually pretty good that we can limit our exposure by 99.1% just by choosing organic.

But I agree, it’s a crime and a terribly sad world to live in where there is no way to escape even this.  That’s why (besides eating organic) that I’m doing everything I can to set this straight,.

On a practical point, organic standards prohibit feeding animals anything that is GMO, so the only thing that could get into an animal feed would be unwanted contamination at the low levels mentioned.

 How can organic farmers be sure the food scraps they feed their chickens and the like are GMO free? 

Organic standards do not allow food scraps or anything else to be fed to certified organic animals unless it can be demonstrated and documented that the feed is not GMO.  So for instance a bakery could not have their waste used by an organic farmer as feed if the bakery used non certified organic corn soy or Canola oil at all.

How about GMO contaminated soil (from household composing) in which otherwise perfectly organic tomatoes would be grown in peoples backyards?

Organic standards do not allow composting of GMO substrates, and neither should any backyard gardener who is concerned about organic and non GMO.

It’s difficult to fight back, and to do everything to protect ourselves from GMO and pesticide pollution, but it is possible to make a huge difference, and one of the easiest ways is to support organic agriculture, the only system with a strict standard, an annual third party inspection, and a serious fine for fraud (people are in jail right now for breaking the organic rules).  Also this is a repeatable system than anyone can learn, and it leaves the soil more fertile after use than before.

Sometimes it’s tempting to complain about that which we love the most, because we are so disappointed that it’s not perfect.  Think of how much we often expect of our spouses, or children.  They already are the most beautiful creatures to us, but when they slip up (in our eyes) even a little bit, we can’t help but notice, and heaven forbid we sometimes open our mouth and say something….  (don’t try this at home…)

It’s precisely because we love them, and we want them to be perfect to help us feel like we are protected by them also, that we hold them to such a high standard.  A stranger walking down the street, we don’t have very high standards for at all.

Let’s curb our tongues with our loved ones when we get disappointed or scared when we feel that they fall an ¼ inch below our standard, and lets curb our tongues when we want to cry that even organic isn’t able to protect us 100.0%.  We all know what the right thing to do is; support your loved ones, share your love for them, with them, and they will become more of what you love.  Support organic, it will do more to save  the world than any other single thing you could possibly do.  And love an organic farmer!

Organically,

Dag Falck

The Low Down and Dirty – Chef Survival Challenge 2013

It was my first Chef Survival Challenge.  It was a hot day of watching Chefs alongside Firefighters get sweaty and dirty and labour and fight and cook for farmland conservation.

Let me set the stage with four time Juno award winner Lester Quitzau who played amazing guitar.  Riffs and moods and skills.  Big up respect.  Wow.

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Adam Olsen, of the Tsartlip First Nation and interim leader of the BC Greens gave a welcome and blessing honouring the land.  He spoke eloquently about the importance of local farms.

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Lovely Lola and Corey Francis sang a couple of songs in Lola’s stage debut. DSC_0516

Proud mamma Nathalie below.DSC_0520Then the Chefs and Fire-fighters were presented as contestants. In past years it was just chefs but this year the brawn was supplemented.  Plus the local fire-fighters were honoured for…being heroes. In the photo below Madrona Farm’s Nathalie and Dave Chambers point out the obstacles to be overcome in the photo below.  Nathalie and Dave are also heroes.  They got 3000 people chip in and they donated their family farm to a land trust.  How many folks do you know do that?  They wanted their farm to be preserved forever and given to the community after their turn.  Nathalie and Dave show how it can be done on Madrona Farm.  It’s Nathalie’s dream for all farmland to be owned by the community.  The Chef Survival Challenge is about raising funds for communities to purchase farmland (Big Dream Farm-fund) and farm it sustainably.  No GMOs or pesticides, herbicide toxins.  Farmland to be preserved in perpetuity for the community via land trusts.

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The Chefs and Firefighters started the obstacle course with the sack race…DSC_0530

They soon got muddied in the mud pit….

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And then had to crawl under nigh-impossible obstacles while being hosed by malicious gremlins.  (Children).

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Look at the metal pipes.  They are heavy.  Look at them being displaced.

Now look at the lower left corner.  Are you squirming?DSC_0545

From down low and dirty to up high and mighty.

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After the chefs were exhausted, tired, and cotto (means cooked in Italian)… they had to cook up a storm.  The firefighters proving their might, stood around and looked strong.  There was a live auction which raised $100 for an individual to be carried by a firefighter across the mud hole.  Sadly I didn’t get a picture of that but suffice it to say that it was hot.  Okay.  The firefighter took off his shirt.  And he was ripped.  Did I mention that it was hot?

I sang Grandpa Rupert’s Song “This Earth is Ours” along with pianist Lisa Olive.  Lisa is an amazing talent, a little technically challenged with a non-fully functioning  half-length keyboard.  Despite said technical difficulties and false starts when Colin the sound guy ran up to the stage waving for us to stop and support from Lester Quitzau himself, Lisa played with the flair of Chopin.

The victuals were beautifully, locally sourced.  The CRD was there with their water truck eliminating the need for single-use plastic bottles (KUDOS).  Here is the line up for the food.  Well worth the wait. Lots of vegetarian and vegan food I’m pleased to report.

Dessert: berry crumble!DSC_0556

Below, pianist Lisa Olive and I display our GMO OMG tees (organic cotton). But of course! What else would you want to wear to an event honouring the food that comes from the Earth (actually it was so hot that I wanted to go au naturel and bask like a pig in that mud hole)

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I met Kelsey from Innotech Nutrition with his ‘bro’.  Out from from Winnipeg for a few days, he came to Chef Survival Challenge coz he heard that this was the best partay happening in Victoria.  Dude got that right!

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Andrew Weaver spoke below, introduced by Lester Quitzau (sorry for quality of the photo). Andrew mentioned how his kids got him a playmobil farm set since he loves farms that much.  We love that he loves farms.  Hmmm.  I wonder if he has a Green thumb?

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Chefs cook-cook-cooking away on camping gear.  Don’t let that fool you for a minute!

This was big-up gourmet: Note the care with which the marshmallow was roasted.

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This Chef below was a speedy gonzales, beating the fire fighters in the obstacle course and doing cirque du soliel moves on the zipline.  He won for best costume (Note to self, get him for Style-Diet Shot).  (Anyone please tell me the chefs’ names so I can credit them?)DSC_0580

The chefs auctioned off gourmet meals to the highest bidders.

Sadly I couldn’t stay longer.  As I left the burlap sacks in the dust, the music on hiatus, happy community bonding underway with an auction frenzy…. I noted that the mud hole was being well-utilized.

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 Every adult was holding the leash tight on their inner child.

Fighting the urge to get really super dirty.

(Did I mention that it was hot?)

Chef Survival Challenge

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

– JRR Tolkien

Today is Victoria’s Chef Survival Challenge! Billed as a cross between Iron Chef and Tough Mudder, it promises to be a downright hoot.  http://chefsurvivalchallenge.com/index.html

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The ties that draw back to community, that revolve around locally grown food are amazingly ritualistic and atavistic.  Like dancing around a fire, it’s primal to delight in the offerings nature provides. We lived in Italy for 6 years in the hills of Tuscany and Florence. When we first arrived, we were curious about several signs regularly posted throughout the year like “Sagra del Chianina” “Sagra del porchetta”, “Sagra del vino chianti.”  What on Earth were these Sagra all about?  Sagra comes from the religious connotation of feast or celebration. It has been diluted to mean festival, feast. Sagra di Fungi Porcini was a common one. The Sagra brings community together in an informal celebration of local food.

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We attended several of the Italian Sagra over the years.  Sometimes a band would play, but mostly they are a stuff-your-face event.  (In case you were wondering- No pie or porcini-eating contests – the Italians are much too elegant for that)

Chef Survival Challenge in Victoria is a tradition similar to the Sagra but more entertaining.  There will be obstacle courses, a cooking competition by local top chefs, food foraging by said local top chefs who pick food that they cook.  Local celebrities will attended.  Andrew Weaver is scheduled to speak.  I have been asked to sing This Earth is Mine!  The vegetables fruits, berries and mushrooms from Madrona farm are sustainably grown; Nathalie is a passionate advocate for Bees and Biodiversity.  This event is to support Nathalie’s Chamber’s Big Dream Farm Fund and Farmland Conservation.  I can’t think of a worthier cause to support – whilst having fun – I’ve been looking forward to this for months!

I will report back after the next Style-Diet Shot.

Big Dream Farm Fund

Dream Big.

Nathalie Chambers is an infectiously positive person.  She is the only person I know of who has raised 2.7 million dollars in order to save her family farm and then turned around and gifted that farm to the  community via a Land trust.  What a bright, shining example of glorious possibilities.  Thanks to Nathalie, this land will belong to the community.  Forever.  Food security is a pressing problem.  Here is how Nathalie described it to me “Imagine the world as an apple, take 3/4 of that away for the oceans.  We’re left now with 1/4 of that apple.  That’s land.  Now take the thin little peel on this remaining quarter slice of apple.  This piece of peel is how much land we have for agriculture”.

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Nathalie Chambers at Madrona Farm. She farms sustainably with her husband Dave. Most concerned about preserving and enhancing biodiversity, Dave has engineered a light plough a couple inches shorter than standard so that it doesn’t disturb the local bees who hibernate in the ground over winter. Nathalie has studied the trees on her farm and has found out that they enhance biodiversity since that’s where the pollinators thrive.

When we lived in England, we joined the National Trust.  This is a beautiful system by which the people collectively buy and protect historical sites, land and wildlife.  People give as much as they can afford.  It’s a delightfully democratic system with integrity.  The British have much to protect.  I think that Canada, given our sheer size, has way more.

Inspired by the UK Trust, Nathalie has a similar vision for Canada – and the World!- called the Big Dream Farm Fund. http://chefsurvivalchallenge.com/the_big_dream_farm_fund.html  Last night she unveiled her new National Vision tonight at the Vista 18 restaurant at the Chateaux Victoria.  So many people would love to farm but can’t afford to buy the land.  If the community can unite to protect and own the land, then farming can be accessible to those who want to.  Nathalie and her husband Dave are a fine example demonstrating that it’s possible to make a living farming sustainably.

What if every Canadian contributed just 10 dollars to preserving farmland – our glorious patrimony?   Owning our farmland collectively, protecting it from land-grabbing speculators and big biotech companies who want to poison the soils and water with GMO Biofuel production (which is unsustainable, taking far more energy to produce that what it yields) or GMO food production which is highly unsustainable and scary in it’s misled monocrop vision.  Monsanto claims to be feeding the world.  What they don’t tell you is that 70% of GMOs are not intended for human consumption!  Feeding the world, as they say over and over again – Bah Humbug.  They’ve said it so many times that people believe them.  Believe me -the Emperor is naked.

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Chefs running an obstacle course at the 2009 Chef Survival Challenge at Madrona Farm. The Challenge both builds community and raises funds for farmland conservation.

By committing to preserve farmland for sustainable agriculture, we can enhance our biodiversity, keep our water and soils pure and help supply the ever-increasing demand for organic foods (Organic means GMO free.  Organic has never allowed GMOs).  Nathalie has two upcoming events in September called the “Chef Survival Challenge” which brings together local chefs and local farms.  Well-known chefs race and swim and do all sorts of difficult and goofy obstacles before getting to pick their veggies and cook them into a 3 star dish which is judged.  The winning chef becomes the year’s Golden Broccoli winner.   Applause please.  Funds raised from this fabulous community affair go right into the Big Dream Farm Fund.   Raucous cheering!

I will post more about this.  Til then I’ll leave you with a farmer’s anthem written by my Grandpa Rupert in the 1950s.  I can’t talk much about farming without thinking of my gentle, song-writing Grandpa Rupert, an organic berry farmer at Goldstream Berry Paradise.  He loved the Earth and said, “Always leave the soil better than you found it”