Showing posts with label Cultivating Communities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cultivating Communities. Show all posts

Sunday, February 17, 2013

India's Rice (Potato and Wheat) Revolution

John Vidal - The Guardian
Organic Canadian potatoes. PLT photo
In a village in India's poorest state, Bihar, farmers are growing world record amounts of rice, potatoes and wheat with no GM, and no herbicide. Is this one solution to world food shortages? Details here.

PLT: These breakthroughs need to be shouted from the rooftops. Do North American farmers even know about this? Here in my home province of Manitoba, Canada, commercial potato-growers spray their crops up to 5 times a season with potent fungicides. How healthy is that? Excellent story, John!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Opening Farm Gates Will Dispel Nostalgia

By: Laura Rance - Wpg. Free Preee - 18/09/10

Farmers have for years tried to reach out…

photos by l.p.

To visit one farm which took part in the "Open Farm" project on Sunday, click here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

City Slickers and Country Folk Alike Take Part in "Open Farm" Day

Wagons West:
One of the 35 farms in the province who agreed to host this event which took place on Sunday, Sept. 19th.


A visitor enjoys the horses at Wagons West. 
"Wagon's West" is a secluded spot northeast of Roblin. Leroy and Debbie Wandler raise and sell saddle horses, offer hay rides, weiner roasts, fishing and hunting expeditions in summer, along with sleigh rides & snowmobiling in the winter.

Open Farm Day was promoted as "an opportunity to learn more about farm products, see demonstrations, take walking tours and ask questions about farm life, buy local products direct from the farmer and enjoy some recreational activities with your family. Agritourism connects the public directly with farmers, ranchers and market gardeners for hands- on agriculture experiences and farm-fresh products."
As Leroy watches (r.), Coltin and "Sir" take another guest (me) for a ride.

(Left and below) Leroy guides
guests on a "slow tour."


Debbie desribes her operation while Adam and Lane (on "Winter") look on.

To reads Laura Rance's perspective on "Open Farm" day, just click here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Federal Funding for Farmers' Markets

Winnipeg Free Press - By: Staff Writer - 28/11/2009

The federal government will spend...

(l.p. photo)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Another Succesful Harvest Moon Festival - but is Bigger Always Better?

Reminding Manitobans of the Value of the Land -
by Larry Powell

This year, more people than ever descended on Clearwater, not far from the US border, transforming the tiny community into a teeming centre of live entertainment and education.

It was the 8th annual event of its kind, during the weekend of Sept. 18th.

While attendance figures aren't available, an organizer, Robert Guildford, (r.) told me, the first day was the biggest Friday ever for the festival.

The yearly event is organized by the Harvest Moon Society, a non-profit organization. Its mission is to build awareness of the contributions of farmers and farmlands to the development of vibrant rural and urban cultures.

A father enjoys the
music with his child.
An important component is education.
The Society conducts classes and workshops out of the old Clearwater School on topics such as eco-agriculture. It also hopes to develop an action plan for long-term rural sustainability, both environmental and economic. Part of the plan includes value-added processing & direct marketing to generate income for all participating community members.

The outdoor market.

(All photos by l.p.)
This would be done through ventures such as a flax and hemp seed plant, a flour mill and a local producer co-op to grow switch grass for alternative energy.

But is Bigger Always Better?

Our overall experience at the Festival was decidedly positive. However, the age-old question still needs to be asked again.
Is bigger always better?

If an attendance of, say 500 is good, is one thousand twice as good?
Let's all hope that the event (organized ironically by folks who embrace small farms as opposed to "industrial agri-biz,") does not become a victim of its own success!
I am reproducing, below, an email exchange between myself and a festival official soon after it ended. l.p.
-------Original Message-------
From: lpowell
Date: 20/09/2009 5:17:23 PM
Subject: FestivalSecurity

Hi Celia.

We attended the festival Sat. afternoon & thoroughly enjoyed it. As organic producers, we appreciate the message and idea behind the event. You have come a long way and deserve a lot of credit.

However, our experience in the quiet campground that night was somewhat different. About 4 in the morning, a group of loud partiers set up shop near the entrance.

At one point, a vehicle screeched at high speed past our tent. After some time of loud partying & amplified music, with no sign of a letup, we packed up our tent & left. We went back to the main entrance on our way out but there was no sign of any security.

While it is good to see your event grow in popularity to the point it has, it would seem your security may also need to be stepped up accordingly. (Perhaps the inclusion of a 'phone number for security on your program would be helpful.)

Thanks and and continued success in the future.


Larry & Rowena Powell
Hello Larry and Rowena,
I am so sorry this happened to you.
I want to thank you for letting us know, and we will factor this into next years festival planning for sure.
Thanks for coming to the festival, and I hope this does not prevent you from joining us again.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Thanks to all who turned out to support our "Earth Day Too," end-of-season farmers market and celebration in Roblin, Manitoba, Canada on Labour Day weekend!

While the crowds were perhaps not all we had hoped for, those who did attend clearly appreciated the produce, crafts, information, tea party put on by our host, the Life & Art Centre, and the live music.

Enthusiasts of local food production and marketing and the so-called "eat local" movement are well aware that many in our community grow their own gardens and share their bounty, free-of-charge, with their friends and neighbours। This is a time-honoured tradition and is as it should be.
It is a culture that is well-entrenched and understandable, given the convenience factor.
Come to think of it, this practise surely is as central to the "eat local" movement as any other element - another pillar in a structure we know as "food security."

The consumers we are "targeting" are the ones who continues to buy exotic produce in the store, when the same is available locally!
We propose to help you break that habit by making local food equally "convenient" to attain.
You can read all about my pitch in support of eating local, below.
Just scroll down to "Earth Day Too Returns."
It should be mentioned also that there is no attempt here to put our local food retailers out of business!
We believe that more shelf-space dedicated to local food in these outlets is the way of the future.
Our biggest challenge now is to attract more producers, since the demand for local food, at least in urban centres, is exploding, beyond our capacity to keep up.
My next appeal would be to those who might be interested in organizing similar events in future years.
Help is urgently needed.
Once again, thanks to all who made our event a success, including customers, vendors, organizers performers, the Art Centre and the Manitoba Food Charter.
You are appreciated!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Tired of wooden tomatoes from Mexico?
Tasteless strawberries from California?
Potatoes from Texas or apples from Australia?
(All of which grow quite nicely here on our Canadian prairies, thanks very much!)
What's wrong with this picture?
Wouldn't it be better on so many levels to buy your veggies or baking, or preserves, or meat,for that matter, from a local producer rather than some faceless corporation in the supermarket?Obviously this is not always possible in the "off-season."But how about when these items are at their best,right in your own community?Does common sense not tell us;
a) local food would be fresher,safer, better-tasting and even healthier;
b) we'd save a lot in transportation costs;
c) this would be kinder to the environment (avoiding all the harmful
greenhouse gases produced when our food is trucked over long distances);
d) we'd boost the economic health of those local producers?
Keep reading and find out what folks in the Roblin area of western Manitoba are doing to correct this unsustainable situation.

The "eat -local" movement in the Roblin area of western Manitoba will get another boost at a special event this fall!
Local Food Producers, the Roblin Life &
Art Centre, and the Manitoba Food Charter present:
(sometimes called "Earth Day Too")
August 30, 10 am. - 4 p.m.Life & Art Centre - 3rd Ave NW & Hwy 5, Roblin MB.
Join us as we celebrate local food, life, and art in
partnership with the 100th anniversary of the Life
& Art Centre building.

.Tea Party

Contact Larry (204) 937-3055 or Tamela 937-8016 for
(Scroll way down to see what our "eat-local" movement did last year.)
Also, watch this video for an excellent summary of this subject from the
Worldwatch Insitute.


See the postings immediately below for more details.


Visitors arrive at Kate and Doug Storey's Poplar Glen Organic farm near Grandview, MB.
Kate (far r.) shows her guests some of the livestock.
In addition to pork, the Storeys will have their free-range eggs for sale at the market, too!

Tamela Friesen (l.with straw hat) and partner Karen Hardy (r. pic.);(AKA,the "Famous Bicycling Chicks.")

They sell all kinds of fresh veggies and preserves.
(They also operate a bed and breakfast just north of Roblin.)
Rowena and Larry Powell operate a vegetable market garden on a 6-acre parcel they call Earthkeeper Farm. It’s less than 20 kilometers northwest of Roblin.
For five years, their produce was certified organic through the Organic Producers’ Association of Manitoba.
While they no longer have their crops officially certified, their growing methods remain the same.
“We grow organically because we believe in it,” says Larry. “I think far too many chemicals are used on our food crops these days. We somehow have to find a way of 'getting our farms off drugs'and going organic!"
The Powells have marketed much of their produce at farmers’ markets in Winnipeg.
“It’s a long way to go,” Larry adds, “but that is where we had to go to find a ‘critical mass’ of people interested in organics.
“Eventually, I’m sure the market for organics, specifically, will grow to the point where smaller, urban communities will also seek it out.

“We’ll have lots of "fresh from-the-ground" stuff on sale at the Roblin market on Sat., August 30th (the Labour Day weekend). We’ll see you there!”

The Powell's will also be selling a limited quantity of their pure, homegrown maple syrup at the market.


Local horticulturist, Hugh Skinner will sell perennial flowers - hosta, daylily, lily, peony and possibly his comprehensive and authoritative gardening books
Isabel Wendell will sell her locally-produced honey।


Knitted Items; Pot scrubbers from baler twine and dish cloths.
Crocheted; Purses, Barbie and Ken doll clothes, baby sweaters
and bonnets, dresser runners, doilies, hot-dish mats, pot holders
and kitchen towels.


Brenda Neuhofer of the Inglis district will display the fine wools of "Asessippi Alpaca Products"(L), and finished goods made from the wool." These will include toques, scarves, socks and even blankets.
And, oh, by the way, don't be surprised if one or two of the animals themselves will make an appearance there!


Yvette Bouvier of Boggy Creek, north of Roblin,
will display an array of aboriginal art,

antler jewelery,
caribou pictures
and birch bark biting.

Pat Kisiloski of Lake of the Prairies, near Roblin, will be there with sweet corn and some zucchini!

Don't forget, all during the summer, every Tuesday,the Roblin Farmers Market is going strong - from 10am to 2pm - next to the Post Office on Main Street!

Plans are in the works for an herb demonstration, complete with recipe samples. (Those plans have yet to be finalized.)

Paul Chorney of the Manitoba Food Charter will be there with a display about his organization. Funding from Heifer International - a US-based charity which strives to achieve food security for people around the world - made available through the Food Charter, has made this event possible.


Pint-sized fiddling sensation Scott Cornelius will drop by the market in the morning. (Not only will he be playing, he'll have his CD, "Fiddlin' Around," available for sale!)

The Storeys from Grandview will add their own brand of celtic entertainment; Doug on bagpipes and Kate on the tin whistle.

Larry Powell will play a few tunes on his clarinet and may (if he works up the nerve),
even sing a song.

Monday, July 16, 2007


One of our vendor tables.

About a hundred people (and two lovable alpacas -r.) turned out at a country residence in west-central Manitoba on Sept. 1st to enjoy "Earth Day Too," a celebration of the growing "eat local" movement.
The open-air event attracted eight vendors from the Roblin/Inglis/Grandview area. Their "wares" included fresh veggies, organic meat, free-range eggs, preserves, honey and maple syrup.

Restoring a connection between food producers and our customers is critical. The wave of fast and processed foods that is sweeping North America today, bringing with it an epidemic of obesity and disease, must be resisted.
The situation has grown so grave that experts are now predicting that we are actually raising a generation that will die before their parents do!
I believe that buying local, eating local and making fresh, healthy food more readily available are among the ways of combating this alarming state of affairs.
As John Ikerd mentions in his article (below), the environmental and social costs of large, industrial-style agriculture are enormous.
Please check out a short video at the following address which nicely sums up why you should consider supporting the "eat local" movement.

In recognition that not everything is available locally, (as well as our moral commitment to help those in other parts of the world) there was a display of "fair trade," organic coffee, tea and chocolate as well.

What is “Fair Trade” and why should we care?

Fair Trade is an alternative approach to international trade. It is a trading partnership between producers, traders, buyers and consumers, which provides a more equitable and sustainable form of exchange.

At the heart of Fair Trade is a central principle: a commitment to pay producers a fair and stable price - one that covers costs plus a reasonable return. It is also a commitment to support safe and healthy working conditions for producers without exploitation. It is a commitment to produce goods in an environmentally sound and sustainable manner.

Fair Trade is the polar opposite of today’s dominant economic model – globalization. That model can only survive by corporations keeping workers down – paying them the lowest possible wage and not worrying about working conditions or the very sustainability of the industry. Why? Because it’s all about “remaining competitive.”

Fair Trade is exactly what our own Canadian farmers need to survive; it is what our forestry, mining and factory workers struggle to achieve. It is trading with a conscience, and recognition that if we are to survive we need each other and a healthy planet.

Tamella and Karen look after one of the "veggie" tables.

Among the non-food vendors were Brenda and Georg Neuhofer, who brought the alpacas.

Wool from the alpacas is woven into beautiful products like scarves and gloves.

One of the musical "acts" designed to brighten the day.

My Top Ten Reasons for Eating Local - by John Ikerd

10. Eating local eliminates the middlemen. Buying food locally saves on transportation and energy and virtually eliminates wasteful spending for unnecessary packing and advertising, which together account for more than 20-percent of total food costs. Total middlemen profits, however, make up less than four percent of total food costs. Local sustainable farmers generally cannot afford to operate on as small a margin of profit or return to their land, labor, and management as can large-scale, global, industrial operations. In addition, industrial producers don’t pay their full costs of production; they externalize some of their costs on nature and society by exploiting natural and human resources. So, eating local may not be cheaper for food buyers, but it certainly reduces the negative social and ecological consequences of our food choices.

9. Eating local saves on transportation. The most recent estimates indicate that the average fresh food item travels about 1,500 miles from its points of production to final purchase.[9] Reducing transportation doesn’t save much in terms of dollars and cents, since total transportation costs amounts to only about four-percent of food costs. However, the ecological savings may be far more significant. Energy for transportation is virtually all derived from non-renewable fossil fuels. In addition, transportation is a major contributor to air pollution, particularly carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. So eating local can make a significant contribution to sustainability, even if only by making a strong personal statement in favor of reducing our reliance on non-renewable energy and protecting the natural environment.

8. Eating local improves food quality. Local foods can be fresher, more flavorful, and nutritious than can fresh foods shipped in from distant locations. According to most surveys, this reason would top most lists of those who choose to eat locally. In addition to the obvious advantage in freshness, growers who produce for local customers need not give priority to harvesting, packing, shipping, and shelf life qualities, but instead can select, grow, and harvest crops to ensure peak qualities of freshness, nutrition, and taste. Eating local also encourages eating seasonally, in harmony with the natural energy of a particular place, which is becoming an important aspect of quality for those of the new food culture.

7. Eating local makes at-home eating worth the time and effort. Obviously, preparing local foods, which typically are raw or minimally processed, requires additional time and effort. But, the superior natural quality of local foods allows almost anyone to prepare really good foods at home, with a reasonable amount of time and effort. Chefs at high-end restaurants freely admit they prefer locally grown food items in part because of their ease of preparation. Good local foods taste good naturally, with little added seasoning and with little cooking or slow cooking, which requires little attention. Home preparation of raw foods also saves money, particularly compared with convenience foods, which makes really good food affordable for almost anyone who can and will prepare them from scratch, regardless of income. Preparing and eating meals at home also provides opportunities for families to share quality time together in creative, productive, and rewarding activities, which contribute to stronger families, communities, and societies.

6. Eating local provides more meaningful food choices. Americans often brag about the incredible range of choices that consumers have in the modern supermarket today. In many respects, however, food choices are severely limited. Virtually all of food items in supermarkets today are produced using the same mass-production, industrial methods, with the same negative social and ecological consequences. In addition, the variety in foods today is largely cosmetic and superficial, contrived to create the illusion of diversity and choice where none actually exists. By eating local, food buyers can get the food they individually prefer by choosing from foods that are authentically different, not just in physical qualities, but also in terms of the ecological and social consequences of how they are produced.

5. Eating local contributes to the local economy. American farmers, on average, receive only about 20 cents of each dollar spent for food, the rest going for processing, transportation, packing, and other marketing costs. Farmers who sell food direct to local customers, on the other hand, receive the full retail value, a dollar for each food dollar spent. Of course, each dollar not spent at a local supermarket or eating establishment, detracts from the local economy. However, less than one-third of total food costs go to local workers in supermarkets and restaurants, most of the rest goes outside of the local community. So the local food economy gains about three dollars for each dollar lost when food shoppers choose to buy from local farmers.

American farmers, on average, get to keep only ten to fifteen cents from each dollar they receive; the rest goes for fertilizer, fuel, machinery, and other production expenses – items typically manufactured and often provided by suppliers outside of the local community. Farmers who market locally, on the other hand, often get to keep half or more of each food dollar they receive, because they purchase fewer commercial production inputs. They receive a larger proportion of the total as a return for their labor, management, and entrepreneurship because they contribute a larger proportion to the production process. Those who sell locally also tend to spend locally, both for their personal and farming needs, which also contribute more to the local economy. So, eating local contributes to both the local food and farm economies.

4. Eating local helps save farmland. More than one million acres of U.S. farmland is lost each year to residential and commercial development. The loss may seem small in relation to the total of more than 950 million acres of farmland, but an acre lost to development may mean an acre lost forever from food production. We are still as dependent upon the land for our very survival today as when all people were hunters and gatherers, and future generations will be no less dependent than we are today. Our dependencies are more complex and less direct, but certainly are no less critical. Eating local creates economic opportunities for caring farmers to care for their land, even when confronted by development pressures on the urban fringes. Their neighbors are their market, as well as their community. Wherever people are willing to pay the full ecological and social costs of food, farms can be very desirable places to live on and to live around. Eating local may allow new residential communities to be established on farms in urbanizing areas, with residences strategically placed to retain the most productive land in farming. These new sustainable communities could be built around the common interest in good food and good lifestyles of members of the new food and farming culture.

3. Eating local allows people to reconnect.
The industrial food system was built upon a foundation of impersonal economic relationships among farmers, food processors, food distributors, and consumers. Its economic efficiency demands that relationships among people and between people and nature be impartial, and thus impersonal. As a result, many people today have no meaningful understanding of where their food comes, and thus, no understanding of the ecological and social consequences of its production. By eating local, people are able to reconnect with local farmers, and through local farmers, reconnect with the earth. Many people first begin to understand the critical need for this lost sense of connectedness when they develop personal relationships with their farmers and actually visit the farms where their food is produced. We cannot build a sustainable food system until people develop a deep understanding of their dependency upon each other and upon the earth. Thus, in my opinion, reconnecting is one of the most important reasons for eating local.

2. Eating local restores integrity to the food system. The new sustainable food system must be built upon personal relationships of integrity. When people eat locally, farmers form relationships with customers who care about the social and ecological consequences of how their food in produced – not just lower price, more convenience, or even an organic label. Those who eat locally form relationships with farmers who care about their land, care about their neighbors, and care about their customers – not just about maximizing profits and growth. Such relationships become relationships of trust and integrity, based on honesty, fairness, compassion, responsibility, and respect. Eating local provides people with an opportunity not only to reconnect personally, but also, to restore integrity to our relationships with each other and with the earth. In today’s society, there should be few, if any, higher priorities.

1. Eating local helps build a sustainable society. The underlying problems of today’s food and farming systems are but reflections of deeper problems within the whole of American society. We are degrading the ecological integrity of the earth and the social integrity of our society in our pursuit of narrow, individual economic self-interests. As we begin to realize the inherent benefits of relationships of integrity within local food systems, we will begin the process of healing the ecological and social wounds that plague modern society. Thus, my number one reason for eating local is to help build a new, sustainable American society.

NOTE: John Ikerd is a noted farm economist.
Although he is American, I believe his observations are universal. L.P.

Eating Local Helps Prevent Disease Spread
Submitted by Danielle Nierenberg on September 8, 2007 - 1:32pm.

Thanks for reminding us that eating local is the best defense against the unintended--or malicious--spread of foodborne pathogens. Last year's outbreak of pathogenic E. coli from Californian farms is a perfect and deadly example of how the long distance transportation of food (people were infected in numerous states and at least 3 people died). For more information on eating local, check out my colleague Brian Halweil's book Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket

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