March 8, 2011

Rising oil prices make local food and farmland even more crucial

Beets and carrots

Update March 9: Today’s ethical deal is 50% off two Vancouver Farmers Markets memberships!

Following several mentions at this past weekend’s Greenest City camp of how food prices have risen in the wake of higher oil prices, I was reminded again by The National‘s coverage tonight. They examined which commodities have spiked most, how our food spending compares to other nations and how to save money.

The prices for grains, dairy and sugar — the latter of which is non-essential — have risen by 10% to 30%, reaching in some cases historical highs. When comparing food spending — Canadians put 11% of their income toward it, whereas the Chinese spend 36% and in Yemen 80% — it’s important to realise that while our food spending has trended downward, our health costs have increased dramatically. This relationship between food and health spending has much to do with the quality of our food. So while the CBC’s reporter suggests 11% is a good number, I disagree.

Rising oil prices, a trend that will inevitably continue as supplies dwindle and economies recover, are a reminder of just how much energy goes into agriculture from the field to the plate. For Americans, the combined cost of transportation and energy accounts for more than 10% of the cost of US-produced food, with the majority of each dollar going to marketing. Factor in how much of our food comes from other continents — bananas, cocoa, sugar, seafood, rice — and watch that energy cost go up.

Continue reading Rising oil prices make local food and farmland even more crucial »

October 15, 2009

Start small, dream big for climate change

The kids' garden at UBC Farm, June 6, 2009

I was criticized once by someone who didn’t believe that my choice to not buy broccoli from China and peppers from California in the wintertime would make any difference. I would indeed be acting alone and in vain if everyone lacked faith in the power of the collective. After all, revolutions and rallies are composed of individual people sharing a common purpose. My argument was that if enough of us did not buy Californian peppers in December, it would affect the amount purchased by the store that carried it, impacting up the chain and so forth. It seems like a naive thought but the popularity of eating local has been growing, and with good reason. Eating local and in season offers many benefits including support of small-scale agriculture and healthier, more flavourful food. In terms of climate change, supporting local agriculture and in tandem avoiding foods — especially processed and pre-packaged foods — that have travelled a long distance make a huge impact. Agriculture is as responsible for greenhouse gas emissions as is transportation, based on a system designed around accessing foods year-round and producing these foods in large quantities to be shipped long distances.

Continue reading Start small, dream big for climate change »

September 10, 2009

I was a country bumpkin


I hope my lack of writing lately is a sign of a good social life rather than exhaustion. Here is finally my experience at the recent slow food cycle.

The gems are often tucked away at the end of a road. Like last year’s treasures in Pemberton, the most wonderful spots in Agassiz’s slow food cycle route lay a ways down a road or off a nondescript path you only just had to trust would lead somewhere.

At one end of the self-guided, circuitous route through Agassiz’s sprawling farmland and country houses was a paradise I could not have expected. The Back Porch seemed to suggest with its name a rustic and romantic place. Greeted by dozens of bikes, we found ourselves on a farm that could have been transplanted from the artsy, organic culture of BC’s Gulf Islands. A pottery studio and coffee grinding shop occupied the first outbuilding, a unique combination that was at once odd and harmonious. Antique coffee grinders (ca. 1919) sat among vintage graphic design pieces which tickled my design nerd fancy!

Continue reading I was a country bumpkin »

August 4, 2009

Cancelled: Slow Food Cycle Sunday in Pemberton. Instead: Agassiz & Chilliwack Aug 22 & 23

Mountain view

Update August 8th

Well, my post was unfortunately premature… by a year, now, in fact, as this year’s Slow Food Cycle Sunday has been cancelled due to the forest fires. The 5th annual event will occur August 15th, 2010. I’m very disappointed, but all is not lost as on the 22nd and 23rd there are cycle farm tours in Agassiz and Chilliwack by Slow Food Vancouver, although these require advanced registration and cost $10 — $20. I’m going to get on that and invite the folks who were planning to attend the Pemberton event. Too bad! If you still want the amazing potatoes, however, visit a Vancouver Farmers Market and look for Helmer’s.

On Sunday, August 16th, we’re celebrating the 5th annual Slow Food Cycle Sunday in scenic Pemberton, BC.* The flat, paved road through the farming valley is perfect for cyclists of any age and skill level. And of course, what we’re ultimately drawn together here for is the food! After my first trip last year, which was capped by a traffic jam on the way home that had us moving slower than a kid on a bicycle, I felt the potatoes alone were SO worth the 50 km ride and the road trip. They are phenomenal.

Continue reading Cancelled: Slow Food Cycle Sunday in Pemberton. Instead: Agassiz & Chilliwack Aug 22 & 23 »

April 11, 2009

UBC Farm Trek: a huge, fantastic, musical success!

Save the Farm banner

Imagine, if you will, your favourite summer street festival or an indie parade. Add a joyous rallying cry, one amazing cause and 24 beautiful hectares of farmland in a wild corner of Vancouver. This mix of music festival and protest march made Tuesday’s Great Farm Trek to UBC Farm the highlight of my year so far, on the most gorgeous spring afternoon we could possibly hope for.

When I got off the bus at UBC, finding the Student Union Building wasn’t too difficult: I followed the drumming noises (percussion ensemble Sambata) and the hum of a thousand voices gathered in the square. I was pleasantly stunned to see how many people turned out.

The opening speaker began soon after I arrived. Ben recorded a video of the inspirational speech by Shane Pointe (Musqueam Nation). I recorded some of it but his view was better. The crowd exploded in cheers when he encouraged us. I fell into awe and silence during his song.

The gathering outside the SUB

Continue reading UBC Farm Trek: a huge, fantastic, musical success! »

March 27, 2009

More events: Save the CBC, Earth Hour, local food, tar sands talk, and more

I’ve managed to stuff my weekend to the brim with various events, from Juno festivities to enviro-political discussions, and a possible, long-overdue trip to the market.

Here’s what’s going on!

Save the CBC!

In 10 hours, Avaaz’s new petition asking the federal government to support the CBC has garnered over 25,000 signatures. Please sign the petition and pass it on to your friends!

Farmer’s market: Saturday (tomorrow)

The Winter Farmer’s Market is on again at the WISE Hall (1882 Adanac St. in East Van) from 10 am – 2pm. Well, technically it’s spring now, so there are some fresh surprises:

Good-bye winter blues (and flus!) — spring has sprung at the Vancouver Farmers Market and what better way to celebrate than with the arrival of spring crops. Brian Patterson of Shalefield Gardens will have several varieties of sprouts including Broccoli, Mustard and Red Radish, as well he will have Micro Greens, Jerusalem Artichokes, Strawberry plants, and Nettle, oh my!

Still fighting off that winter cold? Don’t forget to pick up some garlic, which Brian says his customers are most excited about. His favourite recipe? Garlic broth soup, with celery, carrot, and nettle. Don’t forget to also visit Langley Organic Growers, for their selection of spring greens, including Baby Kale, Arugula, and Mustard Greens. Join us at the Market for this delicious start to spring, but get there early if you want the greens! — Facebook event page

Stopping the Gateways to the Tar Sands: tomorrow

Stopping the Gateways to the Tar SandsSFU Surrey Campus (at Surrey Central Skytrain), Rm 5140, 13450 – 102 Avenue, Surrey.

1 – 4pm. Free, pre-registration is not required.

The Tar Sands megaproject in Alberta has been described as the most environmentally destructive project ever built. But many people don’t know about the pivotal role proposed BC projects could have in facilitating tar sands expansion and fueling demand for tar sands oil.

Join us for a short video, presentation and discussion on the ways tar sands plans depend on proposed projects in BC. The presentations will focus on the Tar Sands, the Proposed Enbridge Gateway Pipeline, and the Gateway freeway and port expansion schemes.


Harjap Grewal — Council of Canadians: The Gateway and other proposed tar sands pipelines.

Eric Doherty — Livable Region Coalition: The Gateway freeway and port expansion proposals.

Jessie Schwarz — Greenpeace: The environmental and social impacts of the tar sands.

Earth Hour! Tomorrow night

Earth HourA reminder that it’s Earth Hour from 8:30 – 9:30 pm (local time). Granville Magazine lists 21 ways to spend Earth Hour sans power. I will be observing it at a large party with candles for each person, which should be lovely! I think I missed it last year so this may be my first one. I enjoyed the Globe and Mail’s article about getting creative for Earth Hour.

Continue reading More events: Save the CBC, Earth Hour, local food, tar sands talk, and more »

November 23, 2008


November Sky


(22 november)

what an amazing day.

the sun is warm happiness radiating

at the market voices buzz and twitter

I talk at length with four people

and indulge my vices

apples crisper than ever imagined greet me immediately and yes, kind sir, I will see you again soon.

the hall is stuffed with scents and warm colours that suggest the turning of fall into Christmas. I cannot wait for the next two.

at the market I move in slow motion, with thoughtful decisions and careful handling of the earth’s most sacred gifts for which I have a delectable passion.

suddenly the presence of honey, maple and bread intermingle with curiosity and my senses urge me without hesitation to ask for a plump loaf of sourdough which I shall with butter enjoy later.

hues of pumpkins, squash and apples overflow amongst varieties of mushrooms, potatoes and dried fruits, all the colours and textures singing the plenty that is the harvest here, even so late in the fall. this is abundance.

I leave with luscious beet greens slung across my back and deeply enjoy the sight from the corner of my eye.

it makes me feel somewhat of a peasant or… something special… a collector of sorts.

a perfect day for a walk.

to pass time I follow people to a cluster of studios in the most unlikely place for the Eastside Culture Crawl which I had not planned to attend. when I am wealthy I will buy other people’s art and gourmet cheese. today my wealth is my experience.

happily timed my bus arrives and I cradle my earthly belongings.

a young man strums an acoustic guitar at the back of the bus, a surprising reminder of when I once did the same.

sunlight pours in across the city and the trees, between the branches, the dead leaves

it’s a perfect day

November Water

november moon

(19 november)

it was dark inside, and outside the fog had rolled in, shrouding everything, and through which the neighbour’s light glowed softly. and yet I could still see shimmering clearly a star — nay, a planet — in the black sky. the moon lit up the top of the fog’s arm that stretched over the inlet, yet I could not see the moon. little time had passed since I saw its reflection, perfect and white on the still water. its face looking downward and half hidden, the moon played hide-and-seek behind the thickest part of the cypress, thick enough to block it from entering the house. but I knew it was there; on the sparkling dotted glass its shape blurred and crackled. tonight it was shy but it will soon light up the darkness like a second sun, come fullness.

August 18, 2008

Slow Food Cycle Sunday Recap!

Lunchtime at the Helmer farm

Yesterday I attended my first Slow Food Cycle Sunday, in Pemberton. Whew, what a ride!

We arrived in Pemberton Village rather on time considering the road construction on the Sea to Sky Highway. (No rockslides, thankfully!) Treacherous road, but man, what a view! The parking lot at Signal Hill Elementary School was rapidly filling up when we unloaded our stuff, packed up our saddle bags and took off in the direction of the Community Centre which would be our official starting point. It was obvious then that there was a huge turnout, and in fact the count thus far exceeds 2000 riders! It was mildly sunny and cool, but the weather didn’t do what was forecasted. It did the exact opposite, without the potential thunderstorm that seemed imminent.

Continue reading Slow Food Cycle Sunday Recap! »

August 14, 2008

Slow Food Cycle this Sunday in Pemberton


I learned of this annual event when I naughtily “borrowed” my landlady’s Westworld Magazine to read a few interesting food-related articles before I delivered it upstairs. When I finished reading the article about Slow Food Cycle Sunday, I wrote down the event details and without hesitation decided I would attend. (Do read the article, a PDF complete with tantalizing photographs!) Now the date is finally approaching — not that I wish summer to pass quickly as it has been, but I’ve been looking forward to this — and I’m training daily now for the tour.


Continue reading Slow Food Cycle this Sunday in Pemberton »