In this busy season, we often worry about doing enough—seeing everyone we want to see, making enough food for holiday meals, finding just the right gifts for family and friends.
Of course, the most important gift this time of year—or anytime—is time.
Sometimes, though, you do want to give a little something to people. If you’re still looking for those last few gifts, why not consider thingless giving, or other ways of giving sustainably?
Or how about a sustainable gift that gives twice? A few examples:
Gifts that donate: Through USC Canada’s Gifts That Grow, you can send your loved one a card while supporting a farmer or school gardens. UNICEF Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and many other organizations have similar arrangements for contributing to sustainability on behalf of someone else.
Gifts that reuse: Recycled gifts, chosen with care, can be a great option. Right now, when you purchase used clothes, toys, Christmas decorations or other items from Ottawa Neighbourhood Services, you’re contributing to their work to make needed goods available to low-income, refugee and other people in Ottawa. Ten Thousand Villages has good fair trade items, like ornaments made from recycled paper, or jewellery made from reclaimed materials. Ottawa has lots of other places to find art and crafts made from upcycled materials.
Buying someone a CSA share—i.e., a weekly delivery of local produce from an area farm—is also an investment in the sustainability of our food system.
Gifts that support sustainable causes: Ottawa has quite a few social enterprises that support social and environmental good. For example, when you buy jewellery, toys or other items through Operation Come Home’s Repurpose store, you’re buying upcycled as well as supporting artists who are youth at-risk or homeless. When you buy Beau’s beer, which is sustainably made from organic ingredients, you’re also contributing to the causes they support with their profits. A purchase of greeting cards of Ottawa scenes from Causeway supports employment programs for people who are disadvantaged. (I picked some up at the Westboro Pharmasave.)
Keep an eye out for companies that donate to environmental causes. For example, when you purchase art at Studio Sixty-Six during December, 10% of the proceeds will go to the Ottawa Riverkeeper.
Just Food has operated a working farm on Greenbelt land near Blackburn Hamlet since 2012. It supports new farmers to learn organic farming, and partners with area farmers and community groups on projects that improve access to sustainable food in the Ottawa region.
A couple of weeks ago, Just Food and the National Capital Commission signed a 25-year lease for a community farm on 150 acres of land at the site.
The agreement means that Just Food can continue to offer space and programs to support farmers, provide public education on food issues and help create a viable, healthy and sustainable local food system.
If you’re interested in seeing what’s growing on site these days, check out the Just Food Start-Up Farm Program farmers. Their vegetables, herbs, wild and forest foods, honey and other products are available to buy at the Just Food farm stand or from the farmers directly.
Just Food has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help it grow. They’re welcoming donations to upgrade the soil to make the land more productive. (The campaign coincides with the 2015 International Year of Soils.)
As well, anyone can become a member of Just Food. More information here.
From Just Food:
Just Food is a community-based, non-profit organization that has been working towards vibrant, just and sustainable food and farming systems in the Ottawa region since 2003. In addition to the now established Just Food Farm, Just Food programs include Savour Ottawa, the Community Gardening Network of Ottawa, Buy Local Food Program (including the Ottawa Food Hub), and diverse food policy and food access initiatives.”
Update: Just Food launches the Farm Stand on Sunday, July 26! Check out the fresh, local produce grown by Just Food farmers.
There are plenty of other ways to get fresh, local produce on your plate. Here are a few:
Savour Ottawa Online
Savour Ottawa Online is a weekly service that lets you select and order food from local producers and pick it up at the Parkdale Field House. With Savour Ottawa, you visit the online marketplace, choose whichever products you’d like, and your order will be ready for pickup on the designated day a few days later. There’s everything from vegetables and meats to baked goods, prepared meals and personal care products.
Ottawa Good Food Box
A group of Ottawa organizations got together a few years ago and decided to create a way for people to obtain groceries closer to home and at affordable prices. They launched the Ottawa Good Food Box, which buys in bulk so members can get fruits and vegetables at wholesale prices. Not all of the food is locally sourced, but organizers strive to obtain produce as locally and affordably as possible. Anyone can participate in the monthly service, which offers a range of box sizes and types (including an organic box). Check the map to find the closest distribution site near you.
Good Food Markets
Good Food Markets bring food to communities that are underserved by regular grocery stores. At the markets, you’ll find a variety of fruits, vegetables and dry goods, as well as music and other community activities. Check the website for locations and dates.
The same group that brought about the Good Food Markets has launched Market Mobile, kind of a grocery store on wheels that brings healthy, affordable food to even more neighbourhoods. Find the schedule and locations on their website.
More local food sources
Ottawa’s numerous farmers’ markets offer fresh produce and other foods as well as a sense of community. Sometimes area farmers have farm gate stands where you can buy local, too. Check out Just Food’s Buy Local Grow Local Food Guide for more options.
Fresh vegetables, from a local farm to your kitchen: that’s community-supported agriculture (CSA).
With CSAs, you pay a farm for a “share” in what it produces over the season, and the farmers provide you with a regular order of fresh vegetables, usually every week.
CSAs are a great way to eat local; many of the farms are organic. You’ll also be supporting local food producers, who benefit through a more stable income source. Of course, you’ll be getting a variety of healthy produce, usually vegetables and herbs. Some CSAs allow you to order eggs, poultry, beef or other products.
Most CSAs offer half-shares or a range of share sizes depending on how much you think you can use. They usually also have ways to work around your holidays, if you’re away for part of the summer.
The producers often include newsletters with recipes, organize farm visits or have other ways of engaging their customers, so you get to try new foods as well as get to know more about the people growing the food.
There are more farms than ever offering CSAs around Ottawa. Farms usually deliver to drop-off points around the city, so you can look at their offerings and find one that delivers near you.
You can search for CSAs on Just Food’s map at http://justfood.ca/buy-local-food-guide/. Ottawa C.S.A. also provides a map of CSAs by drop-off point and lists several local CSA farms. There’s also the Ontario CSA Farm Directory at http://csafarms.ca/index.html. I’ve had CSAs from Roots and Shoots and from Karen Farm at the Just Food Farm, but as you can see there are lots of options. Farms and CSA offerings vary, so check that too.
Here’s a list of CSA farms I compiled, in alphabetical order, with links to their websites. Check the websites or contact the farms directly to confirm whether they’re offering CSAs—and do let me know if I’ve missed any.