Planting the Garden

Written by Denise Deby.

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I’m a gardener-in-progress—meaning I’m learning something new every year about growing my own vegetables. My garden so far has been pretty small, my planting area shady, so I’m often researching what to grow.

This year I’ve been on the hunt for healthy seeds and seedlings—those adapted to local conditions, free of pesticides, grown in an environmentally-friendly way and (ideally) organic. While I haven’t started my own seeds, it’s not too late to find seedlings that others have kindly started growing for me.

The Gloucester Horticultural Society holds its East End Plant Sale on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at North Gloucester Public Library (2036 Ogilvie Rd.) from 9 a.m.-noon. They’ll be selling shrubs, perennials, organic and heritage seedling vegetable plants.

Greta’s Organic Gardens (399 River Rd., Gloucester) is a great source of organic seeds. She’s selling heirloom tomatoes, peppers and much more from her greenhouse between May 15 and June 24 (9 a.m.-7 p.m.; closed Weds.).

Added: Beat Greens Garden will be selling organic and heirloom seedlings at Ravenswing Arts and Music Fair on Sunday, May 24.

For other kinds of plants as well, the Ottawa Horticultural Society holds its annual plant auction and sale on Tuesday, May 26, 7:30 p.m. at the Tom Brown Arena.

At Fletcher Wildlife Garden’s Annual Native Plant Sale, experts will be on hand to advise on what flowering plants will attract birds, butterflies and other pollinators. It’s on Saturday, June 6, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Vegetable seedlings (some local and organic) can be purchased from local farmers directly or at Ottawa farmers’ markets: the ByWard Market, the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, the Main Farmers’ Market, the Parkdale Market, the Ottawa Organic Farmers’ Market and others (check OttawaStart’s list of markets for links).

Ottawa has quite a few local nurseries; the Canadian Wildlife Federation has a list of nurseries that sell native plants. Hardware and grocery stores have garden centres, too. But check first that the plants they carry haven’t been treated with neonicotinoids—pesticides that are systemic (i.e., absorbed by all parts of a plant) and associated with killing bee populations. Friends of the Earth Canada has a chart outlining which retailers have stopped carrying plants with neonics.

Did I miss any good plant sources? Please let me know in the comments.

West End Well Grand Opening

Written by Denise Deby.

West End Well - Denise Deby photo

Ottawa’s new food co-op, West End Well, is up and running, and is holding a grand opening to celebrate. Everyone is welcome to drop by Friday, Sept. 26-Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 to check out the co-operative café, grocery store and community space.

The West End Well was created by community members as a place to find local, healthy food, to connect with others and to learn how to live more sustainably (hence the motto “Nourishment for a Change”).

As well as good food, they offer music and storytelling sessions, workshops on sustainability issues, a lending library and more. As a co-operative, the Well is owned by its members. Anyone can join, although you can be a customer without being a member. (There’s more background on the West End Well in my previous post.)

Here’s the Grand Opening weekend schedule:

Friday, Sept. 26:  An evening of music with Moonfruits, 8-10 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 27: Family activities 10:30 a.m.-noon; programming fair 1-3 p.m.; live entertainment 3-5 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 28: Family activities 10:30 a.m.-noon; opening ceremony 1-2 p.m.; cocktail party with free food samples 3-5 p.m.

See the West End Well’s regular calendar for upcoming events. (Among the offerings: a screening of The Economics of Happiness on Sept. 30, Tellings at the Well storytelling on Oct. 10, a talk on Being a Good Food Citizen on Oct. 21 and the launch of Ottawa Food by Don and Jennifer Chow of foodiePrints on Oct. 29.)

The West End Well also welcomes investors—here’s a short clip about that.

Small Farming and “The Market Gardener” Launch

Written by Denise Deby. Thanks to Leela Ramachandran, Manager of Farm Programs at Just Food, for information.


Interested in knowing what goes into running a very small (and profitable) organic farm?

Just Food is hosting the launch of The Market Gardener: A Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming (New Society Publishers, 2014), with author, farmer and local food systems advocate Jean-Martin Fortier. Jean-Martin and his wife, Maude-Hélène Desroches, run Les Jardins de la Grelinette, a Québec micro-farm.

It’s a pretty interesting story: Jean-Martin and Maude-Hélène explain that they feed more than 200 families and support their household on their 1.5 acres, using low-tech, high-yield methods (and almost no fossil fuels) to supply produce for their CSA shares and market stands.

You can find out more about their farm on their website.

The launch is on Thursday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m. at Dominion-Chalmers United Church, 355 Cooper St. (doors open 6:30 p.m.) $5 admission. Copies of the book will be available to buy.

**If you’re inspired to think about farming yourself, check out Just Food’s listing of farm internships (exchanging labour for training) and job opportunities (paid).**

Building Resilience Through a Community Food Centre: The West End Well Co-op

Written by Denise Deby.

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What if you had a place in your neighbourhood where you could stop in for a fresh, local meal, stock up on organic groceries, pick up your Community Shared Agriculture order, hear some live music, attend a yoga or cooking class, borrow a book on permaculture or meet up with friends for a coffee or tea?

Now, what if you and other people in your community actually owned that place, and decided what it would offer?

That’s the West End Well Co-op, opening at 969 Wellington St. West in Hintonburg this spring.

The West End Well is part café, part organic grocery store and part meeting and learning space. The café, to be operated by Jacqueline Jolliffe of the popular food truck Stone Soup Foodworks, will offer freshly-prepared meals using seasonal, local ingredients. The grocery will sell produce, eggs, meat, dairy and dried goods from local farmers and producers, and there’ll be a coffee house space, a teaching kitchen, workshop rooms, and offices for sustainability-minded businesses and organizations.

The West End Well Co-op’s motto is “nourishment for a change.” Its purpose is to enhance people’s access to local, healthy food, but also to nourish mind and spirit as well as body.

“It’s a gathering place for people to support each other in the transition to a more sustainable and socially just society,” explains West End Well co-founder Bill Shields. Recognizing that we’re all going through this transition, the Co-op offers “unconditional welcome” to everyone.

The West End Well is a co-operative, and a social enterprise. That means it’s owned by its members, and run using a business model where profits are reinvested in meeting the Co-op’s social and environmental objectives. For a $50 lifetime membership fee, members can vote, run for the co-op board, and set policies. (Non-members can still shop there, and the Co-op will accommodate people who can’t afford the fee.)

The Co-op has raised enough community financing, managed through a holding company, to buy and renovate its own building. It’s also selling preference shares to raise funds for setup and operations for the first couple of years. It’s tapping into the wisdom of other food-centred co-operatives in Ontario through the Local Organic Food Co-ops network, and lots of people are volunteering their time and expertise to get the Co-op up and running.

The West End Well was created by a group of residents, many of whom have been active in the community network Sustainable Living Ottawa West (SLOWest). In order to make the building and operations as sustainable as possible, the West End Well is being designed using permaculture principles, with energy efficiency, minimal waste, affordability and fair wages for producers in mind.

If you’d like more information on the West End Well Co-op, or are interested in becoming a member, buying shares or volunteering, you can contact them through their website, or attend an information session. The next one is on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at the Hintonburg Community Centre, 1064 Wellington St. West from 7-9 pm.; RSVP to info [at] westendwell [dot] ca. Another session is planned for Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 7-9 p.m.


Greening the Season 1: Green Gift-Giving

Written by Denise Deby.

"Gifted" by Christer (brandsvig) on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial—NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
“Gifted” by Christer (brandsvig) on Flickr (Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial—NoDerivs 2.0 Generic)

This is a lovely time of year to slow down, enjoy being with family and friends, and give meaningful gifts. Too often, though, it’s a time when many people find themselves buying too much, trying to accomplish too much and feeling like they can’t cope.

Here are a few suggestions for giving sustainably while giving back:

1. Consider buying your loved one a food-bearing tree (or a gift card for one) from Hidden Harvest Ottawa. Alternatively, you can donate a tree to a community group, such as Ottawa Community Housing, in someone’s name.

2. Buy a South March Highlands 2014 calendar, with beautiful photos of the landscapes, flora and fauna of this special place in Ottawa’s west end.

3. Offer to teach someone something, or give them the gift of learning. Many art, music and other places offer gift certificates. Check out the Westboro Brainery, a community initiative that has short (around 2 hour) courses on a wide variety of subjects, including vegan cooking, solar power for the home, beginner salsa dancing and indoor plant care, for starters.

4. Give the gift of fun, fitness and social interaction with a gift certificate for the City of Ottawa’s recreation and culture programs. You’ll find everything from skating lessons to yoga to playgroups for preschoolers.

5. Consider a book or e-book on environmental issues from your favourite independent bookstore, or a digital or paper subscription to an environmental magazine. A\J Alternatives Journal is one of my favourites. Browse for others at Magazine Canada’s website; search under “Science and Nature” or another category of interest, and check out their Buy 2 Get 1 Free sale.

6. Give a no-waste, renewable, recyclable gift: give a library book! See guest blogger Eloise Collison’s 2007 post on how this works.

7. Search Swapsity for a gift that you can obtain by swapping something you no longer need—you’ll save cash and keep things out of the landfill.

8. Give a gift of seeds, trees or clean water for someone who can use it through USC CanadaUNICEF CanadaKiva and many other organizations offer global gifts as well.

9. For the person who wants to live more sustainably, EnviroCentre’s enviroBoutique may have something, like a Fireplace Package with Eco-Logs or a Water Wise kit with a low-flow showerhead and aerators.

10. Check out eco-store terra20’s gift suggestions, or their gift cards (made out of birch!) You’ll find terra20 in the Pinecrest Shopping Centre, Wellington St. W. and online.

11. Buy local and send a gift to someone in Ottawa or elsewhere in Canada through SMAKK, which stands for “Share Meaningful Acts of Kindness and Karma.” You browse their website for what’s on offer from participating shops and services, choose a gift and they’ll send a gift card to your family member or friend. Offerings include yoga from PranaShanti Yoga Centre, jewellry from TUBEDJewelry made out of old bike inner tubes and Bôhten’s designer eyeglasses made from recycled materials.

12. Shop locally through Givopoly: you choose a gift from their website—like soap from Purple Urchin or local foodie gift boxes—and they’ll deliver it the next day.

13. Look for a merchant that pays as much attention to the environment and the community as to profits. The Ottawa-based Centre for Innovative Social Enterprise Development (CISED) has a holiday gift guide to buying from socially and environmentally-conscious companies, such as Camino which makes fair trade, organic chocolate, or Cycle Salvation where you can find used, reconditioned bikes and parts.

14. If you know a local food aficionado, you may find something appropriate at a local food producer or retailer who’s a Savour Ottawa member. You’ll find more suggestions on the Earthward blog. Don’t forget that the Ottawa Farmers’ Market is holding its Christmas Market on Saturday, December 21 and Sunday, December 22, 2013, and the Ottawa Specialty Food Association has a Flavours of Ottawa Stocking Stuffer Specialty Food Fair on Saturday, December 21, 2013.

15. With a donation to Ecology Ottawa, you get a free subscription to EcoParent Magazine.

Please share any other suggestions you have in the comments section below!