The Basics: Food

Dig deeper into Ottawa’s food system at these upcoming events:

An Agrifood Policy for Canada: A Recipe for Food Justice?

The LISF-LEILA 2018 Thought for Food Interdisciplinary Conference, hosted by the University of Ottawa’s Laboratory for the Interdisciplinary Study of Food, has an impressive agenda that includes critical and historical perspectives on food policy in Canada, the roles of the finance industry and of community engagement in Canada’s food systems, shifting towards agroecology, movement building towards food sovereignty, food insecurity and food accessibility, and more. The free event takes place on Saturday March 17, 2018 from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the University of Ottawa, Fauteux Building (FTX), room 147A.

Just Food Events

Just Food has plenty of great events coming up. Their First Monthly Red Barn Potluck (6-7:30 p.m.) and workshop on garden planning for seed saving (7:30-9 p.m.) happen on Wednesday, March 21, 2018.

Just Food and The Sacred Gardener co-host the Story of the Madawaska Forest Garden on Sunday, March 25, 2018, 1-3 p.m. Steve Martyn, who co-founded the Sacred Gardener Earth Wisdom School, created the Algonquin Tea Company and much more, will give a sure-to-be-inspiring talk about his journey and humans’ relationship with the gifts of the Earth. Don’t miss it!

Just Food also celebrates its 15th anniversary with a host of fun events on Sunday, April 29, 2018 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Just Food Farm. See their website or Facebook page for details and registration for these and other upcoming events.

 

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Urban Organic Gardening Seminars 2018

It’s that time of year—time to hone those gardening skills.

The Canadian Organic Growers, Ottawa Chapter is once again hosting its Urban Organic Gardening Seminars. From the organizers:

“Learn about organic vegetable, herb, and edible flower gardening with experienced and qualified instructors. Three half-day, Saturday morning seminars will cover 9 different topics designed to help you plan, plant, grow, and harvest your own little slice of organic paradise in the city.”

Seminar topics include garden planning, seed starting, container and small space gardening, soil, compost, organic pest and disease management, seed saving and more.

See the COG website for details and registration. All seminars take place at the Hintonburg Community Centre (1064 Wellington St W.).

Thanks to Caitlin Carrol, Canadian Organic Growers, for the information.

Signs of Spring: Seeds and Plans

Photo by Quartzla on Pixabay CC0 Creative Commons https://pixabay.com/en/nature-ottawa-outdoor-spring-tree-735679/

March has arrived, and spring is in the air. Time to think about planting—seeds, ideas and plans for improving our city.

Planning for Urban Tree Conservation By-law Review

Despite some protections, Ottawa’s trees are at risk—including from development and infill. The City of Ottawa is slated to review its Urban Tree Conservation By-law this year. Join other community members to plan for public input into how the by-law can truly protect Ottawa’s trees, including mature trees. The meeting will be held on Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018 from 1-3 p.m. at the Champlain Park fieldhouse, 140 Cowley Ave.

Seedy Saturday Ottawa

Stock up on seeds for your garden at Seedy Saturday, Ottawa’s annual seed sale and exchange. It’s a great place to find heritage seeds and other garden-related stuff, and learn from local farmers, gardening and environmental groups. Talks cover growing tips, worm composting, and seed diversity around the world. Seedy Saturday takes place on Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre.

Potluck and Workshops at the Just Food Red Barn

Starting Wednesday, Mar. 21, 2018, Just Food will host monthly potlucks in their new Red Barn community space, followed by workshops on food topics. The March 21st workshop is on seed saving with Kate Green. Participants will learn effective seed garden planting, and how to access seeds through the Ottawa Seed Library. Potluck 6-7:30 p.m., workshop 7:30-9 p.m.; see the website event page for details. (For more upcoming events and news related to Ottawa’s food system, be sure to sign up for Just Food’s newsletter.)

 

Prerequisite for Environmental Progress: Justice

Something is happening right now that might be easy to miss. It’s the door closing on the possibility of reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and Canadians. We need to understand this, and address it.

Injustices against Indigenous people have been a reality since well before Canada became a country, and ongoing injustices are well documented. Still, somehow there has been hope of renewed positive relationships among Canadians and Indigenous peoples and of a better understanding that we are all treaty people residing on Indigenous land.

Recent events have underscored the gap between where we are now and where we need to be in this relationship. On February 9, the man who shot and killed 22-year-old Colten Boushie of Cree Red Pheasant First Nation was acquitted, despite the evidence. On February 22, the man accused of murdering 15-year-old Tina Fontaine of Sagkeeng First Nation was found not guilty. The injustices of these decisions, and of the circumstances leading to the deaths of both young people, are compounded by the expressions of racism that have been unleashed as Indigenous people and allies speak up about injustice.

Many of us are horrified by these racist responses as well as by the injustices, but it’s time we acknowledge and address the racism embedded in our social, political and justice systems.

Creating a positive relationship with the land and environment—our goal as people committed to sustainability—requires that we understand Canada as a society and political entity built through colonialism, on land that does not belong to most of us, and sustained through inequitable and unjust relationships. There is no way forward without that understanding.

 

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Food Forests in Ottawa

Looking west towards the future Blackstone Community Park. This sign is close to the Monahan Drain, part of the neighbourhood’s stormwater infrastructure. Photo by Glen Gower, reposted with permission from StittsvilleCentral.ca: http://stittsvillecentral.ca/letter-a-field-of-dirt-and-potential-in-blackstone/

Guest post written by Paul Wilson and reposted from StittsvilleCentral.ca with kind permission from publisher and editor Glen Gower. Check out StillsvilleCentral.ca for more great stories!

LETTER: A field of dirt and potential in Blackstone

January 29, 2018

(StittsvilleCentral.ca Editor’s note: I recently went for a walk with Paul Wilson around the site of the future Blackstone Community Park near his home. Like many new parks in our community, city staff are planning to build a play structure, a swing set, a splash pad, some sports fields, and so on. But when Paul looks out over the field of dirt and snow, he sees potential for a permaculture food forest. In this letter, he explains what the concept is all about. -GG.)

I would like to see all new community and district parks include food forests.  The initial Blackstone food forest can become a community engagement destination and support charity and educational engagement.  The food forest, and nearby park features, can provide outdoor community spaces for numerous activities, including quiet reflection or picnics, in a setting conducive to education on the benefits of planting edible trees. It is intended to develop close ties to the other synergistic groups in the region.

My goal is to establish organic food forests within Stittsville and City of Ottawa with an emphasis on permanent, restorative agriculture.  By design, a permaculture approach in these forests builds soil structure, uses less water and can yields a dramatic amount of highly nutritious food per square meter.

Caveat: I am using many words, definitions and images created by others.

While I’m not an expert, there are a few things I’ve discovered about creating more sustainable forests, in particular why permaculture is important.  While the name is tossed around or omitted sometimes (as it is assumed), it’s important because it is the design system for food production that can be sustainable and minimizes the maintenance issues associated with forest management.  For it to be used in city parks, low maintenance costs can make a difference.  For any volunteers, less work is better.

Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centred around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems.  Let nature do what nature does best: grow and evolve.

A food forest is a gardening technique or land management system which mimics a woodland ecosystem by incorporating edible trees, shrubs, perennials, mushrooms and annuals. This is more than a garden with trees.  It is a seven-layer system where a key aspect is diversity: a polyculture of native plants with careful selection of non-native and non-invasion varieties; promoting a symbiosis, less disease, longer grazing period for pollinators.

Permaculture food forest principles emphasize plant selections that are edible by people and support natural ecosystems such as bees, birds, and native inhabitants.

I think of the 3 P’s: Plants, Participants and Produce.  Key is a good design of plants and in establishing the forest, the multi-year approaches to creating synergies between the layers (it is easier than it sounds).  The participants are the people/volunteers, insects, birds, animals – the community enables the forest to thrive.  The produce is more than all the wonderful edibles and includes the environmental benefits, soil enrichment and all what may be viewed as intangibles – the ways the participants thrive in the forest… some claim, a “breathable, life enhancing, realm”.

I’ve always liked the following image to show the seven layers:

Seven layers of forest gardens. Via Wikipedia.
Image via Wikipedia

As described in the image, these are the edible polyculture layers:

  1. Canopy layer consisting of tall nut and fruit trees.
  2. Low-tree layer of smaller nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks.
  3. Shrub layer of fruit and nut bushes such as currants and berries.
  4. Herbaceous layer of perennial vegetables and herbs.
  5. Rhizosphere or underground dimension of plants grown for their roots and tubers.
  6. Ground cover layer of edible plants that spread horizontally.
  7. Virtual layer of vines and climbers

The plants selected would be appropriate for our local community and climate zone, and suitable for a public park.

On Thursday, February 8, 2018 from 6:30-8:45 pm there will be a public information session on the proposed design plan for the Blackstone Community Park at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex. The current proposed plans for this park have recently been posted (you can see them here) but this current proposal does not fully establish a food forest; rather a provision for a future community garden and the initial planting of fruit and nut trees.

If you are interested in seeing a food forest in our community, please provide your input and if possible, attend the meeting. I’m hopeful many members of our community will take the time to express their views.  The city is encouraging residents to provide their feedback on the proposed plans to:

Paul Wilson
Stittsville

Protecting Ottawa’s Green Spaces: Rochester Field

We pride ourselves on being a city with an impressive amount of green space. However, unless we have a clear vision, commitment and political leadership to protect those green spaces, they will continue to disappear.

Rochester Field is one such space. It’s about 3.8 hectares of open field between Richmond Road and the Ottawa River Parkway, next to the historic Maplelawn Garden and estate.

The field is well used by residents as a route to the recreational pathway along the Ottawa River and to the Transitway, and as a place to run, explore nature, fly kites and walk dogs.

Its status has been in limbo for many years. The City zoned it as Parks and Open Space, which the National Capital Commission appealed in 2003. During negotiations about the western Light Rail route, the City agreed to change the zoning of part of the Field to allow development, in exchange for use of the Parkway for the LRT.

The plan has been adjusted since then, so that currently 80 per cent of the Field would be preserved as park and open space, with the rest, two areas along Richmond Road, up for development as Traditional Main Street. An intent to protect existing mature trees is also expressed.

The preservation of green space is laudable, but there is little rationale for the proposed development—why extending the Westboro Village main street is preferable to parkland, and why the parkland needs to become a manicured area. There are alternatives that would make better use of this natural, active, connecting space, but these are not being considered.

Community groups including the Westboro Community Association and the McKellar Park Community Association, and many residents, are opposed to the plan, as is the local city councillor.

These objections have been noted by City staff, which nonetheless will recommend to the City’s Planning Committee on January 23 that Rochester Field be rezoned to permit the development that the NCC intends. The Planning Committee and Council do not have to approve this rezoning, though. They could take more time to consider the alternatives that would enhance the safety and accessibility of the site while not detracting from the benefits it provides as a relatively large and intact natural space, in an area where green space is already being eroded through intensification and redevelopment.

Residents can express their views at the Planning Committee meeting, on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 at 9:30 a.m. in the Champlain Room at City Hall, or through written submissions. Further details are here or here.

 

Gifts that Won’t Cost the Earth

Image via Pexels Creative Commons Zero (CC0) https://www.pexels.com/

If, like me, you’ve been too busy with life to focus on seasonal pursuits (or blog posts–sorry about that), here are some earth-friendly (and local!) gift ideas that you can still find before the holidays.

The Maple Leaves of Kichi Makwa, a children’s book by local Algonquin elder, poet and storyteller Albert Dumont, addresses themes of nature, respect and support, and is written in Algonquin, English and French. Find it at Singing Pebble Booksonline, or from the author.

Escape from the Museum! is a mystery-adventure set in the impressive Canadian Museum of Nature, offered in collaboration with Escape Manor, that would make a fun gift for kids or adults alike. Groups can choose from two themes: “Back to the Fossils,” involving time travel to help some lost dinosaurs, and “Framed,” investigating a heist of specimens from the Mammals Gallery.  It’s an opportunity to explore the museum’s collections and spaces while solving challenges before the time runs out. (Escape Manor offers escape adventures at several other locations including Diefenbunker, downtown and at their Hintonburg location.)

These days it’s possible to find plenty of eco-friendly, locally crafted items around town that would make thoughtful gifts. One place to check out is Maker House. They have wall hooks made from fallen branches by Not Mother, a window planter made from reclaimed wood marked “less stuff more life” by Grains of Truth, and a framed vintage Ottawa map print, hand embroidered with a red heart, by Sadie & June, as well as much more. Plus, if you buy from Maker House during December, they’ll donate 2% of the sales to Parkdale Food Centre through the #craftchange program.

For more green gift ideas, see our past posts on Thingless GivingA Gift of ReadingGifts that Give Twice and Greening the Season.

Seasons greetings!

Written by Denise Deby.