Seed growing

Spring is here! And the Seedy Saturday (and Sunday) Seed Exchanges throughout Canada are going fast. (I have a new garden to play with this year, so I’m rather excited.)

I haven’t managed to make it to one of these exchanges, where you can buy heirloom and rare seeds for your garden (or balcony), BUT the next two exchanges in my area are entered in my phone. Really.

For dates in your area, see the Seeds of Diversity site.

If there isn’t a seed exchange near you, here are some worthy-of-your-$ seed suppliers that also do good work to preserve seed heritage:

Seeds of Diversity Resource List 2012

If you’re in Toronto, Urban Harvest sells directly at these farmers’ markets:

  • Dufferin Grove Thursdays 3-7 year round
  • Wychwood Barns Saturdays 8-1 year round
  • Leslieville Sundays 9-2 until late October

If you have some old seed packages on hand, left over from previous years, but are wondering if they might be genetically modified, visit the Safe Seed Resource List for 2012, by the Council for Responsible Genetics. This lists seed companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, promising to “not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants.”[1]

If you can’t find the brand you have on hand, I will humbly submit that you refresh your seed stock with organic or heritage seeds. After all, if you’re going to take the time and energy to grown your own food, make it worth it!


Growing Good Food Ideas

Whether you’re in Ontario, Oklahoma or Oxley, UK, if you are inspired by sustainable farming, eating local and nothing less than transforming our food system, check out the videos on Sustain Ontario’s new microsite, Growing Good Food Ideas.

While all these film shorts, made by Powerline Films, focus on Canada’s most populous (for now) province, the stories are global, and show the power of farming and the potential for change. Enjoy!

East Lynn MyMarket

East Lynn Park

Get the real deal with certified local farmers’ markets.

Have you been to a MyMarket? After being told by those who know I that I had to check out a MyMarket, I took advantage of some free time today and cycled over to East Lynn Park’s Thursday afternoon market — a small but growing neighbourhood farmers’ market just a stone’s throw from Woodbine and the Danforth.

Like the other MyMarkets around Toronto, East Lynn is certified MyPick™, which means the farms have been verified as authentically local, and the items the farmer is selling truly come from his or her farm. I.E. you are buying direct. No middleman. No food depot. No farmy re-packaging of someone else’s produce. It’s what a farmers’ market should be.

Diana Gonzalez, Toronto District Supervisor for MyMarket, explained to me that MyMarket inspectors go so far as to check the farmers’ seed invoices, as well as crops in the ground or livestock being raised, to ensure everything is on the up and up. And on every market day, market managers check that the items each farmer is selling match up with activities back at the farm.

All very impressive, right? That’s a lot of legwork and effort and time to make sure that the dollars you devote to supporting local food truly support local food.

It’s great. It’s crazy. It’s wonderful. I’m dizzy. So why aren’t we all shopping there?

Chatting with some of the farmers, I learned that shopper turn out can sometimes be quite poor – something they couldn’t understand because of “all houses all around us!” East Lynn is a relatively new market. If the neighbourhood wants to have continued access to fresh strawberries, sweet peas, wildflower honey, maple syrup and lamb chops, not to mention all the other baked treats I saw, it’s time to step up and show your support!

If we don’t support the local markets, our local farmers won’t bother coming in to see us, and we’ll be forced to shop for depot food at the supermarket.

C’mon out folks. It was a late spring, but it’s all coming up roses now!

Union Square Greenmarket

Ever been to the Greenmarket at Union Square in NYC?
They got it goin’ on.

I had the pleasure of visiting this market a few days ago and, chatting with one of the GrowNYC reps, I learned that it has been around since 1976.

What struck me about this market, I mean, aside from being open an impressive 4-days a week, year round, and hosting over 140 different local suppliers who provide New Yorkers with picked-that-day-or-the-day-before fruits and vegetables, it was that this market was situated right downtown in the middle of all the action.

Any farmer’s market I’ve ever seen has been sequestered away in a residential neighbourhood, often with operating hours that only the stay-at-home can adhere to.

But the Union Square Greenmarket sits right there like an icon to grassroots urban development; in a previously crime-ridden neighbourhood, this market now holds its own amongst office towers, megastores and trendy boutiques.

No doubt there is a price tag attached to this convenience, but the place is packed! Proving that movers & shakers, students, chefs, hipsters, neighbours and tourists are willing to rub shoulders and strike up some small talk all for the sake and the pleasure of eating some real food.

This is a market that is located where the people are.
If you’re in NYC, do check it out. This is how it should be.

Farmer FrankieWhat happens when you walk into your bank to talk to an advisor and, an hour later, actually leave feeling ok — like you’re in good hands and heading in the right direction? It’s nothing short of a miracle, personally speaking. But it’s also a testament to the importance of building relationships.

If we take the time to talk to someone and find out what they do, then we can have a better idea of what they can do for us.

In the small health food store where I work, I see local farmers come in every week delivering their produce. We discuss what’s new on the farm, the weather conditions, their successes and failures. I see how hard they work to grow their produce and their business.

I’m also their customer because I buy what they grow and eat it knowing it came from good hands and good intentions. And I am proud to be a part of this cycle.

Compare this relationship, or that of getting your food at a local farmer’s market, where you have a chance to get to know the people who grow your food, to that of shopping at a big chain supermarket.

The big chain stores provide the one-stop-shop and convenience, but we know nothing about the food we’re buying, the food we’re eating. How was it grown? Who grew it? Do they share the same concerns about the environment and food quality? When was it picked? How far did it travel to get here and in what conditions? How long has it been sitting on this shelf?

Now I’m not suggesting a boycott of the big chains, but why not take advantage of the abundance to great local food available in the summer months directly from the people who grow it? These people are our neighbours and they need our business.

Visit a Farmer’s market near you (here’s a list for southern Ontarians from Edible Toronto) and find out who these people are. Talk to them and ask them questions. Growing conditions vary from year to year and from region to region. Find out what the bumper crops are this year and work with it when you plan your meals. You’ll be rewarded with the freshest fruits and vegetables your area has to offer, picked at their peak and bursting with flavour.

My bank advisor guy is going to help me. Now I understand the role that our relationship plays in my achieving certain goals. Likewise, the relationship we have with our farmers and food growers will help us have a vibrant, sustainable greenbelt— not to mention a little independence from Big Agri.