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Promoting Public Awareness Of Wildlife Habitats Through Environmental Education

Where Does Your Food Come From?

In recent years a book by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon entitled The 100 Mile diet: A Year of Local Eating, prompted some people to make their own experiment with becoming a locavore. In 1954, long before this book brought attention to eating locally, Scott Nearing wrote a book called Living the Good Life, where he spoke about the high cost to society of eating exotic and out of season foods. He did not see the wisdom in having fruits and vegetables shipped across the country in trucks from California to the east coast of the United States and this was long before phrases like global warming and carbon footprint were even heard. A recent article in Fox News regarding a popular breakfast spread states that one jar of this product which is sold in 75 countries around the world, contains sugar from Brazil, cocoa from Nigeria, hazelnuts from Turkey, palm oil from Malaysia and vanilla from France. It is sold out of factories in Australia, North America and Europe. I can imagine what Scott Nearing would have thought of that.    Nearing and his wife Helen lived on a homestead in Vermont and in later years, in Maine. Vegetarians, they grew their own food and were able to subsist using methods like cold frames, preservation and cold cellar storage. Scott was one of the early pioneers who experimented with green house gardening. Scott and Helen ate most of their food raw and were able to buy the few other things they needed by selling their own maple syrup and blue- berries for cash.

 

Whether you agree or not with the lifestyles presented by these books and other similar ones on the market today, a good outcome of them is that people are becoming more aware of what they are eating. I have to admit that for many years I shopped automatically, paying attention to price only. When I did become aware of the origin of what I was buying, I was surprised to learn how few local products were available in the grocery store. When you start thinking about where your food comes from, how it is processed and how it is shipped, it makes you then wonder why it is easier to buy fresh lamb from Australia then lamb grown right here in Ontario. Most people are not in a position to homestead like the Nearings, nor would they want to limit their diet exclusively to locally produced products, but there are a few things we can do to lessen the impact that our diet has on the planet.

 

Shopping at local fresh food markets is an option. Also, even people with limited space can produce a plentiful supply of fresh food using an intensive form of growing as described in a book called Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. Instead of growing vegetables in traditional long rectangular beds Mr. Bartholomew advocates building small raised square beds and then dividing these into smaller sections. Dealing with one section at a time it is much easier to improve the soil using organic methods. Since a small number of plants are grown close together, weeding and watering is reduced. With the row method, large amounts of produce ripen at once which can lead to waste. Alternatively, in the square foot method, the gardener can harvest small amounts regularly and then replant all season long with successive crops. If you do not have enough space even for square foot gardening, then there are a number of herbs and vegetables that can be grown in containers on balconies or decks. Some vegetables and fruits are perennial like rhubarb and asparagus. Likewise, garlic only has to be bought once and then properly treated it will be around forever. I grow a variety of garlic called Music that does very well in the Ontario climate. To start the growing cycle, I split the garlic heads into sections and plant each individual clove in rich compost around Thanksgiving. I plant fairly deep and usually have a good reliable snow cover so I don’t bother mulching as is often suggested. In early spring the lime green shoots of the garlic start to poke up among the tulips. By July the plants are tall and are usually starting to flower and form curly stems called scapes. These should be removed so that the garlic can put all of its strength into bulbs and not into seed. Some people like to cook or eat the scapes fresh. When top growth of the garlic starts to turn brown and die down, I pull up the bulbs and hang them in a sheltered airy place to dry. After they dry completely, the outer dirty, papery layer can then be removed by just gently rubbing it off. The dried tops are then cut off and the bulbs are put into storage in a dry open place. A hanging wire basket in a spare bedroom works for me. They keep well and there are always enough bulbs left over for replanting the following fall. For ease of use, I put my slightly crushed garlic cloves into a jar with a little dried chilli pepper and sun dried tomatoes and then cover it all with olive oil. With the lid on, this stores well for a very long time in a dark cupboard. When needed, I strain it through a fine mesh sieve and have a ready supply for any recipe that calls for oil and garlic.

 

You may choose to garden in the ground, in containers on decks and balconies, in pots on a windowsill or you may just choose to support your local growers in a supermarket or an outdoor stall. Either way, eating will be nutritious, delicious and it will make you think about where your food comes from.

 

 

SNOWSHOE EVENT: Join us for a Snowshoe Stroll on Sunday, January 19, 2014 for a FREE fun day of snowshoeing at SCOUTS VALLEY (Line 15 lot) 10am – 3pm.  Have snowshoes? Bring them along but no worries if you don’t, Kids for Turtles has many sizes of snowshoes. Light lunch provided.  Kids welcome.

 

 

Written by: Susanne Robinson, a volunteer with Kids for Turtles. Kids for Turtles Environmental Education is an educational and outreach organization working to bring a better understanding of and stewardship to the environment around us.