February 6, 2009

Hello, and thank you for dropping by. Please note that this blog has now been incorporated into the Powell River Food Security Project’s website. Scoot on over there for the latest news about what’s going on in the Powell River region: Kale Force meetings, community gardening, workshops, and so much more.

If you wish to subscribe by email to the Powell River Food Security Project blog, click here. You’l be directed to a page where you enter your email address and fill in a captcha thingy; then you wll get an email message asking you to confirm your subscription by clicking on a link. Once you’ve done all that, then you will get an email message every time something new is posted to the Food Security Project blog.


Kale Force meeting of Dec. 10, 2008

December 11, 2008

Had the last meeting of the year last night, and (I think) the first meeting of the second year of meetings… meaning, if I remember rightly, that the first meeting ever was in December 2007, back when we had no name for these monthly gatherings.

About 8 people showed up, which is not bad for a December evening. The food was great: a delicious curry and rice, some mashed (local) potatoes with parsley & smoked salmon, deviled backyard (illegal!) eggs, and yummy shortbread and other treats for dessert.

Conversation was, as always, fairly free-wheeling. But we did do a go-round and give everyone a chance to talk about what they’re up to, what’s going on in the garden, and all that good stuff. I handed out copies of the first draft of the seed-saving plan and we talked about that. I’m pretty certain that this is a project that will really spark people’s imaginations and lead to good conversations about the importance of local seed-saving, the fragility of the global food supply, backyard gardening in hard times, and all sorts of other topics near and dear to the heart of the Kale Force.

For anyone interested in getting more involved, the seed-saving project — which badly needs a jazzy name — has a blog. There’s not a huge amount of information there now, but this is the place on the web where we will be creating and following this local project, answering questions, sharing information and results, and all that.

See you in the new year!

How farming saved Hardwick, VT

October 14, 2008

This story is pretty inspiring, and sounds like where we could be headed in the Powell River region, with some more smaller farms springing up, a bit more awareness of the value of local food to the local economy, maybe some small businesses and value-added operations, and something like Helena Bird’s proposed teaching farm & market garden (AKA “Full Circle Farm”) to anchor the community around a central facility to provide a common infrastructure for production and processing.

Here’s the part I like:

“All of us have realized that by working together we will be more successful as businesses,” said Tom Stearns, owner of High Mowing Organic Seeds. “At the same time we will advance our mission to help rebuild the food system, conserve farmland and make it economically viable to farm in a sustainable way.”

Cooperation takes many forms. Vermont Soy stores and cleans its beans at High Mowing, which also lends tractors to High Fields, a local composting company. Byproducts of High Mowing’s operation — pumpkins and squash that have been smashed to extract seeds — are now being purchased by Pete’s Greens and turned into soup. Along with 40,000 pounds of squash and pumpkin, Pete’s bought 2,000 pounds of High Mowing’s cucumbers this year and turned them into pickles.

Somehow we need to start pulling in the same direction. Things seem very ragged and disorganized right now, largely thanks to the policies of large centralized governments, but helped along by societal forces that make farming an unattractive profession. It’s so bad now for small-scale farming that almost anything would help reverse the trend.

Candy 1, Produce 0

October 14, 2008

This chart says it all:

Candy and Soft Drinks vs. Fresh Produce

2007 Consumer Expenditures: Candy and Soft Drinks vs. Fresh Produce

Actually, it’s more like: Candy 1, Produce 0.96. But still, the fact that sales of candy, snacks, soft drinks (i.e., liquid candy), and (fergawdsakes) water is beating out sales of produce… well, there’s a ways to go before people are eating well in the USA. I don’t expect that these numbers are terribly different up here. In fact, comparative numbers from around the world would be pretty interesting.

I think that if I had been asked to guess at how these numbers stack up, I would have predicted that produce sales are even lower in comparison to the junk food categories lumped together here.

$500,000 MacArthur genius grant awarded to urban farming advocate

September 23, 2008

From pro basketball to urban farming… only in America!

One of Wisconsin’s few African-American farmers, Allen, a former professional basketball player in the ABA, founded Growing Power in 1993 in Milwaukee to help teach inner-city kids about the origins of their food. It has expanded to include satellite-training sites in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Mississippi.

The group’s high-quality produce and grass-fed meats are sold through farmer’s markets that target inner city neighborhoods in Chicago and Milwaukee, where access to fresh food is often difficult and expensive.

Here’s the link to the Growing Power website.

Seed-saving workshop II

September 18, 2008
One of Wendy's squash patches; pole beans in the background

One of Wendy's squash patches; pole beans in the background

We had the September Kale Force meeting last night, one week late since I was out of town at the Sorrento gathering of the BC Food Systems Network last Wednesday. This month’s meeting was the follow-up meeting to July’s meeting when Wendy Devlin talked to the group about some of the basics of saving seeds. That was the classroom portion; last night’s meeting was the hands-on part. We met up at Wendy’s place, up in the far northeast corner of Wildwood, admired her ducks and rabbits and sheep, and then spent almost two hours wandering around in her garden, learning about the ins and outs of seed-saving.

We looked at chard, beet, dill, cilantro, beans, various flowers, talked about gathering seeds from plants like cucumbers and tomatillos, and spent some time gathering seeds from Wendy’s cosmos (cosmoses?). It certainly adds a whole new dimension to gardening when you have to think ahead to saving seeds, since you have to consider distances between plants, accidental pollination, flowering times, and the tradeoffs between growing plants for eating and growing plants for seed.

After that, some of us went down the road a piece to Heinz’ house and admired his incredible garden, built among the rock formations beside his house. Talk about making the best of a difficult situation for a garden! Heinz has trucked in large amounts of soil and amendments and created a very orderly and well-maintained fruit and vegetable garden. He has lots of strawberries, even this late in the season, which might be something to do with the fact that everything is surrounded by rock, which probably helps keep the garden from cooling down as much as it otherwise might. We enjoyed a nice potluck meal and conversation, and then called it a night.

One thing that came out of the workshop was a renewed interest in creating a regional seed-saving effort, whereby people in different parts of town could tale responsibility for saving seed from particular plants and varieties. This might allow for isolating plants from cross-pollination and accidental hybridization, and would allow for some plants to be grown for seed in areas which are more conducive to those plants. For example, Wendy was having trouble getting some of her plants to set seed before the cool damp weather starts; but in drier warmer parts of Powell River it should be possible to extend the growing season by a couple weeks or more.

So, this winter, as we continue to meet (second Wednesday of every month at 5:00 PM at the Community Resource Centre!), we will hopefully be planning a little network of seed-savers around the area, divvying up responsibility for seeds from various plants, and using these seeds to feed into Seedy Saturday. Perhaps over time this will evolve into a seed company or cooperative.

Understanding our local animal by-laws

July 17, 2008

If you consult the Animal Control Consolidation (by-law #1979) in conjunction with the zoning map of the City of Powell River, you can figure out whether you are allowed to keep animals on your property other than dogs or cats. Here’s how it works:

Go to page 4 of the Animal Control Consolidation. Clause 29 states:

29. No person shall keep any animal, other than a dog or cat, on a parcel of land in the District unless the land is in an area zoned RA1, A1 or A2 under the Powell River Zoning Bylaw No. 1851, 1999 except in the lawful operation of a pet shop or veterinary clinic.

There are no exceptions to this clause. So look at the zoning map. If you are not in an area zoned RA1 (Residential Agricultural), A1 (Small Lot Rural Residential), or A2 (Small Lot Rural), then you are out of luck. You’ll have to raise small animals on the QT. These zones cover all of Wildwood, except for Catalyst’s landfill; most of the parts of Cranberry lying to the south, east, and north of Cranberry Lake; and a few areas on the edge of Westview as well as the lands surrounding the hydro right-of-way.

Let’s say that you do happen to live in an area zoned RA1, A1, or A2. Clause 30 of the Animal Control Consolidation states:

30. No person shall keep any animal, other than a dog or cat in the District unless:

a) 0.4 hectares (1 acre) of land is provided for the animal, and

b) an additional 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) of land is provided for each additional animal.

c) Notwithstanding sections 30 (a) and (b) of this bylaw, a person may keep any animal, other than a dog or cat on a parcel of land in the District in an area zoned Residential Agricultural (RA1), under the Powell River Zoning Bylaw No. 1851, 1999 provided that:

(i) 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) of land is provided for each animal.

So now we learn that in order to keep any animal other than a dog or cat, you need to be in an area zoned RA1, A1, or A2; and you must also provide an acre of land for the first such animal (clause 30(a)) and a half-acre for each subsequent animal (clause 30(b)).

Clause 30(c) informs us that if you are in area zoned RA1, however, you only need a half-acre for each animal, not a full acre for the first animal and a half-acre for the subsequent ones. (So zone RA1 is clearly the gold standard of urban agricultural zones.)

Now we get to clauses 31 and 32:

32. Notwithstanding section 30 of this bylaw, a person may keep up to 24 poultry, one of which may be a rooster, or 50 rabbits on a parcel of land in the District having an area greater than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres).

31. Notwithstanding section 30 of this bylaw, a person may keep up to 12 poultry, none of which may be a rooster, or 20 rabbits on a parcel of land in the District having an area of 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) or less.

Upshot of these two clauses: the business we just went through about needing an acre for the first animal and so on does not count if we are talking about poultry or rabbits. In the case of poultry or rabbits, you need to be an area zoned RA1, A1, or A2, as always; but if your property is half an acre or smaller in size then you can keep “up to 12 poultry, none of which may be a rooster, or 20 rabbits”. If your property is larger than half an acre then you can keep “up to 24 poultry, one of which may be a rooster, or 50 rabbits”.

It seems that the by-law is written so that poultry and rabbits are mutually exclusive. At any rate, there is no simple way of figuring out of you can keep some mix of poultry and rabbits, and if so how many poultry equals one rabbit.

So, in the interests of simplifying this, here is the decision tree:

1. Do you live in an area zoned RA1, A1, or A2? (Consult the map.) If yes, go to (2). If no, you cannot legally keep livestock in the City of Powell River. Go to (7).

2. Is your property half an acre or less in size? If yes, go to (3). If no, go to (4).

3. You may keep up to 12 poultry, none of which may be a rooster, or 20 rabbits. If your property is in an area zoned RA1, and it is precisely half an acre in size, then you can keep one other animal other than a dog, cat, poultry, or rabbit. Go to (7).

4. You may keep up to 24 poultry, one of which may be a rooster, or 50 rabbits. Is your property in an area zoned RA1? If so, go to (5). If not, go to (6).

5. You can keep animals other than a dog, cat, poultry, or rabbit, as long as you provide a half an acre per animal. Go to (7).

6. You can keep animals other than a dog, cat, poultry, or rabbit, as long as you provide an acre for the first such animal and a half an acre for each subsequent animal. Go to (7).

7. Confused? If yes, then go back to (1) and try again. If not, you’re done.

So, it’s a little complicated, but not terribly so.

The upshot is that there are large parts of the City of Powell River where livestock are illegal. This needs to be investigated and changed if needed. Who wants to help with that?


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