Tag Archives: sustainability

Savour food – more about grass-finished beef w @OGC_AB

This film clip talks about the small but important trend towards grass-finished beef ranching, pasture management, environmental stewardship, and prairie grassland habitat restoration here in Alberta, Canada.

Do you know the difference between grass-fed beef and grass-finished beef? A friend that I consider a real food lover asked me the what the difference is last week and I thought – wow, if he doesn’t know then how many other people don’t understand the difference and what it means for the health of the animal, the land and the humans who enjoy beef? This blog will discuss the difference between grass-fed and grass-finished cattle in more detail. If you are keen to read this I’m sure you’ll enjoy the 12 minute film above. It’s loaded with the beauty of Alberta and her precious grasslands.

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Savour food Savour life – How cattle can rejuvenate grasslands and also decrease global warming

Cattle are meant to roam and graze. Cattle are not meant to be “centralized in animal feeding operations”. They are meant to eat grass. They are healthy when they eat grass. They can contribute to the health of our grasslands if they are rotated and managed well. Here’s a brief video explaining this further.

Here’s another video where Alberta rancher Tim Hoven talks about the carbon sequestering properties of well-managed grasslands.

Here’s a final video which explains how returning animals to grasslands, managing their grazing to mimic how it would be if predators were present can return areas from desertification to lush healthy grasslands that because of their carbon storage and contribution to the water table could reverse global warming.

So, are you surprised that cattle could actually increase the health of grasslands and help decrease global warming?

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Savour Food Savour Life – @calgaryfoodtour is Calgary’s newest beekeeper with a lot of help from @YYCbees

Calgary Food Tours keeps bees - we're in it for the honey and for our community

Calgary Food Tours keeps bees – we’re in it for the honey and for our community

One of my ways of being is to savour my food and savour my life. I can’t do one without the other. I try to balance my love of both.

I love honey and bees symbolize for me the universal connection between food and life. The fact that bees are not doing well and that beekeepers everywhere are losing them in great numbers is a harbinger for me. I don’t like what the loss of bees heralds. I don’t like the disruption in nature’s delicate balance that it means.

I’m a believer in the art of contributing to life in small ways with the faith that my actions, however small, will make a big difference if enough of us would only do those small things. When it comes to savouring food and contributing to a healthy food system for my home in Alberta, Canada I decided that getting involved with beekeeping might be a small way that I can make a difference where the fate of bees is concerned. This blog is about me, my company Calgary Food Tours Inc. and the bees we are nurturing for our community, our food, and our life.

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Filed under CFTinc's Bees4Communities, Savour food, Savour life

Savour Food –The #UCanFarm workshop with @JoelSalatin & @vergepc

Joel Salatin at the #UCanFarm workshop in High River Alberta

Joel Salatin at the #UCanFarm workshop in High River Alberta

Joel Salatin is a farmer and owner of Polyface Farms in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Polyface is 450 acres mixed forest and open grazing land with a biodiverse livestock and soil management program. Polyface provides food directly to 7000 families and 50 restaurants within a four hour radius of the farm and has been featured in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the movie Food Inc.

I signed up for a farming workshop with Salatin produced by Calgary’s Verge Permaculture, not because I have latent plans to become a farmer, but because I wanted to spend a day in the company of someone who has some real solutions for the quandary our food system is in. Salatin delivered. Midway through the day, I introduced myself to Salatin and asked him how much of my notes I could share. His response: share it all; I’m an open source. In fact, he said it with a lovely wide-open smile on his face and we shook hands and I thanked him. Jefferson is not the only polymath to come out of Virginia. I got to meet his modern day contemporary.

This blog is what I was able to glean from the workshop including a short history of Polyface farm, the group’s brainstorming session of why people want to farm, the pros and cons, application of business principles and lots of examples of how aggregate food systems could replace our current industrialized mega grocery supply structures. Salatin actually predicts the day when the middle man could be eliminated and all our fresh food could come directly to your doorstep via farming distribution cohorts. Intrigued? Please read on with my apologies for any mistakes. I’m sure they’re from my note-taking and not Salatin’s depth of knowledge.

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Savour Food – Start some seedlings or start a farm

Here’s the CBC Radio One Alberta @ Noon podcast from Thursday, March 7 when I talked about ideas to help you grow your own food – everything from starting your own seeds to starting your own farm. I’m at the 12.22 mark in the podcast.

Karen’s Monthly Food Column on Alberta @ Noon – Ways to grow your own food

There are lots of great gardening workshops and how-to farm sessions coming up in Alberta this month for those interested. I may never farm but I’m going to Joel Salatin’s “You Can Farm” workshop on March 20 in High River, Alberta. I want to see if he lives up to all the hype. I’ll report back to you on that later. Besides, one of my favourite ways to savour life is to meet people on the leading edge of thought. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Information about Seedy Saturdays and Sundays in Alberta for 2013

Calgary – Saturday, March 16, 10 A.M. – 3 P.M. at Hillhurst/Sunnyside Community Hall, 418- 7 Ave NW -Cost: $2.00
Jasper – Saturday, March 16, 10 A. M. – 1 P.M. at the Seniors Lounge at the Jasper Activity Centre
Edmonton, Sunday, March 17, 11 A.M. – 4 P.M., Alberta Avenue Community Hall, 9210- 118 Ave N.W.
Red Deer –Saturday April 6, 10 A.M.-5:30 P.M. Red Deer College-Margaret Parson Theatre

Information about permaculture workshops and the upcoming Joel Salatin farming workshops is available here.

The Tasty Apple Chicken Turnover recipe I talk about on the podcast is availabe here or here. It’s another great way to savour your food.


Filed under Alberta at Noon, Savour food

Savour Food – learn to grow some – Seedy Saturdays, Permaculture and workshops with the “World’s Most Famous Farmer”, Joel Salatin

If you love food ENOUGH, you might like to grow some of your own. If you are growing some of your own food, you’ll likely want to grow more and grow smarter, not harder. If you grow food for a living (a.k.a. FARM – the verb), you will ALWAYS look for better ways to do that.

March is the time when Canadian grower’s collective thumbs start to twitch and turn green with envy of people in warmer climes who are already “digging in” to a fresh season. This post provides some ideas to support you in your quest to grow food in Alberta whether you are just sprouting your green thumb, already a seasoned gardener or one of our few treasured and oh so dedicated farmers.

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Savour Food – SPIN farming – Small Plot INtensive farming

This is an article I wrote for City Palate Magazine last year and I’m sharing it here because I’m writing a lot about gardening and farming this week in preparation for my Alberta at Noon column on CBC Radio One this Thursday. The information about this “urban agriculture” movement, for those of you interested in such things, will round out your knowledge of current trends in all things green and growing right now. My next post will be about seed saving, permaculture and farming workshops with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms.

SPIN City – how Calgary is becoming more sustainable one urban SPIN farm at a time
By Karen Anderson (as originally published in City Palate Magazine, July/August, 2012)

Rod Olson & Chad Kile

Rod Olson & Chad Kile

In Food and the City: Urban Agricultural and the New Food Revolution,(Prometheus, 2012) author Jennifer Cockrall-King highlights the perils of our industrial food system: food shortages, food scares related to contamination, the controversy around genetically modified organisms, peak oil, peak water and peak farming knowledge. While closing the door on any doubts of industrial farming’s viability she also opens a window of hope by reporting on innovations being made to meet the challenge of feeding the world’s 7 billion hungry mouths. SPIN farming is one of those rays of hope.

People typically think of “spin” as a public relations tactic used to sway opinion, often in highly manipulative ways. In this article, SPIN is an acronym for Small Plot INtensive farming, a method of urban agriculture developed in Saskatoon over the last twenty years.

Wally Satzewich and Gail Vandersteen were urbanites living in Saskatoon but dreaming of a country acreage devoted to growing vegetables to sell at the city’s farmer’s market. They bought their piece of rural dreamland, planted 10 acres of crops but after a few years of dealing with deer, bugs and wind on the open prairie and some meticulous record keeping they realized that the protected, well cared for, lower pestilent inner city plots they had kept were the source of most of their income. They sold their rural farm and started to mentor others about the most successful small plot crops and intensive growing methods. Enter Roxanne Christensen a writer who famously proved SPIN methods would work when she turned an inner city Philadelphia plot into an economically viable urban half-acre farm in just two years. Christensen partnered with Satzewich to develop “How-To” manuals which sell for a modest $19.95 here. Christensen told me that one of the most important aspects of their work is the mentoring their SPIN farming system offers. She explained, “at least one or two generations have opted out of the farming profession, so there is a lack of sufficient mentors and the type of farming being practiced has not kept up with the times, so that much of the knowledge base that is available is out-of-touch with current economic and cultural realities.” The website currently has 684 SPIN farmers enrolled in their free online support group.

Rod Olson and Chad Kile, the owners of Leaf and Lyre Urban Farms, were Calgary’s first SPIN farmers. Olson, who was raised on a farm near Camrose, stumbled across the SPIN farming website when he was pondering how to incorporate his love of the land with his now urban setting. SPIN gave him an “aha” moment and with brother-in-law Kile he attended a “Local 101” conference in March of 2010 and heard Tony Marshall, owner of Highwood Crossing Organic Farms, talk about how Cubans utilized SPIN farming® to feed themselves in response to being cut off from oil supplies. Marshall also highlighted Satzewich’s work so that attendees of Local 101 would believe SPIN practices could be applied in our Northern Prairie climate.

Olson and Kile became convinced that SPIN would be both the way back to a lifestyle they loved and the way forward in terms of a progressive form of agriculture that would be sustainable and adaptable to Calgary. Kile agreed to be the brawn of the operation while Olson would do all the marketing and business development. Kile is an introverted academic who when not working on his PhD actually likes nothing better than digging in the dirt for hours. The CPO Chorus’s Principal Tenor and part-time youth leader Olson excels in community connection and networking. The next challenge was finding land.

Fortunately, they had also met Julie Van Rosendaal at Local 101 and she was able to facilitate an interview on CBC Radio One’s The Calgary Eyeopener where she is the resident food and nutrition expert. Offers of garden plots began to flow in and Leaf & Lyre roto-tilled their first plot in April of 2010.

The profile of SPIN plot lenders tends to fall in three categories. There are aged widows who are happy to have their backyards cared for again, there are young families who want their children to be exposed to backyard gardening but that don’t have the time or the know-how themselves and there are young people who have the land and would like to feel part of the movement and have more ties to their community. Olson and Kile are now up to their goal of 25 plots and the half-acre needed to fulfill their business plan which could see them make up to $72,000 per year according to the SPIN farming® website. They now refer ongoing land offers to a program that connects would-be growers with willing lenders at a website called Land Share Canada.

Leaf and Lyre’s specialty is greens as they are the plants best suited to Calgary’s climate and because they provide the best return on investment. They sell directly to restaurants and also have a weekly booth at the Hillhurst Sunnyside Farmer’s Market where patrons will find spinach, mizuna, tahtsoi, kale, onions, arugula, spring mesclun mix, red oak leaf lettuce, chard, unique carrot varietals and potatoes throughout the season.

A mere two years ago Leaf and Lyre were the only SPIN farmers in Calgary but 2012 will see at least three others join this urban agriculture cum sustainability movement (See Sidebar – The New SPINners). The Calgary Food Committee released its initial assessment and action plan on June 6, 2012 to help the City of Calgary formulate a plan for sustainability and food security in the decades to come. Part of that plan could include identifying land that could facilitate SPIN farming. In the meantime, Olson and Kile hope to band with “the new SPINners” to develop and share much-needed resources for coordinating the cleaning, storage and distribution of crops that could keep our city in fresh food for the future. Calgary could become known as a great SPIN city.

Sidebar – The new SPINners

Leaf Ninjas

Kai Boettcher, Luke Kimmel, Dave Carlton of The Leaf Ninjas

Kai Boettcher, Luke Kimmel, Dave Carlton of The Leaf Ninjas

Contact: Luke Kimmel, Dave Carlton, Tim Kessler, Kai Boettcher and Andrew Renaux
403-830-7229 or luke@leafninjas.ca
Produce: leafy greens, micro-greens, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, and onions, and a variety of herbs grown in plots throughout Inglewood and Ramsay in the city’s southwest. Leaf Ninjas are also in the business or permaculture design and installation
Available at: The Area in Inglewood, 1119 – 10 Ave SE & The Market Collective (various locations)

Urban City Farms and CSA

Will Carnegie and Chris Kostashuk

Will Carnegie and Chris Kostashuk

Contact: Will Carnegie and Chris Kostashuk, 403-973-6035 or urban.city.farms@gmail.com
Produce: many leafy greens and lettuces, beets, peas, beans, carrots, cucumbers, squashes, corn, leeks, watermelon, Brussel sprouts and onions grown in both the southwest quadrant of the city and on a 1 acre lot in Chestemere.
Available at: by CSA subscription and check the website for market locations throughout the summer.

Urban Sunflower Apiary and Market Garden

Contact: Jerremie or Rita Clyde, 403-483-7816 or urbansunflowerca@gmail.com
Produce: pesticide and chemical-free bee products, vegetables and 10 kinds of potatoes for 2012 grown in plots in the northwest and at Paradise Hill Farms in Nanton.
Available at: Hillhurst-Sunnyside Farmers Market each Wednesday, May 30 – October 3 sharing a booth with Leaf & Lyre Urban Farm.


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