Tag Archives: community

C is for Community (#atozchallenge2018)

 

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Carmine’s downstairs… the pizza joint in the ‘hood

 

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote a post over on my author blog about this year being all about community. It is, after all, the year in which my book Better Together: Creating Community in an Uncertain World came out so the subject has been on my mind. But it struck me, during this past week or so in France, that creating and maintaining connections has never been easier. Yesterday I was lucky enough to share a lovely lunch with writers I met during last year’s visit. The plans were formulated while I was in Canada, the host was in Paris and one of the attendees was in Menorca. Others who couldn’t attend touched bases, someone new to me joined the group – new connections were forged while others were strengthened.

Though this type of thing is passé for young ‘uns it still strikes me as slightly miraculous that a quick bit of typing and the goodwill of friends makes it possible to enjoy a chat over cheese as we swap stories in Paris before scattering again.

What is also interesting in this new, fluid, international world is that it was in an apartment near the Bois de Vincennes (location of said lunch and gathering of friends) that I first heard of the Canadian mezzo soprano Marie-Nicole Lemieux from a choral music enthusiast (and our gracious host) Anne. Granted, Marie-Nicole Lemieux is from Quebec and sometimes I think Canada is really bizarre in the way in which we in the west remain too often are ignorant of the talented musicians, singers, and writers who do amazing work in Quebec… Anyway, for your musical edification, here is Ms Lemieux singing L’amour est un oiseau rebelle from the Opera Carmen…

https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/4bVLlk6iQDafAb3Bbf5aqE

Today was my last day in Paris where it has been a delight to plug in to the local community for a short time. In the morning (way too early) we begin the long journey back to Canmore and my lovely community there. Which, as it turns out, is more accurately described as a series of overlapping communities – the mad band of climbers who help keep me fit, challenged and engaged with endless problems to solve on rock, in the gym, and less often, on ice. I’m just beginning to dive into the theatre community, which has been a fantastic way to engage with a whole new circle of friends and explore another dimension of my creative life.

 

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Theatre selfie – Ally Lacentra playing a heroin addict, me as a grumpy old woman during Theatre Canmore’s recent 10-minute Play Festivus (can’t wait for next year!!)

 

Alas, it’s getting late and I have yet to pack, so that’s where I shall leave the letter C (there were actually a bunch of them sprinkled throughout the post… go count if you don’t believe me). More tomorrow as I wend my way back to my home in the mountains!

Ciao!

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Community Farming!

I have to say that since I embarked upon this farming endeavour of mine, I have been shocked and delighted to discover how social farming can be. Unlike my writing life, which tends to be solitary and which suits the hermit side of my personality very nicely, it turns out farming lends itself well to a more collective effort.

The massive round table in the Zero Mile Eatery at OUR Ecovillage was the perfect piece of furniture to facilitate the discussion about community farming...

The massive round table in the Zero Mile Eatery at OUR Ecovillage was the perfect piece of furniture to facilitate the discussion about community farming…

Work parties are a great excuse to get everyone together for a meal (and, yes, are a fabulous way to tackle a big project) and networking with other farmers is always both educational and reassuring. Not so long ago I took part in the Community Farms Roundtable up at OUR Ecovillage in Shawnigan Lake. Organized by Young Agrarians and Farm Folk City Folk, the roundtable format brought together an eclectic group of farmers, land owners, policy makers, researchers, and foodies to discuss ways of bringing together farmers, land, and communities.

No job is too large, small, or cold for our long-suffering helper, MC.

No job is too large, small, or cold for our long-suffering helper, MC.

With agriculture being increasingly concentrated on larger farms, land prices rising, and older farmers retiring at an alarming rate, conversations like those had at the roundtable event have never been more important. How do we find ways to get young farmers onto the land? How do we connect communities with their local growers (it’s shocking how many miles food travels before it lands on the average dinner plate). And how do we ensure that governments at all levels protect farmland?

Here in our neighbourhood, all kinds of initiatives and shared projects have blossomed as various landowners have collaborated to share resources, labour, and land. My short presentation at the roundtable had a look at the informal model we’ve been using here in the ‘hood as we work together as a neighbourhood to grow food crops and raise eggs and meat on relatively small amounts of land.

Community farming can take many other forms including formal co-ops, collectively held land, and farms owned by various levels of government. There are also various programs that match young farmers with land owners who would like to see their land in production but who may not, for whatever reason, wish to farm themselves. Some programs include a strong teaching/mentorship component while others are more casual.

On our little farm, we’ve not only tapped into the local community we’ve also recently joined the fascinating world of being hosts to travelers looking for a place to stay in exchange for helping out around the place. There are several websites that help coordinate these partnerships. WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) connect organic farms with those wanting to learn by doing on the land. Workaway and HelpX broaden the jobs list to include everything from childcare to office work to cooking, cleaning, and building projects. SOIL (Stewards of Irreplaceable Lands) has a strong teaching component and, like WWOOF, focusses on farming.

Our first two volunteers, both from Germany, have been nothing short of a godsend. From washing eggs, to sorting seeds, to building a new portable hog hut, they have cheerfully jumped in and set to work. Which, of course, has been marvelous – I am feeling much more optimistic that we might actually make some good headway on the never ending to-do list.

Mud? No problem...

Mud? No problem…

Ditch

The end result of a whole lot of digging was water running into the ditch rather than over the neighbor’s driveway! Much better!

What has been the biggest surprise, though, is how much fun it is to have all this youthful energy around! We’ve had interesting conversations over dinner every night as we hear about their experiences travelling and share a bit of our lives here on the farm. I am having a lot more fun than I expected (and I really, really hope our visitors are not finding it too bad to be here!!) The weather has been crappy, to say the least, and this has meant we’ve had to ask for help with some rather soggy and unpleasant jobs – like digging a ditch to channel water away from the neighbor’s garage. The grim job was completed in record time with lots of smiles, chatting, and good humour despite the miserable conditions.

Stay tuned for a future update on the progress on the new hog hut. MC is an engineering student, so unlike some of my more wobbly creations, this hog hut is square, strong, and beautiful!