Tag Archives: local food

Save the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) Rally – Victoria, BC

ALR Rally 01

The sun came out and shone on a large crowd gathered on the lawns of the legislative buildings today at the Food for the Future Rally. Many thanks are due to the organizers, the sterling lineup of speakers, and even more importantly, the families and individuals who showed up to make it known that there are plenty of citizens who do not support the government’s move to dismantle the ALR. We are fortunate here in BC to have landmark legislation in place to protect farmland from development. Here’s hoping the powers that be take note and respect the wishes of those who are determined to protect what little farmland we have left.

ALR Rally 06

ALR Rally 07

ALR Rally 05 ALR Rally 04

ALR 02Though the day was warm, there was still some sparkly evidence of the recent cold snap.

alr rally o3One question… who ARE those guys up on the balcony that show up at every protest and take photos of the crowd with their long camera lenses?

ALR Rally 08Who are you working for, gentlemen? And what are you doing with the images?




Farmer’s Field Trip – Part One

If I ignore the parts of the day that involved hacking through thick ice on the various animal troughs with the back end of my trusty axe, today was a lot of fun. Too much fun, in fact, to try to include everything in one blog post.

russell books banner

After morning rounds (which, with all the water hauling, ice chopping, etc. took exactly twice as long as usual or a full four hours) we headed into town to one of my favourite stores, Russell Books. There, I found copies of two books I’ve been meaning to read for ages:  One-straw Revolution: Introduction to Natural Farming, by Masanobu Fukuoka and
and  Greenhorns: 50 Dispatches from the New Farmers’ Movement edited by Zoe Ida Bradbury, Severine von Tscharner Fleming, and Paula Manalo. This is a companion collection of essays to the documentary the greenhorns (which is on my ‘must watch’ list).

Books in hand, we headed over to The Hudson Public Market as Wednesdays is the day when they host a local farmer’s market and I was, of course, curious to see what was being offered up. I also had another reason for popping into the office – not long ago The Hudson ran a felfie contest and my entry won! This meant I had $20.00 market bucks to spend!

In case you missed it, here’s my Regal Hen and her Farmer entry…

DCC Love My Chicken!

Who says selfies/felfies can’t lead to fame and fortune? Or, a modest fortune, anyway – the people in the office didn’t recognize me, perhaps because I didn’t bring my chicken. Fame, it seems, remains elusive…

First stop was the Damn Fine Cake Company where Dad and I enjoyed some delicious coffee as we perused our new books (and maps – Dad is in the throes of planning a trip to the south of France… Without me, I might add, because I will be here hacking into hog water buckets with an axe. I’m ok with that. Really.) Damn Fine

The cakes were, indeed, mighty fine!

Fruity Cake

Oh… look at all the chocolate [this one’s for you, Melanie in IA).

Chocolate Overload!I had a more modest snack – a VERY tasty chocolate, banana, walnut muffin –

Coffee and a MuffinBetween the lovely coffee, the tasty snack, the good books, the funky decor, and attentive service, I have to say that was a most excellent use of half of my prize money!

Damn Fine Cake Company

Sugar Pot

Good Books!We browsed through various other market vendors – both the permanent businesses and the temporary vendors who are there only during the Wednesday afternoon farmers’ market.


IMG_8075[1] IMG_8086[1] IMG_8077[1]Though we chatted with Zach from Amuse, a restaurant associated with Unsworth Vineyards in Mill Bay (and I was sorely tempted by the duck liver pate), tasted some delicious sprouted peanuts from Salt Spring Island, and sampled an invigorating herbal tea from Infuse Herbals, it was the Baker on the Bike (Il Forno Di Claudio) who won my heart and took the rest of my Market Bucks.

Came home with some of this:


Sfilatino Origin: Piemonte and Lombardia regions

Ingredients: Organic white wheat flour, figs, walnuts, malt extract, sea salt, yeast.

Description: The sweetness of figs married with the savoriness of the dough and bitterness of walnuts makes for a unique flavor. This is a rich in flavor bread with a chewy crust and inner crumb. It is an excellent bread to eat with any blue cheese or any strong flavor cheese; or you can just make a bread and butter sandwich and enjoy it.

and some little cookies and a couple of varieties of these:


Focaccine Origin: Liguria region

Ingredients: Organic white wheat flour, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, yeast.
Description: A small size focaccia bread with nice crumbly texture. Available with different toppings, commonly with rosemary, or onions. The onions version has a nice sweet and juicy taste. Great snack for quick bite, a kid party or as appetizer. They make also a good base for a sandwich.

Oh. So. Good!

Then it was home again, a quick trip out for a bit of hay and some pumpkin scavenging from Michell’s before feeding all the critters, chopping more holes in more ice, putting in all the poultry and then rushing back out to the most excellent Deconstructing Dinner talk by Jon Steinman. The evening, though, deserves its own post, so I’ll save that for another day. If I’m very organized and I don’t chop off a limb or something during the ice wars, I might get a chance to write up my notes tomorrow, but if not, then look for that on the weekend.

Visiting the local market reminded me yet again of how lucky we are to live in a community with such an interest in supporting local food and food producers. It also reminded me how much fun it is to get out and about and off the farm every now and then! Even if I can’t get to France this spring, there is no reason not to explore more of the fun food festinations [that’s not a word, but it should be) right here!


Alderley Grange Goody Box 2014

Today’s post is a guest post by my lovely daughter and hard-working CSA/Goody Box coordinator, Dani…

This year, we are offering several options for CSA subscribers.

This year, we are offering several options for CSA subscribers.

What the Heck is a CSA?

Community Supported Agriculture programs, often known as CSAs, are becoming increasingly popular for farmers and their customers, but many who haven’t been exposed to them before aren’t quite sure what they entail.

While there are as many options as there are CSAs, the general principle of all of these ‘box’ programs is the same. During the early spring months, members of the community sign up for the program, essentially making a commitment to purchase a certain amount of product from a farm in the upcoming year. The commitment they make is a financial one as well: shares are pre-purchased at the time of sign up, even though products don’t start arriving for up to five or six months.

Why the delay? For farmers, some of our highest costs come early in the spring. This is when we are building needed infrastructure, purchasing seeds, putting in amendments, buying or breeding livestock, and generally preparing for the year ahead. Unfortunately, it’s also when income opportunities are lowest, as there is generally very little available to sell at that time. By buying in to a CSA, customers provide invaluable capital for farmers to start the season. Customers have pre-paid during the months when we have the most product available, and when our costs also happen to be lower.

If a CSA is a large percentage of a farm’s sales, as it will be for the Alderley Grange this year, then knowing how many shares have been sold before it is time to plant, order, and plan is also extremely important and helps us to provide our customers with the best-possible products over the course of the season.

Goody Box Contents - SampleOn the other hand, customers go into the summer knowing they will receive local, in-season produce all season, and that they will have the opportunity to get to know their farmers and food producers well. It’s a great chance to learn what is in season at any given time and to learn some new flavours and recipes. CSAs tend to provide the classics—carrots and potatoes—and the unusual—lovage and edible flowers—which lends itself to a varied experience from week to week.

The average CSA tends to provide a box of vegetables each week. Sometimes these come with a recipe, and sometimes you have the chance to add something like a dozen eggs. Some larger farms, such as Essex Farm in New York State, are able to provide fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, grains, maple syrup, and more to over 200 members, while others offer far more limited choices designed to supplement your weekly trip to the store.

At the Alderley Grange, we fall somewhere in between, and are also passionate about making our Goody Boxes a fantastic—and unique—experience for our customers.

Our popular Lifestyle Box, the flagship offering in our CSA program, offers members six veggie items, a fruit item, a dozen eggs or a package of sausages on alternating weeks, a specialty item (in 2013 this included a cook book, herb scissors, goat’s milk soap, and more), a recipe, 10% off all additional items purchased at the Grange, and more.  ($37 week; $740 season)

Other options include our Veggie-only box ($24/week; $480/season), and based on popular demand, an ‘everything-else box’ for members who grow their own vegetable gardens but want to enjoy local protein and goodies ($27/week; $540/ season).

We are also excited to be starting a monthly protein box this year, which will run from June–December and includes 12–13 pounds of meat each month, as well as a whole turkey for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Members of this box can expect to enjoy pork, beef, lamb, turkey, duck, and some more unusual meats like bison or venison, knowing that everything they are consuming has been pasture-raised on organic feed, without any added hormones or antibiotics by small-scale growers here on the Island. ($160/month; $960/season).

Goody Box Alderley Grange

As much as possible, all box products come from us here at the Alderley Grange on the Saanich peninsula, but when we need to supplement from another farm, we make sure it is local, organic, ethical, and farmed with love. The bottom line is that our CSA customers get some of the best produce around, and have the opportunity to form a relationship with the source of some of their family’s food at the same time.

Registration is now open, so consider supporting local food and guaranteeing your weekly or monthly share of some truly amazing food and goodies!

Visit us on Facebook to find out more and sign up here: www.tinyurl.com/alderleygrangeorderform

[Note from Nikki: I will add a new CSA page here, too – check back in the next day or two to see if the link is up there at the top of the website… Also, if you are confused about the Alderley Grange vs Dark Creek Farm – Dark Creek Farm is the name of the farm and the Alderley Grange is the name of the farm stand. Corporate branding experts would no doubt be horrified that we have two names going on, but our customers are smart cookies and figure it out pretty quickly….]

Day 19 – An African Women’s Farm

Last night Dad and I attended a talk about a women’s collective farm in the north eastern part of South Africa. It’s hard to know where to start as the talk touched on so many vital issues facing agriculture today. The speaker, Dr. Elizabeth Vibert, was excellent – her talk both inspiring and horrifying.

Dr. Elizabeth Vibert, University of Victoria

Dr. Elizabeth Vibert, University of Victoria

In the aftermath of the apartheid and drought, a group of women in Joppie Village started a small farm so they could grow vegetables for their families and community. 20 years later the farm is a vibrant hub in the community serving many roles beyond simply growing vegetables. It was inspiring to hear how these women have managed to get the farm off the ground, how it sustains them today, and fuels their hopes for the future.

Issues like the fact they must use hybrid seed (and, therefore, are beholden to the seed companies each year), have very little capital to invest in infrastructure, endure long periods of heat and little rainfall followed by short periods of deluge, and the ongoing struggles they face to protect the equipment they do own (pumps to provide essential irrigation to keep crops alive during those dry periods) against theft make my farming challenges insignificant hiccups. Despite the obstacles, through their perseverance they have created an amazing hub that sustains many people in many ways.

I found myself wondering if we shouldn’t be looking more seriously at other land-ownership models here on the peninsula that would make it easier for young farmers to have access to farmland (the Women’s Farm is owned collectively by the community) and at the same time move us along the road toward securing our own local food supply. Not so very long ago, Vancouver Island produced 80+ percent of our food. Today, that figure has plummeted to somewhere between 3% and 8% (depending who you ask). If we do not provide markets, infrastructure, and access to land for our farmers, AND we proceed with making changes to the ALR as is being discussed by our dear government, then why would we expect to see any farmland left at all? As a farmer said at a recent Peninsula Agricultural Commission Meeting, if we were to make farming a viable profession, there would be no need to protect farmland because young farmers would be lining up to get into the profession and they would be financially able to do so because farming would be a job that would pay a living wage.

There are so many cans of worms in that last paragraph I would be blogging until Christmas if I started opening them all. My point is, really, whether we are in South Africa or south Asia, Australia or Hawaii, the Fraser Valley or right here on our island, we ALL need to pay attention. We need to worry about seed saving, about who owns the genetic rights to living things. We need to think about smart ways to use infill development, to preserve the farmland we have left and make it accessible to a new generation of farmers. And, we need to provide useful ongoing support to farmers willing to use that farm to grow food. We need to look at the logic of using chemicals on food crops and how smart it is to ship lettuce from California when we can grow lots of it right here in our back yards.

Supporting local farmers is an essential part of the equation when it comes to deciding how we are going to plan for our collective food growing future. The decisions you make - organic vs conventional, local vs hauled in from a gazillion miles away affect you, yes - but they also have an impact on the bigger picture. Voting with your food dollars does matter.

Supporting local farmers is an essential part of the equation when it comes to deciding how we are going to plan for our collective food growing future. The decisions you make – organic vs conventional, local vs hauled in from a gazillion miles away affect you, yes – but they also have an impact on the bigger picture. Voting with your food dollars does matter.

A vibrant community farm is far more than just a place to grow vegetables. The way we feed ourselves, our children, our neighbours, our elders, our friends, and our communities tells us a lot about how healthy [not just physically] our families and communities are likely to be for the long haul. 

Soapbox moment finished – for now. Stay tuned. And consider coming to the ALR Town Hall Meeting in Sidney (Mary Winspear Centre) 7pm on November 27th. Unless, of course, you don’t eat. In which case, farmland really is of no concern.