November is here and I can’t really believe it. Time is such a funny thing, it feels like summer was just yesterday, while at the same time feels like it was months ago. Which it was! Now, it’s dark when we drive to the kitchen early in the morning, and the sun sets moments after we get home. The season is cool, brisk, and hovering around the 0 degree mark. In honesty, I’m loving the darkness, the invitation for rest and solitude. I like the cold breeze, the layers of sweaters, the low sunlight, the long nights.
I promised a List of Demands from last post, inspired by my critique and challenge of the Occupy Toronto Movement. But first, a few things to share about the business, food events in the city, and our busy city lives…
Centre for Social Innovation
The Food Innovation Consellation of CSI, along with Maplekeys Office Markets, have established weekly Farmers’ Markets at both CSI locations. These markets are open during lunchtime, 11:30am-1:30pm, on Tuesday at the Annex, and Wednesdays at Spadina and Queen. We’ve had the opportunity to be a part of this venture early on, and are thrilled to see it grow and evolve.
The mission of these markets is to bring fresh, local, sustainably-produced, and scrumptious food to office members, in hopes of creating greater accessibility to this type of food. Kate brings her produce from Maplekey Farms, Constance sells cheese from Monforte Dairy, Sara from Nice Buns offers fresh melt-in-your-mouth breads, Gabriella from Chocosol shows up with her chocolate and Mexican tortillas, Jesse from the Cutting Veg sells her incredible and beautifully-coloured beet, garamasala and leek hummus (see pic below), and we at E & C have a spread of our regualar seasonal raw-vegan goodies, and every now-and-then we offer hot vegan soup made with seasonal root veggies and grains.
It’s a spectacular spread: convenient, healthy, affordible, accessible, local and seasonal. The food comes straight from the grower and producer to the consumer: less travel time for food, more time for office members to have conversations with a farmer and people like us who prepare their lunch.
Toronto Food Policy Council
TFPC 20th year anniversary conference was held at St. Lawrence hall on October 20th. It was a celebration of food policy, innovation, and 20 years of connecting the importance of food to our city’s social, economic, and physical landscape. I was surrounded by what I termed as ‘foodie celebrities’ (hello Wayne Roberts!), and other powerhouse people like him who have been at the forefront of food policy, education and transformation in this city, and beyond. As part of the younger generation of food activists and entrepreneurs, I found a lot of inspiration, and garnered a big source of motivation, from this event. Some of the learning highlights at the conference:
- Toronto Food Policy Council is made up of staff and volunteers, and part of its mandate is inspired by Dan Leckie, who worked towards promoting propositional food politics, rather than oppositional.
- Toronto Food Strategy is a collaboration of TFPC and Toronto Public Health, thus creating an alliance between people both inside and outside the government.
- Food systems are largely governed by provinical and federal government, so how does a small municipal unit have an impact?
- How can we design strategies that can affect municipal policy change?
- Creating good fair food policy means asking who eats what, when, and how.
- Policy needs to incorporate the entire food spectrum: from the agricultural process to consumer and elimination process.
- Social policy is a public health policy!
- The most effective mode of participation is community engagement. Communities should demand accessible, honest and transparent information from policy makers.
- And it goes both ways: the government’s responsibility is to translate policy is a clear and communicative way so citizens are enabled and empowered to participate.
- How does local knowledge and expertise make its way into policy?
- The Food Charter, passed in 2001, exists to advance food security issues for Toronto. It is a tool for institution building, a tool of reference to hold government accountable, and gives a broad mission of what kind of city we would like to see.
- Food is the city’s business, not just public health! All departments within the city need to consider food as a part of their mandate and practice.
- Farmstart supports a new generation of farmers.
- Trends in Canadian agriculture: 1.farmers are aging, 2. food comes from further away, 3. good farmland is disappearing.
- Nick Saul, executive director of The Stop Community Food Centre, stated powerfully: the rich get local and organic, the poor get diabetes.
- Food banks are a dead institution: it does not serve nutritious food, it divides citizens and encourages a 2-tiered system, and promotes psychological complacency. We need a different kind of response in low income communities! Low income people need to be part of the greater conversation.
- Food is a public good, and we as a society need to establish empathetic principles to food rights: the right to good healthy food for all, the right to ethical standards and treatment for farmers, and the right for our environment to be treated in sound and sustainable ways.
- Everdale is a teaching farm; it exists to support the education of new farmers. Farmer training needs to embody business skills, food growing skills, social and ecological engagement that can be transfered to an urban setting.
- We have constructed this fantasy of cheap food. If I don’t pay, who does?
- Carolyn Steele defined the word Sitopia: Food Place. We live in a world shaped by food.
Winter Months and Farmers’ Markets
Many Farmers’ Markets have officially moved inside for the season; some have stopped for the winter and will pick up again next spring. We’ll be inside at Wychwood Barns every Saturday morning 8am-12:30pm throughout the winter months. Sorauren Market moves inside to the fieldhouse, we’ve confirmed until Christmas time the very least, Mondays 3pm-7pm. Centre for Social Innovation Markets are inside at both locations, and we’ll be there alternating Tuesdays (Annex) and Wednesdays (Spadina) every week from 11:30am-1:30pm. Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington will start up again next year, end of May 2012.
Whats in Season: Our November and December Menu
There is still plenty of fresh Ontario-grown food available in November and December. It’s been a mild and desirable fall season, and so the harvest continues to be incredible and full. Come to a market and see for yourself! Tables are brimming with leeks, spinach, peppers, potatoes, garlic, herbs, squash, red and golden beets, red and green cabbage, carrots, rutabaga, apples, pears, pumpkin, parsnip, salad greens, sprouts… We’ve got lots of fresh produce to work with. Here are some of our new offerings:
Nori Rolls: We’ve been using parsnip and cabbage to fill these rolls, and along with an apricot-sundried tomato spread, these items are a mix of sweet and savoury. $2 for one or $6 for four rolls.
Flatbreads: Our flatbread recipe has changed, and it’s here to stay for the winter months. Carrot, garlic, rosemary and onion, is paired with flax seed, sunflower seed, wheat-free tamari and olive oil. It’s dehydrated for 48 hours, and comes out so savoury and delicious. Served with a rosemary red pepper sauce and sprouts, this yum sandwich is $6. We also sell in bundles of 5 for $10.
Spinach-Shallot-Walnut Pesto: Our take on the traditional basil pesto for the late fall season. Thank you to Sosnicki Farm for the greens and shallots! The spinach is hearty, the shallots mild but spicy, and the walnuts add a truly nutty flavour. We mix with garlic, olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice. Buy the spread 250ml for $4.
Apple-Gingersnap Squares: Made with organic oats, organic spanish almonds, honey dates, blackstrap molasses, cinnamon, fresh ginger and local golden delicious apples, these really taste like a gingersnap cookied cross apple crumble. We’re obsessed with these little guys right now, so flavourful. $3 for a square.
Pumpkin-Date-Cashew Tarts: Thank you to Greenfields for the organic pie pumpkins! The pumpkin is so creamy, flavoured with a mix of warming spices: cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger. The crust is made of organic rolled oats, honey dates and a dash of sea salt for a hint of salty goodness. $3.50 a tart.
Pear-Ginger Cashew Squares: We blend ripe Ontario pears from Bizjak Farms with raw cashews, honey dates and cinnamon for the filling. Dehydrated pears with a sprinkle of cinnamon for the topping, walnuts and honey dates for the crust. $3 for a square.
Peanut-Butter Blackstrap Molasses Macaroons: The peanut butter we source from Culinarium, grown and harvested in Prince Edward County. All natural red-skinned peanuts. Pair it with yummy blackstrap molasses, coconut and a dash of cinnamon, these macs are pretty much out of this world. $2 a mac.
Canning and Preserving
Starting mid-summer, we’ve been canning, freezing and drying seasonal fruits and veggies. Our list of preserves is modest, but we still feel well-stocked for the cold months. Throughout the winter, we’ll feature some of our preserves in our prepared food, spreads, fillings, sauces and sweets. Here’s what we accomplished:
June/July: We froze containers of sour and sweet cherries from Bizjak Farms, as well as fresh local raspberries. In the winter, we’ll feature these berries in tart fillings, fruit squares, and dried fruit leathers.
August: We bought a bushel, and did up 27 500ml cans of peaches from Bizjak Farms. The peaches are preserved in honey from Bees Universe. Honey is a widely vegan-debated food; it’s not accepted as vegan by some, and by others it’s considered a great part of a vegan diet. We don’t use honey in our market menu, but we do see so many nutritional and sustainable qualities of honey as a healthy alternative to agave, dates, or maple syrup. Here’s a source to start you with if you’re interested in researching more about honey: Marni Wasserman’s blog. We also made huge batches of basil pesto! With basil from Highmark Farms, sunflower seeds and hemp seed from Peterbourogh, we froze containers full for flatbread spreads in the winter months.
September: 18 1L jars of roma tomatoes from Highmark Farms, canned and preserved! The tomatoes will be used for pizza sauce, sundried tomato sauce and salsa in the winter.
October/November: We’re in the process of drying bunches of kale for seasoned kale chips. Sliced pears and apples are in the dehydrator for fruit chips, and we’ve also pureed the fruit to dry as fruit leather. Root veggie chips made up of parsnip, beet, carrot and sweet potato are seasoned and dried for selling at the markets.
Eagle Lake Retreat
During the beginning of October, Lisa and I went on our first annual Earth & City retreat. We stayed at a cottage up north past Muskoka on Eagle Lake, owned by Lisa’s family. Thank you Sweetman family for inviting us in for the weekend. It was beautiful, cozy, and warm (with the wood burning stove blazing most of the time!). Our time away was spent resting, reading, walking, cooking, eating, sleeping. It’s quite an extraordinary privilege to get away, to retreat, to step back from our busy urban lives and land in a quiet and perfect sanctuary. We see such value in taking time to step away from the business every so often. What seems like a loss in productivity and effectiveness is actually a gain in achieving greater productivity, presence, availability and energy when it comes time to step back into the business. The more we take of ourselves, the better we take care of the business, our customers, our colleagues, our planet.
List of Demands: Food, Policy, and a System of Change
The following thoughts are inspired by the accumulation of all of the above, plus the ongoing Occupy Movement happening here in the city.
Community and individual health, sound economics, environmental stewardship, social justice and equity. Food systems and food policy infiltrate and deeply effect the well-being and success of all of the above. I am a citizen on the ground-floor and grassroots level of change, and the way I express my vision of change is through Earth & City. In order to continue effecting change, as well as grow the business, I need to also continue to be clear, concise, direct and articulate with the kind of change I want to see.
The big picture: we need to transform our big centralized and federally-owned food and agriculture infrastructre. We need devote our money, our energy, and our commitment to rebuilding local food infrastructure and supporting medium to small food producers and growers.
This vision doesn’t come without challenges and critiques. How do we feed a city? A massive province? A country? The world? For Toronto, our rural agricultural landscape can be undervalued as a meaningful source for feeding our city. With the aging population of farmers, and our educational system not placing greater value, meaning, and success on farming as a career, the possibility of creating local and viable food economies seems like a massive undertaking. And yet, there are already plenty of incredible organizations that are working so hard to create a better food reality.
We found three organizations that have put forth clear and inspiring food policy and programs. These organizations continue to teach and inspire us about how to be the most effective agents of change in this messy and complex food system we have. Most importantly, I am learning how to translate my big-picture vision to a more detailed and specific step-by-step guide. Check out these three different policy recommendations:
We are doing our own small part in advocating, educating and inspiring the health, happiness and wellness of a local food system. And we can only go forward with the willingness to remain open, curious, compassionate and understanding to the ever-evolving issues of our city’s food matrix.
It is also important to locate ourselves in places we live, and be knowledgable about who and what party is governing our own neighbourhood.
My riding is Trinity-Spadina, Ward 19. MP is Olivia Chow (NDP), MPP is Rosario Marchese (NDP), City Councillor is Mike Layton. My neighbourhood is on the west outskirts of Chinatown, and travel a bit further west is Little Portugal.
Lisa’s riding is Davenport, Ward 17. MP is Andrew Cash (NDP), MPP is Jonah Schein (MPP), City Councillor is Cesar Palacio. Lisa lives in the heart of Corso Italia, one of two major Italian neighbourhoods.
Locate yourself and get to know the civic bodies that govern your neighbourhoods.
6 more weeks until the holidays, and we’re now offering creative and yummy gift ideas and take-home options at our markets starting next Saturday. Check facebook or twitter for more current updates about the specifics. We also have some exciting projects lined up for the new year. We know the new year is still a long time to come, but we just can’t help but get excited about where this is all going…
For now, we’ll savour the last bit of warmish weather, the beautiful colours, and the fall flavous of butternut squash, peppers, leeks, spinach and apples in our bellies.
Happy fall everyone!