Browsing: Food Security

Canola Connect Community Summit 2017

April27

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I am blessed to be a part of a special community. Canola Alumni events take place on a regular basis so that the community can reconnect and share our passion for food and the farmers and scientists that are supporting the effort of producing a nutritious product for our families.  If you think that listening to futurists, sustainability excerpts and policy writers is boring, think again! The presentations were dynamic and they were interspersed with delicious food samplings and (new this year) progressive craft making sessions.  All this along with a mindfulness session and team-building drumming opportunity!

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This was our mid-morning snack as we commenced our first crafting session.

What I appreciate the most about attneding a Canola Connect event is having the opportunity to speak directly to Manitoba’s farmers. They answer my questions carefully but with passion. I met Pat and Paul Orsak a number of years ago when I visited their farm with Canola Camp. Paul spoke again at the recent Canola Community Summit. He got me thinking….

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Inventory for our crafts.

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Lunch of raw vegetable salads and tuna bowls with rice or spiraled zucchini.

I was reminded that organic standards leading to certified organic are NOT about nutritional value, food safety, or end use quality. Organic standards are about production methods and marketing. The setting of those standards is led and designed by the organic industry itself NOT by independent health regulators or science based third parties. Does this seem reasonable?

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Our afternoon snack of parsnip, carrot, beet and lotus chips with sweet potato hummus.

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Bruschetta made from three cold-pressed canola oils: Prairie Sky, Northern Lights and Heartland-all delicious in their distinct ways.

Innovations in plant genetics and precision farming practices ensures that land use is optimized. Natural wilderness areas can be preserved. Harmful tillage can be avoided, reducing the amount of silt going into rivers and streams. We should all be for this, shouldn’t we?

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Meat + Bread appetizers.

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Three salads for our salad course.

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Chicken with a fruit sauce and a savouring potato patty.

So if farmers want to produce the same amount of food organically, where are they going to get the extra land? Should farmers choose a production method that would require using more land? What do we think about deforestation? Clearing wilderness?

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The gang called these snowmen, I didn’t sample them…two desserts was enough!

Do we want to knowingly and willingly price food out of reach of some consumers? Are we concerned about food prices for those less privileged here at home, or for those who live in the third world?

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A cream puff filled with a chunky chocolate.

Can the global agriculture and food industry afford not to use all the tools in the tool box while still trying to feed a growing world population?

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Lemon Meringue Tarts

Farmers like Paul want to be sustainable. They  want to leave a legacy. They don’t want to squander the land resource they’ve been entrusted with and they want to leave the land in better condition than they got it. The farmers I have met through Canola Connect want to produce food that is affordable, safe, and abundant.

A couple of weeks later I am still rolling these questions over in my mind. The thing is, I know Paul, I know his wife, I know his daughter. I make decisions with my heart (that is pretty obvious if you spend any time on my blog space) and I know that Paul wants what is best for his family and ultimately for us all. Do I trust what I read on line? Do I trust the scare tactics that are promoted by extremists? Or do I trust Paul to make the best choices for his family and the world? I think that you know my answer to this…

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I was so proud that the beer poured that evening was son J1’s 1919 from Little Brown Jug.

Kath’s quote: “I love food. Farmers love food. I love farmers“. -Me

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Love never fails.

 

Table for Twenty

June10

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In 1996, farmers planted the first biotech crop. I was recently invited to Winnipeg’s “Table for Twenty” event at the Kitchen Sync. We assembled to celebrate that first crop and engage in continued conversation about plant biotechnology and the benefits to both Canadian farmers and consumers.

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I was very excited that Chef Gordon Bailey was our culinary host that evening. I first met Chef Bailey when I was a judge for a PEI Shellfish Festival held a couple of years ago in Winnipeg. He won the best seafood chowder contest (not the category that I judged) and represented Winnipeg at the national cook-off which he won as well. No surprise really as Chef Gord once owned a popular restaurant in PEI.

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First up was a basket of potato/whole wheat buns with smoked rosemary butter. I can usually refrain from the temptations of the bread basket but not on this evening. I ate not one but two-they could have been my entire meal!

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The salad course was a feast for the eyes-zucchini confit, vine ripened tomato, sweet corn relish, basil marinated tofu, cold-pressed canola oil and spring greens freshly plucked from the garden. The spritely flavours were a lovely way to commence the evening.

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A rustic bowl of goodness was the main course. Braised chicken thighs and wild mushrooms were perched upon split pea and yellow pulses.

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We concluded with a sparkling apple sorbet on a crunchy oat and chickpea biscuit accompanied by warm vanilla cream.

Even though the food was an absolute pleasure, the persons who rose to speak in between the courses and the engaging conversation around the table, made the evening even more enjoyable. Coming from a multi-generational agriculture and food family, I love the opportunity to connect with the people who are responsible for feeding my family and indeed the world.

At our table was Erin O’Hara one of our hosts from Crop Life Canada as well as Shawna Mathieson of the Prairie Oat Growers Association and my long time friend Ellen Pruden from the Manitoba Canola Growers. Farmers Rob & Shelly Bartley and Paul Orsak (who I have met on numerous occasions) really illuminated the advantages of bio-tech crops for me. Not only are crop yields higher but they are able to be kinder to the land they own in addition to being able to spend more time with their own families. Nita Sharda, a Dietician and fellow blogger, was an important part of the discussion indicating how she negates worries about bio-tech plants with her clients.

Of course there are also world-wide advantages of bio tech crops. For a more global perspective I found the Table for Twenty website a great resourse.

Kath’s quote: “Genetically modified organism foods are feared and hated by environmentalists and the public alike. Yet the scientific assessment of GMOs is remarkably different. Every major scientific evaluation of GMO technology has concluded that GMOs are safe for human consumption and are a benefit to the environment.”-Ramez Naam

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Love never fails.

Pasta Making at a Commuity Kitchen

February19

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Recently I was invited to share my love of pasta-making at Jubilee Mennonite Church’s Community Kitchen. The afternoon was an absolute delight from start to finish.  I loved being able to share my expertise with such an enthusiastic bunch of women. If you have ever wondered about a Community Kitchen, here is an edited version of the story of Jubilee’s Kitchen, written by their Community Ministry Director.

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It’s a feast for the senses: the smell of savory spices; the taste of fresh, healthy food; the sounds of children playing and women chatting; the touch of supportive embrace; the sight of women and children of different cultures, economic status, and age; the sense of God’s Spirit moving. This is the Jubilee Mennonite Church Community Kitchen in Winnipeg, Canada, on a Tuesday afternoon.

It started by accident. Seven years ago, the church basement flooded. The resulting renovation included upgrading the kitchen to be more functional, as well as upgrading the basement for the daycare renting the space. But when the renovations were complete, the daycare decided to stay at their temporary location. What to do with the upgraded kitchen?

A partnership was formed. Donwood Public School provided a staff member and a financial contribution, while Jubilee provided the space, staff support, volunteers for watching children, and donations of food. This partnership fit with the church’s commitment to be present in the community. It started in May, 2010.

The neighborhood around Jubilee Church is economically and culturally diverse. Alongside middle-class detached homes, there are three low-income housing developments within three blocks. There are immigrants from many countries, aboriginal people, single moms, and about seven hundred children. Some of  neighbors deal with issues of poverty, inadequate housing, addictions, poor mental health, and racism. Four years ago, Jubilee decided to support a half-time Community Ministry Director to lead engagement with the neighbours in projects like a children’s club, youth activities, soccer and hockey clubs, a community garden, community meals – and of course the Community Kitchen.

One mom’s experience at the first Community Kitchen day showed the possibilities that might come from this project. She arrived, and after welcoming her we told her we would be making shepherd’s pie. She responded by saying, “I can’t make that. I have never made a home-cooked meal.” We reassured her that it would be okay, and that we would make it together. At the end of the afternoon, she held up her shepherd’s pie and said, “I did it! I did it!” with a beaming smile. She took her first homemade meal back to feed her family.

In the Community Kitchen women have found a place to belong, find and offer support, love and be loved, weep and laugh. Food is the equalizing force. Relationships can be built and flourish around food – we all need to eat. The participants talk about being “blessed…by learning different ways of preparing meals, and sometimes the culture it comes from.” Participants and leaders celebrate meeting and making new friends, and they say the program lets them be more involved with the church.

Two volunteers plan the meals and prepare the snacks. Hedy attends Jubilee, and Jody, who had no previous connection with Jubilee, volunteered when she heard about the program. In a recent evaluation Jody reported that she started volunteering as a way to help others, and she has developed a deep love for women she would otherwise never have met. “Many of the women started off at community kitchen very shy and closed off but most have opened up in ways that are so beautiful. I hear them talking about how they help each other and look out for each other. They all have struggles but knowing they have the support of other caring woman can make all the difference!”

Volunteers from the congregation care for the children during Community Kitchen. For many mothers, this is the only time in the week when they are free from minding their children. Jubilee Community Kitchen continues to evolve. Donwood Public School changed its priorities and is no longer a partner in the Community Kitchen. But other contributors have come forward, including government grants, community organizations, local businesses and individuals. Without these partners we could not sustain the program. Participants in the program have begun to make their own contributions to the surrounding neighborhood. They organize and run a clothing fair each spring and fall, where neighbors can purchase a garbage bag of donated clothes for only $1.00.

Manija is a Muslim woman who recently immigrated from Afghanistan; she teaches us how to make her traditional foods and bakes naan for community meals. Two women make extra meals to deliver to the ill or bereaved. Many Community Kitchen participants volunteer at the church’s annual community Christmas dinner. Some also participate in the community garden, farming thirty plots where neighbors and church members grow organic vegetables to feed their families and to contribute to community meals. Faith, one of the participants, caught the essence in a note to the leaders: “Community Kitchen changed me in ways that made me a better person inside and out of Jubilee Church. It’s not just a place you go to cook. It’s a place you go to learn, listen, receive the opportunity to build new friendships, and to give and get the support you may need.”

Kath’s quote: “Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together.”-Paul Ryan

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Love never fails.

 

Gettin “CIGI” With It-Canola Connect Camp

May21

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On the afternoon of day one of camp, we were off to CIGI (Canadian International Grains Institute) with a perfect view of the Canadian Human Rights Museum.

The host for our afternoon has traveled around the world with CIGI. Here’s what CIGI does:

CIGI’s technology facilities provide access to a large variety of processing equipment in one location. Combined with the knowledge and expertise of our staff, we have the capacity to meet the specific needs of customers seeking to investigate and optimize the use of Canadian field crops in their products.

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We toured their milling and bio-product facilities in addition to pasta processing and noodles and Asian products. I learned something new that day-a noodle is cut and a pasta is extruded. I had never thought about the distinction before.

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Of particular interest was the baking facility where CIGI’s pilot bakery can simulate practices used in large and small commercial bakeries throughout the world.

Pasta, noodles and bread are my absolute favourite foods (with the addition of my beloved potatoes of course).

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At home in the same building is the CMBTC (Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre) which is a unique, one of a kind, non-profit organization created to add value to the Canadian malting barley industry. In addition to malting facilities, we visited both of the brewing facilities which are capable of brewing 11-300 litres of finished beer. The Friday afternoon was a warm one and our tour was drawing to a close, so beer sampling seemed like a very, very good idea!

The last stop for that day was an extended time at Jane’s restaurant at the Red River College Patterson Global Foods Institute; the details of which will have to wait for another day and another post.

Kath’s quote: “Most people hate the taste of beer – to begin with. It is, however, a prejudice that many people have been able to overcome.” -Winston Churchill

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

Canola Connect City Camp-Keeping An Open Mind (and Heart)

May19

Our first morning of “camp” began with a presentation about how public perception is fashioned and our role in maintaining our own perspective a.k.a “keeping an open mind”. I added the “heart” part because I believe that perception isn’t just about what our brains process but what our emotions tell us as well. Sometimes I get labelled as being “too emotional”, typically by a person who is (in my opinion), too “rational”. In this, and most aspects of my life, I believe that the extremes must meet in the middle to find a common ground. I strive to do this on a daily basis.

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Case in point, I had preconceived notions about what I was going to see and learn about on an agricultural based biotechnical tour, which was the first stop of our day. I imagined robotic machines and rooms of whirring and spinning contraptions with few, if any, people involved in the process. I was surprised to be shown otherwise. Canola plants were lovingly being tended to by real people.

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I love farmers and I am especially fond of the Canola farmers that I have met over the years. They are risk-taking, intelligent, educated, family-centric, land-protecting, animal-loving, community-giving persons who work hard, so very hard. In my mind, I am all for whatever can be done to make their jobs easier. They feed me, my family and the world.

We learned about the making of improved canola hybrids ( simply put: a hybrid is like the offspring of D and I). Scientifically stated: “A cross of specific parent plants using controlled pollination. The resulting seed will produce plants with very specific characteristics.” Just like our son is the perfect blend of my husband and my characteristics… “From the twinkle in the breeder’s eye (tee hee), it takes 7-10 years to develop and make a canola hybrid available to the farmers.” We’re talking disease resistance, water use efficiency, etc. and why this is so important on a Global scale was explained to us the next morning. The lady wearing the gorgeous turquoise gloves above is carrying off the “controlled pollination”. In other words-the Canola Connect group were voyeurs of plant sex!

Having worked up a hearty appetite, lunch was served in the adjacent dining room. Lovingly prepared and catered by Seasons Catering, the menu was an extensive offering of prairie treats:

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The Wheatberry Salad featured was a delightful assembly of cranberries, pepitas and diced apples tossed in a blood orange vinaigrette utilizing Winkler Virgin Canola Oil.  Thick tomato slices of tomato were topped with boccocino cheese, ribbons of basil, balsamic vinegar and East Selkirk Virgin Canola Oil. A third oil -Grandview Canola was highlighted in the Chimichurri. We would learn more about theses artisan oils over the weekend.

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Sablefish (also known as Back Cod) has a high fat content and is perfect for roasting. The dollop of pesto added to its moisture and flavour.

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Dessert was a selection of verrines including Cholocate Panna Cotta with White Chocolate Mousse, Lime, Coconut & Mango and Raspberry & Lemon. All were silky and sublime. We campers were wonderfully nourished, rested and off on our next adventure.

Kath’s quote: “I prefer to regard a dessert as I would imagine the perfect woman: subtle, a little bittersweet, not blowsy and extrovert. Delicately made up, not highly rouged. Holding back, not exposing everything and, of course, with a flavor that lasts.” -Graham Kerr

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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