Sunday, May 30, 2010

Eat Wild - Health Benefits

Eat Wild - Health Benefits

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vancouver Island Bees - what's happening?

The hardest workers on the farm are in crisis and need our help. They work tirelessly with their family to ensure our crops are pollinated. They are responsible for one out of every three bites of food that we eat. They also give us a natural sweetener as a bonus, wax for candles, an array of bright and fragrant flowers. Yet, worldwide, in just the last few years, bees have been disappearing. Nobody seems to know why, yet a flurry of collaborative research is just starting to reveal what has become a perfect storm of events that have pushed these hard working creatures too far. Imagine working from dawn to dusk all season, and have weather, malnutrition, chemicals, parasites and fatigue drive you to such a stressful state that the viruses, bacteria and fungi overwhelm your weakened immune system. Being a social creature, you will leave the hive if ill to prevent infecting the rest of the hive.
These scenarios are debated around the world, and networks of scientists and beekeepers are trying to unravel the mystery and have described the syndrome as “colony collapse disorder”. Not all bee losses are due to this relatively new disorder, which complicates the problem. Apiculturalists agree that the art of beekeeping needs much more help from science to understand more about the nutritional needs of bees and how to keep a healthy colony and manage disease. Only recently has the genome of bees been sequenced, revealing few genes for the immune system and the detoxification system, which would help them deal with chemicals.
The global catastrophe is not isolated to honeybees. All pollinators have been reported as declining, which has very far reaching effects that scientists and farmers are just starting to understand. Worldwide there are 20,000 bee species, with 4,000 in North America. Yesterday I sat next to a flower pot and watched as a bumblebee and a very tiny bee both landed and inspected the flower within minutes of each other. The honeybee came to North America from the Old Country, along with fruit and nut trees. With the expansion of agriculture the honey bees have increased in importance since many crops rely on them, and natural pollinators are not sufficient in numbers to pollinate the wide variety and volume of fruit and nut trees, berries and vegetables that farmers produce. Not all pollinators are bees, either. Hummingbirds, butterflies and bats are also pollinators. Even man can pollinate – in at least one province in China, the absence of bees due to over use of pesticides has resulted in human-pollination of pear trees.
This spring, losses of 90% of the honey bee colonies were reported on Vancouver Island. The mid island was mainly affected, primarily in the commercial hives. The south island appeared to do better, as did the Gulf Islands. The two previous years also had unusually high losses on Vancouver Island, along with other regions of Canada. Island beekeepers attributed this to the virroa mite from illegally imported bees to the island, which caused a loss of bees and reduced productivity of the hives. Since 1990 the Bee Act had designated Vancouver Island as a quarantine zone because of its low disease rate and isolation. To prevent the introduction of diseases and other parasites, importation of bees from mainland BC and the rest of Canada was restricted. This quarantine was recently lifted after the heavy bee losses were disclosed and an affected commercial beekeeper challenged the Act. Local beekeepers from Cowichan and the Capital Region were informed of this without prior consultation and are requesting that the Minister of Agriculture reconsider and allow for beekeepers to present an alternative solution that would modify restrictions to cautiously introduce new stock to Vancouver Island. The BC Chief Veterinary officer, Dr. Paul Kitching, has stated that the Act was not really effective anyway given that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency had the authority to allow bees to come into Canada from other parts of the world. A mid-island commercial beekeeper has already received a shipment of bees from New Zealand to replenish his hives. NDP Agriculture Critic Lana Popham attended the beekeepers meeting and has supported their cause to request consultation and reconsideration by the government ( .
Politics and bureaucracy aside, we can all help by providing habitat for our pollinating friends and being extremely careful with pesticides or avoiding them altogether. One apiculturalist encourages growing meadows instead of manicured lawns. When you consider that the average gas powered lawn mower produces air pollution equal to forty three cars, that might not be such a bad thing.
Barbara Johnstone Grimmer

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Temple Grandin - HBO Canada

Temple Grandin - HBO Canada

The True Cost of Cheap Food by Timothy A. Wise

TWG20ResurgenceMar10.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Salmonella probe finds restaurants serving ungraded eggs - The Green Man

Salmonella probe finds restaurants serving ungraded eggs - The Green Man


One thing people struggle with a lot in the Gulf Islands is their idea of what the Gulf Islands are, and what they should be. Most agree we should be rural, but most don't agree on what rural is. It used to be that rural was just not urban. Rural homes were often built by the homeowner or a local builder. Rural communities had wilderness for backyards and were places where everyone knew everyone else, or were related to them. Food was not just grown in a row, it was also gathered or hunted. Doors weren't locked. Rural used to mean open spaces, few services and little in the way of planning. The profession of planning is about as old as me, and people have made community decisions about where they live and how much longer. Those who study rural development agree that policies applied top-down by bureaucrats and politicians don’t work in rural areas. They also agree that a “place-based” approach to rural problems is best. All that means is every rural community is different and decisions are best made by the local people who are affected.
I grew up on a mountain side rural community close to Vancouver. Forest behind us, fruit trees, garden and field around us. The kids were free-ranged then, gleaning fruit from orchards and running from bears, watching for cougars, eating salmon berries and huckleberries in the woods. In the fall, deer and bear would go down to the river, the bear eating berries and fruits, then salmon in the river at the bottom of the mountain. But before my memories were my mom's memories, because she grew up there, too. My grandfather homesteaded the property when there was only a logging road and stumps from where the forest used to stand. He built a house, planted trees, put in a garden. Slowly more houses grew down the hill from us. Growth continued and now, my parents' neighbours have moved away as they were taxed off their land. Their houses replaced with intensive development, the entire hillside was again deforested. Rural is gone just like that as the city climbs the mountain and moves in. Confused bears still follow the creek down the mountain to the river but end up in the backyards of the new houses and the front pages of newspapers. Mom sees the bears a lot, and hears coyotes. There were no coyotes when I was a kid, but as cougar were shot, relocated or moved on, the coyotes took over. Mom and dad now lock their doors, and not just because the developers have been knocking. Rural can be viewed as future urban, like where I grew up, or an intentional rural community - like we have in the Gulf Islands.
Mark Partidge of Ohio University, a speaker at the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation conference in 2006, said that planners overestimate the capacity of the rural areas to implement government policies, and underestimate the entrepreneurial capacity of the rural areas to do things for themselves. A Canadian federal commission reported that rural policies need to respect rural diversity, need to help those that help themselves, need to be place-based and need to recognize that rural Canada doesn't necessarily want to be urbanized. Rural Canada, especially places like the Gulf Islands which are so beautiful, filled with amenities, and close to urban centers are particularly vulnerable to gentrification.
Gentrification is a result of urban people moving to a rural community for the rural lifestyle, but demanding urban amenities. There is greater pressure to upgrade schools, roads, communications. Who complains the loudest about the potholes and want all the roads paved? Who “needs” cable to the end of their road? Once all is said and done, will our Gulf Islands remain rural? As cities densify, we will no doubt see more amenity migrants moving to the islands – so why don't we slow down. Divided communities need leadership to encourage dialogue and to listen. We need a long view of the future, and an understanding of the past. Perhaps to really have the Gulf Islands as rural communities we need less planning by outside professionals with urban training and perspectives, and more democratic input by the rural residents of the Gulf Islands before it is too late. Like the bumper sticker say, “I am on Pender time.”
Barbara Johnstone Grimmer

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Canada geese and farming

“The balance of nature is not a status quo; it is fluid, ever shifting in a constant state of adjustment. Man, too, is part of this balance. Sometimes the balance is in his favour; sometimes – and all too often – it is shifted to his disadvantage”
……Rachel Carson in “Silent Spring”

Canada geese are a truly beautiful, majestic bird known for their annual migrations marked in the fall and spring by the “V” formations in the sky. Prior to the 1960’s Canada geese sightings were rare treats but now they are commonly seen year round, and are more numerous each year. According to a recent evaluation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Fish and Wildlife Service, the Canada goose population in North America has risen fivefold since 1970, primarily due to a 15-fold increase in the number of geese living in urban areas. The resident non-migratory geese made up 18 per cent of the North American total in 1970; now they account for 67 per cent. So what has happened?
Since the early ‘70’s Canada geese numbers have been increasing significantly due to a perfect storm of events. A successful conservation program was launched across North America in the 1960’s by various wildlife agencies to restore numbers of geese reduced through years of hunting and habitat loss. The program was also intended to boost Canada geese numbers for recreational hunting purposes. In Canada there are 11 subspecies of Canada goose and eight of these live in B. C., but the two subspecies that were introduced through this program were resident, or non-migratory, geese not common to this area. The parallel increase in growth of urban and suburban communities with manicured lawns, golf courses and airports and lovely ponds made for the perfect Canada goose habitat. When we add restrictive hunting and firearm regulations and a lack of predators we have created the perfect storm of events.
The incredible crash of a passenger airliner into the Hudson River of New York recently was caused by such a group of resident Canada geese. The number of Canada goose-aircraft collisions in North America quadrupled between 1990 and 1998, and that trend continues.
Farmers have noticed the effects of the Canada geese, also. Forage producers watch as hay and grain fields are demolished in a feeding frenzy by these foragers, which consume up to 4 lbs of grass each day, depositing 2-3 lbs of fecal material. Last year we planted two fields with oats and millet, and watched as hundreds of Canada geese ate the crop while it was trying to grow. I finally gave up and turned the sheep in to compete with the geese, and now we have two bare fields ready to plant again this year. The ground next to the ponds is especially lacking in vegetation, and the ground is compressed. This is only compounded by the fact that the federal government has been encouraging farmers over the past few years to dig more ponds.
Resident Canada Geese in December enjoying the Pender Island Golf Course putting green on sunny winter day
Now, some might suggest that golf course managers might think a bit about working with these lawn mowers with wings, since they produce fertilizer and keep the grounds manicured. But they are in fact viewed as an unappealing nuisance since the fertilizer tends to be slippery underfoot and muck up the golf balls. One cold day while driving by our golf course I counted over 125 Canada geese, not much less than this years Christmas bird count of 148. In fact last year’s count was much less than the record breaking 466 of 2007, according to Gerald McKeating, a bird specialist who lives on Pender Island and is retired from many years with the Canadian Wildlife Service. This was probably due to the harsh weather that kept birds hanging out at the beach on count day. McKeating saw at least 300 on the golf course just a few days earlier.
There are also public health concerns since Canada geese can contribute to Giardia, Cryptosporidium and Campylobacter outbreaks. It has been reported that communities with increased resident Canada geese populations also have increased rat populations, because rats like to eat the eggs and the young.
So what can we do? Increasing populations of Canada geese have prompted several communities to control resident flocks. In the 1970s, the wildlife service began to issue permits to property owners whose crops were being ravaged by foraging Canada geese. In 2007, Kelowna and Osoyoos applied for wildlife service permits to reduce goose numbers through egg addling (shaking), habitat modification and scare techniques. Some resourceful individuals have killed two birds with one stone, so to speak, by gathering and eating Canada goose eggs. With resident Canada geese populations growing at a rate of 12% per year, doubling in numbers every 4-5 years, we had best be thinking about what we should do. Perhaps the CRD, like other Regional Districts, should also apply for wildlife service permits for our community.

Are cows really the problem? Climate change and farming.

“It’s the fastest way to sequester carbon, collect solar energy, and rebuild soil. Grazing is truly amazing.” Joel Salatin, Virginia farmer and author

I tried to ignore the headlines a few years ago about cows contributing more to global warming than cars – and waited for the smoke to clear and the data to settle itself out. It didn’t make intuitive sense, and when I was forwarded an email last week that insisted Gulf Island farms would need to get rid of cows and sheep and our pastoral life to combat climate change, that hit a little too close to home. The impacts attributed to livestock are based on incomplete information, since it is often forgotten that we are dealing with a system of interrelated biological processes. Efforts to stop global warming have been focused almost entirely on reducing emissions caused by man, not in taking existing carbon out of the atmosphere (a process known as carbon sequestration). Scientists are trying to unscramble the omelette and get the whole picture, while policy makers point fingers, but it is a race against time.

According to BC’s 2007 GHG (greenhouse gas) Emissions Inventory, transportation is the biggest emitter in our province at 36%. Agriculture is down at 3.4%, with 1% attributed to enteric fermentation by ruminants (cows mostly), and 0.5% to manure management. The world picture is different, with 10-14% of human-caused GHG from agriculture. But that is just the emissions, and the carbon cycle is just that – a cycle. Our forests, oceans and grasslands are carbon sinks, acting to absorb carbon. Although not included in most of the carbon-counting schemes, scientists have long been aware of grassland’s ability to capture or “sequester” carbon. The FAO made a presentation to COP15 requesting the inclusion of grasslands in carbon accounting, especially notable since 70% of the world’s agricultural lands are pasture and grassland. Grass takes in carbon dioxide from the air, converting it to sugars by photosynthesis. Some of the resulting carbon compounds are transferred to the roots and released into the soil through the normal cycles of growth and decay. Cows on a grass diet produce more methane than those fed on cereal grains, but grasslands more than compensate. Some pasture plants, such as bird’s-foot trefoil, are known to reduce methane emissions. There are soil bacteria that oxidize methane as well. .The grass takes in carbon from the atmosphere; the animals trample the grass into the soil, where the carbon is absorbed; new grass sprouts and the process is repeated over and over again, absorbing more and more carbon. This management system has been attributed to African game rancher Allan Savory, who observed that soil is healthiest and best able to absorb carbon when grasslands are managed in a way similar to the natural cycles created by huge herds of hoofed animals feeding on and trampling grasses for short periods and then moving elsewhere to avoid predators. Savory calls his method “Holistic Management”, and it is successfully practised by many ranchers in BC, and in other regions of the planet.

Converting croplands to pasture, which reduces erosion, effectively sequesters significant amounts of carbon. Grazing reduces the need for the fertilizers and fuel used by farm machinery in crop cultivation. Compared to cropland, perennial pastures used for grazing can decrease soil erosion by 80 percent and markedly improve water quality. According to the UN, “there is growing evidence that both cattle ranching and pastoralism can have positive impacts on biodiversity”. By improving our grasslands, improving our soils and our agricultural methods, and replenishing our forests we can do much to increase the uptake of excess atmospheric greenhouse gases, while reducing their emissions.

The idea of soil sequestration is still under the radar, according to Soil Science Professor Chuck Rice of Kansas State University, a member of the IPCC panel who directs a joint project of nine American universities and the U.S. Department of Energy studying the potential for reducing greenhouse gases through agricultural practices. Because there is more carbon stored in the soil than in the atmosphere, improvements in managing the carbon in the soil would make big differences in the atmosphere. By adopting a wide range of carbon sequestration strategies, ranging from planting more trees to cultivating crops using sustainable and no-till agriculture (which minimizes plowing) to raising animals on grasslands instead of feedlots—more problems than climate change could be solved.

Dr. Jan Coulter, a scientist and farmer in Scotland, was curious about her farm’s carbon footprint, and produced software for farmers to calculate their own carbon footprint, and it is available free online as Cplan. Other countries have produced software, and the Canadian version – Holos – is currently being tested by various associations and farmers across Canada. I tried out Holos, putting in our farm’s data and Stats Canada data from the 2006 Census on Agriculture, specifically for the southern outer Gulf Islands (Mayne, Galiano, Pender, Saturna and their accessory islands). In the southern outer Gulf Islands, we had 89 farms according to the 2006 census – almost 3000 ha attributed to farming; about 1300 ha of that pasture, 250 ha hay, 365 ha crop, and 1055 ha forest. We had 454 cattle and calves, 1447 sheep, 89 goats, 2526 poultry. Even without counting the sequestering effect of the farms’ forests, the effect of livestock was negated by the carbon uptake of the land. Not only can our farmers relax at the fact that we are balanced and carbon neutral, but there is room to use our farms in sequestering carbon and perhaps provide some solutions for the future. The Holos program gives suggestions on what changes could be made on your farm to improve carbon storage and reduce emissions. Improvements of 40-80% can be achieved by planting trees, reducing animal stocking rates and reducing nitrogen fertilizer. Smaller improvements (20-40%) can be achieved by improving the diet of livestock, improving nitrogen efficiency, manure management and changing the farm’s cultivation practices. Farmer testimonies have been positive – the programs are simple to use, and give the farmer a concrete value for his farm’s emissions and sinks, suggestions to improve the net result that are both reasonable but also profitable in the long run. Farmers can make slight changes using the program and model “what if” situations for their own farm. Further improvements to these programs are ongoing.

Viewing the world holistically will allow us to see that the best way to fix climate change is to involve the earth in the solution. The best way to unscramble the omelette is to feed it back to the hen, and let her lay a new egg. We certainly can’t do it alone.

“If farmers are empowered by knowing and understanding how their own carbon footprint is calculated they will be in a better position to influence policy and implement change without it being imposed upon them.”

Dr. Jan Coulter, developer of Cplan

Eating Hamburger, Steak Don't Raise Heart-Disease Risk, Study Says -

Eating Hamburger, Steak Don't Raise Heart-Disease Risk, Study Says -

Monday, May 17, 2010

Deliberately flood farms? Test shows promise - Environment-

Deliberately flood farms? Test shows promise - Environment-

Development and Transition: Land Reform, Transition, and Rural Development

Development and Transition: Land Reform, Transition, and Rural Development

YouTube - "Artzainak: Shepherds and Sheep" Trailer (2010)

YouTube - "Artzainak: Shepherds and Sheep" Trailer (2010)

Sheep shearing and wool

The flock was sheared last Thursday, and all of the wool sorted and bagged over the weekend. Thankfully there was no rain. The shearer has a day job as a florist, but in a past life trained as a shearer in New Zealand and Australia. We gather up the sheep, hope for good weather and spend the day catching sheep and rolling up the wool. The sheep go from a rag tag bunch to being slick and cool, just in time for the hot weather. This year some wool will be sold locally to spinners - especially specialty wools like black Romney, California Red, Navajo-Churro, and Jacob. Colours range from white to cream, to oatmeal to black. Textures vary too. Navajo sheep have a coarse outer hair and a dense underlayer, suited for rugs ie navajo rugs. The Romney is long and lustrous, and California Red has red hairs throughout an oatmeal coloured fine wool. The bulk of the wool - about 1000 lb - will go to Carstairs Alberta to be processed into sleeping bags, pillows, comforters and mattress pads, socks, yarn and other products. But lately I have been thinking about the oil spill in Louisiana, where I lived for a while pre-Katrina. A few years ago I saw wool being made into oil boom pads, and I wonder how many of these wool products are being used in the Gulf of Mexico today.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rising Carbon emissions threaten crop yields and food security

Crop yields are under threat from rising carbon dioxide emissions with climate change, according to new scientific research. In a new study published in Science on wheat and the mustard plant Arabidopsis at the University of California at Davis, scientists found that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide interferes with plants’ ability to convert nitrate into protein resulting in lower nutritional yield.
Related: Koalas face starvation, extinction due to climate change

This has implications for global food production, food nutritional quality and food security. It effects not only humans but the animal ecosystems dependant on current plant physiologies.

"Our findings suggest that scientists cannot examine the response of crops to global climate change simply in terms of rising carbon dioxide levels or higher temperatures,” said lead author Arnold Bloom, a professor in UC Davis’ Department of Plant Sciences.

“Instead, we must consider shifts in plant nitrogen use that will alter food quality and even pest control, as lower protein levels in plants will force both people and pests to consume more plant material to meet their nutritional requirements," Bloom said.

As climate change intensifies, careful management of nitrogen fertilization by farmers will become critical to reduce losses in crop productivity and quality, according to the research.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has increased by 39 percent since 1800, and on current projections will increase by an additional 40 to 140 percent by the end of the century.

Plants require nitrogen, mostly in the form of nitrates in the soil, to survive and grow. Research has shown that when atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increase by 50 percent, the nitrogen status of plants declines significantly.

“This indicates that as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise and nitrate assimilation in plant tissues diminishes, crops will become depleted in organic nitrogen compounds, including protein, and food quality will suffer,” Bloom said. “Increasing nitrogen fertilization might compensate for slower nitrate assimilation rates, but this might not be economically or environmentally feasible.”

"One fear is insect outbreaks will become more extensive, because the insects will have to eat more to meet nutritional needs." Arnold Bloom told the ABC. (Listen to a podcast interview with Arnold Bloom)

As plants absorb more carbon dioxide, levels of plant nutrition will go down and for some toxin levels will go up. So crops will have less nutritional yield which will mean humans or other animals will need to eat more to get the same level of nutrition. Plants will put more energy into defensive systems such as phenols or cyanide compounds.

Dr Ros Gleadow told a recent ABC Catalyst program "Leaves of plants grown at elevated carbon dioxide have a lot less protein. Wheat, barley, rice, all of those in probably only 50 to 60 years time will have 15 to 20% less protein in them than they do now." she said, "In about 50 years time or even 100 years time eucalyptus leaves will have trouble supporting arboreal herbivores like koalas because the phenolic concentration will be too high and the protein level too low."

Bad news for the Koala, one of Australia's iconic creatures, facing extinction from climate change.

Cassava is one of the world's staple food crops because of the plant's drought tolerance. However increased CO2 will stimulate more cyanogen compounds in the plant. Dr Ros Gleadow told Catalyst "We grew cassava at three different concentrations of carbon dioxide. Today's air, one and a half times the amount of carbon dioxide and twice the carbon dioxide of today. And we found that cyanogen concentration in the leaves increased."

Cyanide poisoning from Cassava produces a serious paralytic disease known as Konza, which was first diagnosed in 1981 in Mozambique. Simple methods have been devised to treat the cassava root to allow enzymes to eliminate some of the cyanide as hydrogen cyanide gas, making the tuber relatively safe to eat after processing.

Dr Ros Gleadow outlined that in high carbon dioxide environment the yield from the tuber is also reduced, "The plants actually made less tubers when we grew them at elevated carbon dioxide." she said, "It is all very highly balanced in plants, the ratio of the proteins and the toxins. When you grow plants at elevated carbon dioxide the plants are more efficient so they can grow really well. And at the same time allocate more of their resources to defence."

While carbon dioxide is increasing, there will also be effects from changes in rainfall and water, changes in temperature, which will effect crops. Corn, soybeans and cotton are the largest three crops by production value in the US which will be affected by extreme heat. Above a certain threhold - 29 degrees - yields drop off rapidly and the effects have been described as 'damaging large' by a report by Agricultural Economists published in August in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

We appear to be in for a period of declining crop yield as well as nutritional yield due to climate change which will challenge feeding the world's still growing population.

New Scientist, May 16, 2007 - Climate myths: Higher CO2 levels will boost plant growth and food production
Stanford University Media Release, Dec 5, 2002 - Climate change surprise: High carbon dioxide levels can retard plant growth, study reveals
University of California at Davis Media Release, May 13, 2010 - Rising CO2 levels threaten crops and food quality
Catalyst science program, ABC Television, May 6, 2010 - Toxic Crops
Climate IMC, Nov 22, 2009 - USA: Climate Change likely to severely damage U.S. crop yields

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WHO WE ARE: Foodforethought is an information service that encourages dialogue and exploration of innovative trends in the global food system. The service is managed by James Kuhns of MetroAg Alliance for Urban Agriculture in collaboration with Wayne Roberts of the Toronto Food Policy Council. To subscribe, please contact

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Kwantlen cultivates degree program in sustainable agriculture - The Green Man

Kwantlen cultivates degree program in sustainable agriculture - The Green Man

New crop of B.C. farmers needed

New crop of B.C. farmers needed

Clam Gardens and Kelp Beds

Living in the Gulf Islands gives us a bounty of food – and not all from agriculture. People sometimes forget that we are surrounded by a coastline rich in food. We have had some of our best meals from the sea and its shoreline with roasted oysters, wild salmon, clam chowders and even seaweed. A few years ago my husband Glenn was teaching his daughter to drive. Because it was a stressful activity, there were frequent stops at the various beaches on North and South Pender Islands. At each rest stop, Glenn collected bull kelp that had been tossed onto the beach. He arrived home with a pickup truckload of bull kelp – some for the garden, and some for the kitchen. He had heard that you could eat kelp, so he wanted to give it a try. He washed, and chopped, and boiled, and seasoned, and boiled some more until he came up with a very tasty soup. It is not only tasty, it is also very nutritious and rich in trace elements. I have a bad elbow that feels much better after some kelp soup. Now from late spring to early winter we have our occasional pot of kelp soup to enjoy.
Here is the recipe: 1 long bull kelp, fresh and firm. Cut into bite sized pieces, including the leafy part. Soak in fresh water for ½ hour. Rinse and simmer for 2-5 hours until tender. Meanwhile, chop up 3-4 large onions, lots of fresh garlic, 1-2 cup of fresh ginger, three cups of diced celery, and 5 large carrots. Use a light chicken or vegetable soup stock as a base. Right at the end cut up a whole lemon into small pieces – discard the seeds – and simmer in the soup for another half hour. You can add seafood to the soup if you wish.
I don't know if the native population of the Gulf Islands enjoyed kelp soup, but they did hunt and gather much of their food. They were even engaged in mariculture on our shores with the construction and maintenance of clam gardens on beaches ranging from the San Juans right up the coast to Alaska. A clam garden is a clam beach that is tended by a particular family over the generations. Rock were piled along the low-tide perimeter to prevent the beach from eroding. The primary focus was on the culture of butter clams – as anyone has tried them can understand why they would be so popular. The clams were smoked and strung on ocean spray sticks to be eaten “on the go” or to be traded to natives inland. The usual month to harvest them had “r”in the name ie December, November,....
Only recently have clam gardens been documented and discussed. Two experts of note are Judith Williams, who wrote “Clam Gardens – Aboriginal Mariculture of the West Coast”in 2006 and Dr. John Harper, a marine geomorphologist. Judith Williams became interested in the clam gardens in 1993 after she observed them on Quadra Island. Dr. Harper tried for years to have the clam gardens acknowledged by provincial archeologists after he observed and documented them while mapping the coastline for the provincial government in 1995.
Although only recently acknowledged – and hesitantly at that – by the provincial archeologists, clam gardens have been long known by some people with traditional knowledge. It is probable that the midden at the bridge between North and South Pender had a viable clam garden before the canal was dug. Other locations are highly probable in the Islands Trust area but were not identified by the archeological surveys. Sometimes natives come over from the Saanich area to dig clams on the Gulf Island beaches, perhaps in their family clam gardens.
Many of our preconceived notions go out the window sometimes, if we let them.

Government goes full circle on meat regulation fiasco

“Most of our farms are quite small and the Island’s total production has not, in the past, been sufficient to warrant the establishment of a local slaughter facility. This means that our livestock must be transported by truck and ferry to mainland destinations, adding to its carbon footprint and adding so substantially to its cost that local producers cannot compete even in the higher-end, organic market. When small farms can no longer count on livestock for a portion of their income, it can become quickly uneconomic to continue fruit and vegetable production as well. Thus, we lose capacity in all aspects of agriculture.”
submitted to BC government, Karen Wristen, Bowen Island

Won't they ever get it right? Recently the provincial government announced that, yet again, they were going to amend the Meat Regulations Act to allow for local slaughter in designated rural areas only – what I call the “full circle” clause. The press release states that the Class C transitional licence will be discontinued (it wasn't working) and in its place will be two new classes of licence. The new Class D licence will allow for the slaughter of up to 25 animal units (AU) per year (AU=1000 lb live). The meat can be sold to restaurants and retail outlets in the regional district where the meat was produced, as well as directly to local consumers at the farm gate. A Class E licence will allow for the slaughter of up to 10 AU per year, and the meat can be sold directly to local customers at the farm gate. The three regions involved in the consultations, Haida Gwaii, Bella Coola and Powell River, will be first in line for the new licences. Other rural areas will need to make their case to the government and wait in line, and will only be allowed to apply for a Class E.
The best part is that slaughtering of livestock can be done outside under a tree or in a barn - just like we used to. All you need is a plan.
Why the revision? The B.C. Government had heard from farmers in rural and remote areas that they were unable to access licensed facilities for the slaughter of their livestock. Yes, they had indeed heard from farmers. From the time the meat regulations were proposed in 2003, there were several farm groups and individuals who suggested regulations similar to the ones announced. Past Islands Trust Chairs David Essig and Kim Benson both wrote to the provincial government on behalf of farmers in the Gulf Islands. In 2008, Shuswap Green Party candidate Hugette Allen's online petition asking the government to review the new meat inspection regulations resulted in 8,000 signatures. In 2008 the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen sponsored a resolution endorsed by the Union of BC Municipalities to pressure the Province of BC to review the Meat Inspection Regulations in order to enable small rural abattoirs the ability to provide meat processing services in the rural areas in an economically viable way Just this winter, Powell River NDP MLA Nicholas Simon introduced a private members bill that would amend the Food Safety Act in order to allow farmers to sell meat directly from the farm to local customers. Individual farm organizations and farmers wrote letters to regional districts, MLAs, the Premier, Ministers of Agriculture, and countless newspapers over the years.
Farm organizations and regional districts also conducted surveys to measure the impact of the regulations on rural communities. The provincial government proudly announced increased numbers of licenced plants, but nobody even knew how many local unlicenced facilities, now made illegal, were shut down.
With this new amendment the government has essentially gone full circle for a few rural communities. The southern gulf islands, who tried unsuccessfully to be granted an exemption from the regulations, then tried to work within government restrictions, are not one of the designated rural communities. Following the rules doesn't always work. After a 2005 Feasibility study revealed that it would be cost prohibitive to follow the imposed government regulations and build on-island facilities, producers tried to comply by shipping livestock off island. Saturna Island was able to upgrade an existing facility but most other southern Gulf Islands did not have facilities to upgrade. Increased costs, stress to livestock, backlogs of 4 months or more, and increased frustration resulted in a marked decline in livestock in the southern gulf islands. Since 2003, ferry costs have doubled. Now a government spokesman has stated that if other rural regions want to follow suit, they will need to voice their need, convince the powers that be, and they may be allowed a Class E.
The criteria used by government in determining which communities to accommodate– remoteness, population density, and availability of transportation, was applied selectively in determining which communities would benefit. It is interesting that Powell River is one of the lucky ones. Travelling to the nearest inspected plant for Powell River takes just as long as the trip to the Metchosin plant for the Gulf Islands. We have islands with rural and remote makeup, and as evidenced by recent livestock surveys, have been significantly impacted by the meat regulations as they stand.
Based on the recent livestock survey and not knowing that the province was going to loosen restrictions in other rural areas, Salt Spring Island farmers recently decided to bite the bullet and move ahead with a multi-purpose mobile abattoir. The province announced the new amendment days after Salt Spring's announcement, and at this time the Salt Spring initiative has decided to move ahead. As for the outer gulf islands without on-island facilities, with concerns for impacts of travel on costs, greenhouse gas emissions, animal welfare, food security for our islands, and the viability of small farms it is worth looking into the new licence possibly available to us. It would also be important to support Salt Spring Island in their efforts to provide a solution that could expand processing capacity for surrounding islands as well. For more information, please contact the Health and Seniors Information Line:Toll-free across Canada: 1 800 465 4911