I can hardly wait to pick my Royal Burgundy Bush
Beans. Of course, I still have to plant them, water them, weed
them and thin them. But at picking time, they will be very easy
to find among the green leaves, since they grow as violet-purple
pods. The package promises that they will "magically turn
an emerald green after cooking".
This version of the phaseolus vulgaris (common bean) was highly
recommended when I attended a planting workshop with farmer Carl
Keast. It was part of the annual Seedy Saturday event, on April
30 at Everdale Farm near Hillsburgh.
There were seed and plant vendors, a seed trading table, fun
stuff for kids, advice on growing berries in your back yard from
Ann Brown (the Plant Lady), and a chance to hear Cathy Nesbitt
explain how red wigglers can quickly turn food scraps and paper
into rich fertilizer. Her ventures include worm composting kits,
compost consulting, manure management and even worm birthday parties.
Check it out at www.cathyscomposters.com.
Our fruit and vegetable garden will expand this year, but there's
no way it is going to feed us consistently. And since there is
still no farmer's market in Erin, I took the plunge and bought
into the Everdale Harvest Share program. I like the flexibility
of the plan, which allows you to buy from 16 to 20 weeks worth
You get a certain number of "points", based on the
size of share you buy. A small share works out to $18.64 per week
and an extra large to $55.92 per week. The produce is priced in
points, instead of dollars, and you spend your points as you please
each week, starting June 16. Produce is available for pick-up
at the farm only on Thursdays, 3-8 pm and Saturdays, 8:30-11 am.
For more details, go to www.everdale.org.
The seeds I bought were "organic certified", which
means the production process has been inspected to ensure it is
generally free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, with no
use of genetically modified organisms or biosolids (sewage sludge
They were also "heirloom" seeds, meaning that they
have been preserved within a longstanding seed line, and are normally
pollinated naturally by insects, birds and wind.
They are less common in the seed market, which is controlled
by a handful of companies that have phased out many types of seeds.
A much narrower range of crops has been developed through closed
pollination, breeding the ability to withstand specific weather
conditions, pesticides, mechanical picking and cross-country shipping.
One of the most interesting events on Seedy Saturday was a discussion
on biodiversity, hosted by Faris Ahmed, Director of Policy and
Campaigns at USC Canada. The non-profit group promotes family
farms, rural communities and healthy ecosystems in developing
nations, and advocates reform of food policies in Canada. Learn
more at www.usc-canada.org.
Last year was the United Nations Year of Biodiversity, with a
focus on the accelerating loss of variety in plant and animal
life due to human activity.
"It's not about biology, it's about life itself now,"
said Ahmed. "It is so important for health, our planet and
for social justice. Biodiversity is the best measure of a healthy
place. It is like an insurance policy...a system being resistant
Biodiversity issues range from the need for a wide variety in
the human diet for good nutrition, to the rights of farmers throughout
the world to maintain fertile land and grow what is needed to
sustain their local communities. Variety within crop types increases
resilience to pests, disease and the warming climate, but USC
Canada reports that 75 per cent of the world's crop varieties
and thousands of livestock breeds have been lost in the last century.
Large-scale farming for international trade demands less biodiversity,
and it is not working well for farmers in Canada or abroad. Canada
lost 17,550 farms between 2001 and 2006 and the average farm income
in Canada is now negative $20,000 per year, according to the website
www.peoplesfoodpolicy.ca. Food exports have increased by 400 per
cent in the last 20 years, and farm subsidies are an entrenched
global reality, costing Canadian taxpayers billions each year,
and putting poorer nations at a disadvantage.
Climate change is expected to have a huge impact on drylands,
mountain regions and seacoasts, and on the small-scale farmers
who feed the majority of people in the world. If we cannot give
priority to biodiversity over short term gain, the risks for our
species, and others, appear to be severe.
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