Monday, March 16, 2009

Hand Powered Flour Mills

I received an e-mail today from a nice fellow asking where he could obtain a hand-powered grain mill. I knew that they were still being produced, but I was at a loss as to where you could buy one. I did a little snooping and here you go Wayne! This looks like a good article on what to look for in a mill. Now keep in mind that I have never used a hand-powered mill, but the one that kept popping up in my searches was the Country Living Mill . It sounds as though it is quite an effort to use these mills...perhaps a couple pulleys and a stationary bicycle are just the ticket to work off some of the calories from all those tasty buns you make with your home ground flour!

Alberta BioDiesel!

I recently came across this site www.greenwayfuels.ca and was delighted to learn that biodiesel is now available in Alberta! I was attracted to Greenway Fuels website and subsequently contacted their CEO Jaimey Farnese about obtaining b100 diesel to mix with regular diesel at Gold Forest Grains. Greenway Fuels' first biodiesel station is located in Turner Valley, AB. According to Ms. Farnese, Greenway is looking to expand their stations northward throughout Alberta. It is understandable what an undertaking this is and I would like to try to support their efforts in any way possible. With enough interest from organic producers, perhaps we can entice Greenway north sooner rather than later!


Another interesting site that was linked to Greenway Fuels is the Green Fuels map http://www.biofleet.net/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=33 This is a great way to see different green options for refueling while travelling across Canada.

Alberta Organic Producers Association

I attended the AOPA AGM this past weekend. http://www.albertaorganicproducers.org/
AOPA is a wonderful organization that is tight-knit and full of personality. I am proud to be a member. The association was formed in 1990 and has been going full speed ever since. It is a tremendous place to network with some of the Organic "old timers" as well as the new breed of organic producer with bold and interesting ideas. I have enjoyed any function that I have ever attended and this meeting was no different.

As a function of my attendance, I am now a member of the Marketing Committee for AOPA. We will be working to further the marketing effectiveness of member producers through co-operation and additional communication. There needs to be a better connectivity between local organic producers and consumers and organizing the producers is probably the place to start. I plan to explore the possibility of starting a producer Co-op Retail Food Chain that could be supplied by producer co-op processing facilities.

We'll see how far I get.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Obtaining Local Organic Foods

I receive e-mails and phone calls all the time from people looking for local organic grains and grain products. I have attended recent meetings hosted by local food groups and organic groups. The number one question that I hear murmered in the phews is "where can I get this food that they are hyping?" That's a good question. Strolling through most organic food stores here in Edmonton I see an overwhelming selection of organic foods, but a quick review of the label tells me that this food is not very local at all. I mean isn't the point of "Organics"...to reduce the carbon footprint, to produce food in a sustainable way? Trucking flour over the mountains from BC to sell here in Edmonton strikes me as fairly ridiculous. Here's the rub though...is there actually anyone local who produces organic flour for a local market? I am going to have to say no. At least not that I am aware of. As a producer, I can vent all I want about people who refuse to purchase local foods, but in doing so I also need to take responsibility for making every effort to actually make local food and make it available!

I know that there is a local flour mill, but they are fairly dedicated to marketing their flour at the bigger supermarkets where people who are interested in local foods will almost never visit. It's a difficult problem because I understand why they do this...there aren't enough local food consumers to make it worthwhile for this relatively large mill to cater to them. It's a vicious cycle. In this post and others to follow, I am going to focus on as many different stores and locations to obtain local foods as I can think of. By all means, e-mail me if you know of others that I miss.

First of all, let's look at the obvious...Farmers Markets. There are a number of outstanding markets here in edmonton. Not the least of which is the "City Market Downtown on a 104th" http://www.city-market.ca/ This is a growing market that is large enough for you to find most, if not all of your staples. Then there is the venerable "Old Strathcona Farmers Market" http://www.osfm.ca/. For a complete listing of markets across Alberta check out http://www.albertamarkets.com/. Now be aware that not all markets are created equal. For the hardcore local foodie, there are some markets that will be a complete waste of time...full of grandparents sitting at tables full of knitted tissue box covers and numerous other tables of network marketing items like plastic dinnerware and cleaning supplies. Check out each market in your area by calling the manager and asking what vendors are there each week...also, make sure to make a point of telling them what YOU ARE LOOKING FOR. A good market manager will keep track of this stuff and make changes to the market where possible.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Heritage Wheats

I have recently obtained samples of several varieties of heritage wheat. What is Heritage Wheat you may ask? Well, that is a good question and to be frank, I don't know. What I do know is that there are different answers to this question depending on who you ask. To me, a heritage wheat variety is one that is "antique". A variety that was developed say sometime prior to 1940. You see, it was about this time that the war effort was in full swing in laboratories across the world. New weapons were being developed that included chemicals that had the potential to defoliate and poison entire cultures of people. Luckily for us (tongue in cheek) these chemicals became the basis for modern agriculture. They magically and without consequence, enabled farmers to grow crops with fewer weeds, more productivity and in the case of dessication, shorter seasons. Oh yes, and on a lesser side note, some companies were able to make a few little profits.

So, after WWII these same agricultural companies who were busy developing different ways of poisoning the earth were also funding the development of their own breeds of grains. These varieties could survive the chemical baths that other, lesser species couldn't and therefore farmers could spray till their hearts content to get rid of weeds and bugs and other maladies. Soon, these new varieties were the predominant ones and the older varieties selected for natural resistance to lodging and growing seasons and competitiveness were forgotten. With such specific breeding and even genetic manipulation, the new varieties of grains are genetically uniform and very shallow in genetic material. The old breeds are known as landraces and are genetically very diverse. They are able to adapt within a few years to different climates and growing conditions and most importantly are not registered or owned by anyone in particular. Of course some of the antique varieties from the 20's and 30's were registered by hard working breeders in government ag. offices and farms across the continent. These breeds were naturally selected and crossed with other heritage varieties to produce plants with significant genetic diversity and traits that enabled wheat to be grown in places in Canada where shorter seasons or natural obstacles prevailed.

What all of this means is that the companies in question were able to enslave farmers and decieve them into believing that registered, copyrighted seeds in conjunction with associated chemicals were the only modern way to farm. As is the case with all other known forms of modern farming hierarchy, the people making the vast proportion of profits were in fact these companies...peddling their wares like modern day versions of the tonic hoaxsters of years past.

Luckily for us today there are enlightened farmers and most importantly, enlightened consumers who are demanding a return to intelligent and sustainable farming practices using landrace, community owned seeds and organic agronomy.