Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Deeper than grain

The philosophy of the local grain initiative goes much deeper than simply encouraging the small scale growing and production of grain. By using a grain experiment like this as an example in 'reclaiming', it's hope is to address issues of regional food security which are inseperably linked to issues of ecological balance, bioregional self-sufficency, and re-defining our 'use value' notions of resources. The local grain initiative is for healthy ecosystems. It encourages the recognition of the past power of geological systems and the processes of the mighty Fraser River at work in this unique watershed- which we share with many other species of life. Cookie-cutter houses built over farmland with soil 20 meters thick in places! Are we really offering this irreplacable land up as a sacrifice to sub-urban sprawl? At least keep common farmland for each housing community- the natural world demands it. We need to respect the limitations that watersheds and airsheds pose to urban planning and suburban sprawling.

In the city... Grow an organic garden on part of that manicured lawn. Plant trees that offer their fruit to children walking by on the sidewalk. Learn to save seeds and trade them with your neighbors. Hold weekly food swap meets on the street where people can exchange cukes for radishes if they please. Lets celebrate the social power of food. The social component of food is stolen by the homogenization and uniformity of 'super' markets- take it back. The trucks that feast on oil will soon sit idle and with that will come the gradual loss of fresh food. Lets start making preparations....

1)Begin to understand that humans are do not have free reign to destroy or deplete the habitat and homes of animals and plants to gratify their selfish desires.

2) Understand that paying more for organic food is only a short term monetary sacrifice and casts your vote for healthy farming practices. Better yet, save some money where you can and learn to grow your own.

3) Accept that farming practices impact heavily on the surrounding ecology. Farms are not 'sealed off' from forests and rivers- they are a component of a complex and living system that requires respect and balance. Bugs and birds are part of farming ecology. It ought not be a pesticide war against them with the collateral damage forceably accepted by the surrounding life.

4) Understand that each area on the planet is unique in its own way. Geography, geology and hydrology are like fingerprints- they mold and form land into a distinct place. We have simply come to inhabit each place. Try to live with this in mind.

5) Never underestimate what you can do to offer alternatives to others. I knew nothing about growing wheat nor if it was even possible in this region. Now I have the potential to bake a loaf of bread from my garden. If even one person gives this a try, the education component of my experiment has succeded.

I'll get back to the bread now I promise.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Before baking we need a bit more ranting....

How long will it take us to realize that we are slowly erasing our collective history by increasingly distancing ourselves so much from our food? I’m finished thinking that the social and environmental costs of a food system based on gasoline, pesticides and a cut-throat market economy are simply ‘externalities’. I propose that a local ‘Cereal Grain Liberation Brigade’ free grain production from the hands of agri-business giants and their ‘medicated mono-culture’ grain production lines. I don't care anymore about bread that is akin in texture to a plasticine/spackle combination. Give me something that feels like grain when I bite into it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A bag of kernels...

Here is a picture of the threshed and winnowed wheat kernels. I am guessing that it is about 4 cups of kerenels, maybe more when its ground. Soon my friends, the bread will be eaten....

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Seperating the wheat from the Chaff

September 14th 2006. I cut all the heads off of straw and threw them onto my dining room table. There must have been upwards of 300 and I began the time-consuming process of taking the grains out of the husks. By rubbing the heads of the grass between my hands, the kernels fell onto the table with a triumphant sound. The real experiment is just starting now- will it bake into anything edible?

Why a local grain project you may ask?

Firstly, sedentary populations began cultivating cereal crops at least 10,000 years ago in a distinct region. Throughout time, the transference of these skills through cultural diffusion around the world has inspired innovative and groundbreaking work on the adaptability of such an important food source. This makes grain production an inseparable and highly significant part of our collective history. The ability for people in this region to watch and, if they choose, participate in the ritual of such an ancient tradition is a contribution to our collective consciousness about food production in the past and its relationship to the future. It is a celebration of sorts with the small scale; low input production system is brought to the present time- offering an alternative to the industrial paradigm of food production and distribution.

Secondly, by drawing on the resources of a committed community with diverse skills the project assures the larger population that there is practical learning going on regarding how to provide (or at least attempting to provide) local products for a local population through value-added processing at the local level. By adopting community based research strategies the learning and the project reflects varied interests rather than having only an economic bottom line. Encouraging local growers, processors and retailers to offer their contribution at various stages in the farm to plate operations will help all of us to better understand the notion of a local food community.

Lastly, a local grain project if successful will provide consumers in this region the option of local, organic grains. We need to attempt to offer these products rather than simply a discourse surrounding the potentials of local eating. We need to know for the future of a local diet what is possible and what is not; what is practical and what is not. If such a product produces a crop and is supported by local interests, the local eating movement in this region will undoubtedly benefit on a number of levels from the reintroduction of cereal grains. Organic grains would add even more variety to the already diverse array of local food, making the commitment to this type of a diet more attractive. It will help us to challenge the common assumptions about agricultural potential and what people are willing to sacrifice to eat this more local diet.
By re-introducing small scale grain production to this region we offer an important contribution to the ingredients of a local diet. Of equal importance, we also offer support to the potential of community oriented food projects to have incredible influence in re-defining food systems that are healthier for both the local environment and to ourselves.