Monday, February 26, 2007

Chasing our food

The years of localized and community-based agriculture in between the commonly known 'hunter and gatherer' or 'foraging peoples' and the present day symbolizes a time when humans stopped 'chasing' their food. The present 'consumer-mechanical' stage of food production still forces us to chase our food all around the globe and with heavy input costs of ecological capital. However the thrill of the hunt is gone since the complex division of labor encouraged by agribusiness giants and their distribution systems catches the food for us and lays it out neatly in the over-lit aisles of a grocery store. Growing grain again small scale reminds us what that last piece of bread in the bag on the counter is worth. It reminds us of the smell of fresh wheat and the sound of the milling. It reminds us that we commune with bread in many regards. Bread and water for prisoners and mystics of the past. Our daily bread if we ask for it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Signs and Symbols

People always ask me if the local grain initiative is about food security. As much as issues of food security are related to re-localizing parts of the food system then the answer is yes. But there is something much more fundamental at work and the theory, at least what I am proposing, looks like this:

If Local food is about healthy relationships and motivated community building, both with other humans and with the surrounding ecology, then we need to be looking at the signs and symbols that represent this happening. Grains were the first cultivated crops that brought groups of people together and grain cultivation and processing became 'placed-based' through this activity. Food production took place somewhere specific and people could identify with this. Growing local grain will not provide all the food needs even for a small, local population like Southwestern B.C. But growing grain is a symbolic action- one that recognizes the role grain played in building place based, human communities around food production and it signals that the root link between food production and human societies is not lost, hidden or forgotten. Grain as a sign of a coming food era and grain as a symbol of renewal and collective history is what this growing is all about. This link cannot be forgotten simply because we have come to believe that grain production needs to be large scale. Signs and symbols are powerful since they stand for and represent something-purposeful, place based cultivation of food and community. Cultivating grain somewhere meant that we were here to stay, to nurture and to experience a relationship with a place through the growing cycle. The buzz about local eating, especially in southwestern B.C. is amazing and I am very supportive of it and the role it plays. But I believe that a local diet to build community could be complemented by the symbolic action of growing grain. It signals a new and exciting time for food, the planet and community.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Thanks for the seeds

On February 24th, the yearly "Seedy Saturday" is being held at Van Dussen Gardens. This is an event where people can buy or trade seeds, exchange knowledge and stories about how important seed and growing are to community life. What started with a small envelope full of wheat seed has grown into a hobby and a challenging passion for me. I want to go and find the woman who sold me this inspiration for $2.00. I want to tell her that this package of seeds has changed the way I look at grains and that I will never forget the smell of spring wheat or the rough feel of the straw on a summer's evening. Plus, in terms of seed and grain, I really need to meet someone who actually knows something about this. Heres a good chance.

Note: I am not suggesting that we can't be proud of Canada's role as a grain producing nation. I am not suggesting that we abolish the Canadian Wheat Board. I am certainly not suggesting that we abandon our 'efficient' and 'highly productive' grain farms. This is NOT grain anarchy. But I do stand behind the need for local grain to be experimented with in our food system in some fashion if we are to truly understand the potentials or limitations of eating locally. I am really going to start using this local grain theory to stir things up....

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Help wanted


Small amounts of land (20-30 m square) in the lower mainland that might gladly host a grain field trial for the Spring and Summer of 2007. Good sun is wonderful and healthy organic soil is a plus! We can talk about the details.

Local Grain Initiative seeks other residents/farmers/gardeners of the Sunshine Coast interested in starting a grain cooperative for local product. This would be developed through participatory meetings and will function on a consensus basis.

Collaborators with an interest in history, ecology, bioregionalism or food systems are needed to submit articles or stories (2000 words max) to a local-grain-initiative/bioregionally themed journal. Please make submissions to the local-grain-initiative by March 30th, 2007.

All positions are re-imbursed on a seasonal basis...in grain of course.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Just getting started...

Although the ideas surrounding bread, sustainability, community and ecology are really at the heart of the local grain inititative, one of my readers told me that it is really the bread that keeps them interested. I must admit, what started a place to chronicle my wheat growing experience has become much more than that to me. The bread will be baked and the bag of kernels is still sitting in my cupboard. I know this whole process is becoming a bit epic. Before the end of this month (for those of you who also find that its mostly the bread that keeps you reading) I will bake this loaf of bread. But know that when this loaf of bread is baked and eaten the local grain initiative will not stop spreading the message that inspired the scattering of seeds in the first place.

Last year's crop was symbolic- an impracticle amount of grain to do anything substantial with. But the seeds grew and people who never imagined that grain could be a backyard garden crop learned something. Begining in April I am going to be conducting another field trial in wheat growing on a slightly larger scale. I may end up with five times the harvest of last year. If you are drawn to this site in order to see a loaf of bread be baked, so be it. I will bake last years crop for you and the earth. For those of you who want to see the way these ideas about local grain, community and the natural world intersect and work to carve out their place in a dominant food system that prides itself on the large and the mechanized- the local grain initiative is just getting started.