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Grow a row Program feeding food bank.

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Volume 2 • Issue 4

Free rural delivery from Port Hardy to Victoria

July 2011

This month in

GREEN culture

• Have you ever wondered where the goats come from for the famous Goats on the Roof at the Coombs Country Market?

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• A unique agricultural project has sprouted at Timberline Secondary in Campbell River, thanks to a former student. • A wine country chef has been honoured by his Vancouver Island alma mater. • An allotment garden in Sooke is getting a second look courtesy of volunteer efforts. • It's time to think of fall's Feast of Fields event already. RACHEL STERN/BLACK PRESS

Carly McDowell, left, and Anthony James are using the permaculture philosophy on their property in Harewood, in Nanaimo.


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J U LY, 2 011

North Island

LEARNING IN SPADES Courtyard farming blends education with agriculture


A school garden is doubling as an outdoor classroom at Campbell River’s Timberline Secondary School that provides students with hands-on education and teaches them the importance of healthy eating habits. The garden, dubbed the Edible Courtyard, is growing in the grassy, wide-open quad in the middle of Timberline and North Island College and benefits both schools. It provides students with the opportunity to grow and eat their own fresh produce and promotes sustainability and self-reliance. At Timberline the Skills for Life class, which encourages independency among those with learning disabilities, tends to the garden. “They’re out here pretty much every afternoon to work on it and they’ve really stuck with it,” said Kevin Harrison, Timberline principal. “The garden’s been a wonderful addition to the school and it’s involved so many students. It’s a nice way to unite people around a good idea.” Woodwork students cut up all the wood and put the pieces together to create garden beds and a science class is doing an experiment comparing a 50/50 compost soil, a straight soil and a fish compost soil to determine which one will grow plants fastest. The garden is the brainchild of Kira DeSorcy, a former Timberline student who recently graduated from Camosun College where she studied agriculture. DeSorcy presented Harrison with her vision for the Edible Courtyard, a concept Harrison could not resist. “It totally caught my attention and it supports our school’s overall vision to teach kids how to become stewards of

the environment and take care of our planet,” said Harrison. DeSorcy envisions the garden as not only a place to grow food, but to promote horticultural therapy and to use the Edible Courtyard as a tool for school counsellors. The garden occupies approximately 4,000 square feet and will yield herbs, blueberries, strawberries, eggplant, tomatoes, kiwi and pepper among other things. The food will go towards the Skills for Life’s once-a-week lunch program, where the students have to make their own lunch for the day. North Island College will also use the herbs and vegetables in its culinary arts programs and cafeteria lunches. “It will bring the carbon footprint of the school down because it won’t be importing those things,” said DeSorcy. When the garden is complete it will have eight garden beds side-by-side with a bed for perennial plants around the outside borders of the garden. Down the middle will be picnic benches for students to use while they eat their lunch and enjoy the green space. At the back of the garden there are plans for a shed that will also double as an outdoor classroom, where teachers can choose to hold their classes and get their students outside for an hour. The entire garden will be wheelchair accessible. Annual plants went into the garden in June and the berm and perennial beds will be planted in the fall. Other vegetables will be planted long-term. DeSorcy figures the school could see its first herbs come out in about a month. The project has received support from various community organizations who have donated soil, wood, plants and gravel.


Timberline student Kaylee Wilson works in the new Edible Courtyard at the high school in Campbell River in June.

Comox Valley agricultural plan receives favourable response COURTENAY—The Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce received unanimous support for their agricultural policy at the BC Chamber annual general meeting in Prince George, where the policy was presented for approval. “The Comox Valley Chamber strongly believes that B.C.’s farmers and ranchers are a vital component of the economy, employing an estimated 300,000 people and generating over $35 billion in annual revenue,”

the chamber stated in a press release. “The industry is facing many challenges, and to have a strong and positive future, the government needs to partner with this sector in a few key areas.” Prior to taking the policy to the provincial sessions, the chamber executive and CEO Dianne Hawkins met with Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, recently appointed agricultural minister, to discuss the content

of the policy and the chamber’s commitment to the agricultural industry in the Comox Valley. The policy was presented by the chamber in conjunction with the BC Agricultural Council (BCAC). It recommends that the government live up to its commitment to invest in a marketing program that increases awareness of local B.C. food products. The plan also recommends that funding for extension

personnel be given priority, and that the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands works with the BCAC to identify key priority areas for the agriculture sector. The chamber also recommends that the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program be funded to a level that will meet the objective of ultimately covering all B.C. schools in the program. This program has been successful in meeting both health objectives and benefiting

the B.C. agricultural sector by providing students with fresh fruits and vegetables. The approval of this policy by the B.C. Chamber reinforces the strong voice of the chamber and its members, the press release noted. The new B.C. Chamber policy will be presented to the provincial government. If recommendations are fully implemented, the economic impact for local farmers and ranchers would be substantial.


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Central Island

Permaculture movement gains ground


n a world of rising energy and food prices and disappearing wilderness, more people are attempting to increase their self-reliance and become better stewards of the planet. To accomplish those goals, many people in Nanaimo are turning to permaculture – a philosophy that attempts to mimic natural design and encompasses many movements and elements such as green building, organic gardening, sustainability, food security, bioenergy, ecology and community design. Some of the projects they are working on include creating more efficient homes, leading reforestation projects in community spaces and working to increase food security. “Permaculture seems like one of the most important movements happening on Earth right now,” said Anthony James, who uses permaculture techniques at his home. Javan Kerby Bernakevitch, owner of Permaculture B.C., an organization that provides permaculture education and certification on Vancouver Island, said the movement is a response to declining vegetation systems and the loss of biodiversity on the planet. It is about restoring natural biodiversity and living more harmoniously with surroundings, he said. “We are trying to create regeneration – sustainable human habitat through an ethical science,” said Kerby Bernakevitch. “In permaculture the thinking is revolutionary but the solution is simple.” Valuable soil is being stripped away and washing into the ocean and nutrients from vegetable peels are being thrown in the trash, he said. There is also a large amount of waste created in today’s society and permaculture strives to create zero waste – anything that is taken out of the soil needs to be replenished. ames and his partner Carly McDowell are ensuring their home has rich soil to grow food for their family. The couple has incorporated permaculture



Carly McDowell, left, and Anthony James, using the permaculture philosophy, have rebuilt one wall of their house with cob and use as much yard space as possible for food gardens.

design into their home on Harewood Road. When they purchased it, the yard was littered with garbage and the walls of the home were almost falling down. Over the last year, they have rebuilt using local wood for the roof and cob on one wall. The goal is to grow enough food to sustain the household, reduce energy consumption and become sustainable. The backyard is a mosaic of gardens, herbs hug the front porch, pea plants climb up the side of the home and chickens cluck in a pen. Even a small crack in the cement of the backyard patio has been used as a planting space. The couple gathers grass clippings from a nearby park to use as mulch for their gardens, which keeps the weeds down and the soil moist for longer periods of time. The cob wall on their home is a natural breathable material that retains heat to warm the house, said James. They are also incorporating passive solar design techniques by planting fruit trees at the south side of their home to shade the house in the summer. ack Anderson, owner of Greenplan, a Cedar company that designs green homes and sustainable communities, said planting trees on the north side of a building creates a sun trap that envelopes the building and shades it from harsh


summer heat. Also adding glass to the south side will heat it in the winter. The concept is passive solar gain, said Anderson, and it enables natural elements to work as heating and cooling sources for the home. “Permaculture has been a very sleepy design method over the last few decades, but involvement in permaculture is beginning to explode,” he said. “People recognize the need to become more food and energy reliant.” Anderson designs green homes and sustainable communities and received his permaculture design certificate in 2008. He also uses elements of permaculture in his design to help create efficiencies. “It’s an amazing approach to how we should be developing habitat in our community,” said Anderson. “It allows us to mimic what nature is doing.” He said permaculture encompasses renewable energy systems and natural building techniques such as straw and bale, as well as cob. When designing a home, it takes into account where and how rain lands on the building and where it runs off in order to store it for later use on the property. If a major earthquake were to strike the Island, the philosophy is a welldesigned permaculture community would be able to help people get through the

crisis with local food sources and energy production. In a home design, a principal element in permaculture is creating zones. The zones extend outward from the home with the

items people want to access quickly, such as herbs and vegetables, nearest to the house. Items that are less valuable are further away. Zone five might be a food forest with a few fruit trees and companion plants that will make it selfsufficient with very little human intervention once established. These companion plants would be nitrogen producers and plants to attract pollinators. Creating companion planting can also be applied to reforestation projects and is a technique that Michael Geselbracht has been using to restore May Richards Bennett Pioneer Park to a more natural forest. He received permission from the city and the Nanaimo Rugby Club to work on the 5.25-hectare parkland and has been leading work parties on the land.

Quickfacts ◆ PERMACULTURE WAS created by Bill Mollison and co-developed with David Holmgren in the late 1970s. ◆ IT IS guided by three key ethics: care for the Earth, care of people and fair share. ◆ THERE ARE several design principles that fall under the key components such as use and value biodiversity, using small and slow solutions, produce no waste, value renewable resources and services, catch and store energy and more. Many of the design principles attempt to mimic nature and create sustainability.

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Central Island



Goat on the roof at the Coombs Old Country Market.

QUALICUM BEACH — Upon arriving at Up a Creek farm at the end of Corcan Road outside Qualicum Beach, the first thing one notices is how quiet the place is. There is a herd of goats in a pen on the farm and not one is bleating. Even when a stranger approaches — or when owner Jenny Sterckx picks up one of the young ones — the goats make nary a sound. The only noise comes from a nearby chicken coop and even that is subdued. It’s the goat breed, said Sterckx, about the lack of noise. She raises Angora goats, which she shears for their wool. It’s a sort of mohair, she explains, as true angora wool comes from rabbits. She sends the raw wool away to a specialist in

Alberta to turn it into yarn for her hand spinning, and to help supply local weavers with material. Sterckx is also an employee at the deli at the Olds Country Market in Coombs — where knowledge of her goat-raising got to her boss, who asked if she would provide some animals for their grass-covered rooftop. “They are trying to go with the closer to home thing, so they asked if I could provide some goats for the roof,” she said. Happy to oblige, Sterckx said she picked two adult and two young Angoras, as well as a pair of AngoraNubian cross goats. The latter pair are the result of an ‘accident’, she said. Seems animal husbandry — or at least a goat’s determination — isn’t always easy. Sterckx has always been interested in weaving — ever since her husband Mike got her a spinning wheel as a wedding present when she was 20. Add into the mix the couple’s desire to someday have a farm with goats, and you’ve got a match. Since they moved to their Corcan Road property, the couple cleared the land and for the last three years, have owned the goats, plus some others that they have either gone on to sell or to process into meat. The goats for the roof in Coombs, said Sterckx, will not be eaten once their tenure up there is over. That just wouldn’t be on. Sterckx gets wool from her goats twice each year — up to nine or 10 pounds of it each time. What she gets back, she can spin into sweaters or blankets. Fuzzier wool (like from the animals’ legs) is used for socks or batting. “It’s really, really strong and warm.” A portion of her wool is sold to other local hand spinners, an active community in its own right. “As a small producer, it’s nice to get the best bang for your buck,” Sterckx said. The goats aren’t difficult to keep, she continued, noting they are fed twice a day. There’s the daily chores of cleaning out the pen and keeping the goats themselves


Jennifer Sterckx and one of her Angora goats.

“ Goats do not just eat anything—no tin cans. Some will nibble at things, but they won’t eat just anything—only some really good hay.

” clean, but otherwise she said her Angoras are “pretty chill.” Well cared-for, the goats can live into their late teens. Getting them onto the roof in Coombs isn’t a huge effort. There’s a ramp and roof access at the back of the Old Country Market, and once they’re up there, a fence — and the roof edge — keeps them in. In her time at the deli, Sterckx said she’s only ever known of one goat to fall off the roof (or was pushed by another goat). It was fine and put back up when it was discovered at the tables at the market. Her goats seem to be doing all right on the roof, she said, but two will probably have to come down, as they aren’t

adjusting well. Sterckx plans to replace them soon. The goats on the roof of the Old Country Market in Coombs are up there from the May long weekend each year, coming down just before Halloween. Having no goats on the roof over the winter months, allows the grass roof to replenish itself after a season of hard grazing. Sterckx said people who visit the market are asked not to feed the goats, but simply enjoy their presence. “Goats,” she explained, “do not just eat anything — no tin cans. Some will nibble at things, but they won’t eat just anything — only some really good hay.”


J U LY, 2 011

Central Island

Alma mater honours wine country chef NANAIMO — Bernard Casavant was surprised in 1976 when he was singled out as the most promising graduate in the Culinary Arts Program at Vancouver Island University (then Malaspina College). He recalls that not many people had given him much of a chance in succeeding as a professional chef. After 35 years creating distinctive Western Canadian cuisine for fortunate diners including British Royalty and Hollywood celebrities, Casavant is returning to VIU where he will receive another honour in his impressive career. “I am indeed very humbled by the Distinguished Alumni Award,� says Casavant, Executive Chef at Manteo Resort Waterfront Hotel and Villas in the Okanagan. Casavant received the award June 7 during spring convocation ceremonies at VIU. Casavant credits his grandmother with encouraging him to pursue a cooking career with a strong work ethic and deep respect for the food and the people who produce it. He is also grateful to Chef Sid Pickett for his support and patience as Casavant developed his skills and creativity as a student. “He was instrumental in my success,� says Casavant. His own advice for culinary students: “Be passionate, cook with integrity and be patient to see where in the kitchen you are most comfortable.� Casavant’s first job in the industry was as a prep cook at the Greenwood Motor Hotel in Port Alberni. His career path has reached great heights – literally in the case of catering mountaintop receptions for Blackcomb Helicopters at Whistler. One of his most challenging meals, he recalls, was cooking risotto for eight world dignitaries on a mountain top with a cassette-fuelled, single-burner stove. “The weather blew in, complete with snow. I was able to finish the risotto but my ‘McGyver’ [improvisational] talents were tested.� Casavant’s passion for food has impressed diners in many top restaurants and resorts in Vancouver, Whistler and the Okanagan. At Expo 86, Casavant was executive chef at the Canadian Club. He and his wife Bonnie have also proven to be a successful team in their own restaurant and in resorts. The veteran chef continues to impress as he shares his love of fresh, locally rooted cuisine. “Chef Bernard is a great addition to our Manteo Resort Management team. We are very pleased with the positive changes and increased level of food and service in the Wild Apple Restaurant and our catering program since his arrival 18 months ago,� says Heather Schroeter, general manager at Manteo Resort Waterfront Hotel and Villas in Kelowna. “Our guests are loving his signature ‘wine country cuisine’, and they truly appreciate the fresh seasonal local ingredients. We are very fortunate to have an Executive Chef with such passion for local food and beverage, and his dedication to above and beyond service and mentoring his kitchen team.� Over the years, he has cooked for royalty


Judy White of Mummy’s Nummys entices a customer to pick up some of her homemade wares at Farmer Bill’s Country Market. The market runs on Sundays in the Alberni Valley, on Pacific Rim Highway.

To market, to Sunday farm market SUSAN QUINN ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS

Farmer Bill’s Country Market in the Alberni Valley has been revitalized with the opening of a regular Sunday market. The market had opened on the Thomson farm in 2000

but business petered out over the next few years, and the market closed in 2008. Now, however, Kasha Thomson— the fifth generation to farm on the land—has given it new life with the opening last May of the Sunday market. The market is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In 2009, says Thomson, 1.4 million tourists drove past Farmer Bill’s—named for her father, who first opened the country market. “I feel having this market will bring a different crowd of customers that won’t be able to make it to the Saturday market.�



Bernard Casavant has been honoured with the distinguished alumni award at Vancouver Island University, where he graduated from the culinary arts program in 1976 (when the Nanaimo institute was still known as Malaspina).

including Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, and the King of Dubai and entertainers including John Travolta and Kenny Rogers. “Two people who were the most impressive were Margaret Thatcher and George Burns,� he recalls. The British Prime Minister had a calm demeanour, he says, “but you could sense the power, her drive and focus.� “George Burns stands out because after feeding his team in a private dining room, he called me into the room and true to his nature, joked and thanked me for a fantastic lunch and then invited me to have a cigar and port with him.� Casavant politely declined the gesture but says he appreciated it when the famed comedian let him know that he could take him up on the offer anytime he was in Los Angeles. Casavant has been at the forefront of improving the standards of the restaurant industry throughout his career. In 1986, he was one of the first chefs in Canada to earn Chef de Cuisine certification. In 1991, he became the first West Coast-born and trained chef to represent Canada in the Bocuse D’Or Competition, France. A member of the BC Restaurants Hall of Fame, Casavant is a founding board member of Exclusively BC.

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J U LY, 2 011

South Island

Gardening program plants extra veggies for food bank EDWARD HILL GOLDSTREAM NEWS GAZETTE


Gundeep Randhawa, Grow a Row program co-ordinator, is encouraging gardeners to grow extra for the food bank.

West Shore gardeners with more fresh veggies than stomachs to feed can now give their overflow to the Goldstream Food Bank. The Victoria Compost Education Centre is expanding its “Grow a Row” project to the West Shore and everywhere else in the Capital Region. Vegetable growers — be it on community plots, balcony planters, backyard gardens or hobby farms — are being encouraged to plant an extra row to help those in need. “Most people are preparing their gardens now,” said Gundeep Randhawa, Grow a Row program co-ordinator. “We hope people grow a little extra.” Grow-a-Row, in Canada since the 1980s but launched last summer in Victoria’s Fernwood area, enticed about 47 growers to contribute 147 kilograms of vegetables. The food was donated to Our Place and a


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Fernwood neighbourhood group. This year the program has 115 people signed up, and the compost centre is eager to get West Shore residents onboard, including a resident to spearhead the initiative. “We are trying to make this sustainable, so each community continues (Grow-a-Row) on its own,” Randhawa said. “Last year we started small, but now we want to expand across the Capital Region to the western communities, to Sidney and everywhere.” The WestShore Teaching Garden and the teaching garden at the Coast Collective art gallery, both in Colwood, are acting as drop-off points for the West Shore arm of Grow-a-Row. Participating gardeners can drop of veggies once a week into waiting tubs cooled with ice. Donated vegetables go to the Goldstream Food Bank. “Food collection is a goal, but there is a higher purpose. We want to teach people how to garden their own food, so people can provide for themselves,” said Marion Wylie, with

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the Compost Education Centre. “It’s about encouraging food security, and if there is extra, it can be donated.” Gayle Ireland, president of the Goldstream Food Bank, said fresh vegetables and fruit are a small portion of a food hamper. A $25,000 bequeathment to the food bank specifically for fresh fruits and vegetables ran out last year. “It would be a blessing if anyone came forward with vegetables,” Ireland said. “It’s a good chance to give more nutritious, fresh produce in the hampers.” For more on Grow-a-Row, see or call 250-3869676 (WORM).

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J U LY, 2 011

South Island

Sooke allotment garden keeps growing PIRJO RAITS SOOKE NEWS MIRROR

Every year the Sunriver Allotment Gardens get a little more fertile, prolific and diverse. This year, volunteers planted 58 fruit trees and more are planned for the near future. The Sunriver gardens are a true success story. From the original ideas put forth by the Sooke Food CHI (Community Health Initiative) the garden has grown to encompass a community. People of all ages come together to plant, learn and share their experience and their seeds. The first 50 garden plots were snapped up quicker than a seal on a salmon and no one could have predicted the success of the project. Now, two years later, the volunteers are building espalier-style supports for the fruit trees, which will allow them to grow horizontal rather than vertical. Glen Thelin and his apprentice Dave Nagy are putting time in at the garden in between other gardening jobs. The two of them were putting posts in by hand for the espalier. “I donate a lot of time here,” said Thelin. The fruit trees include a number of varieties of apple trees, some plums and pears and cherry trees. There will also be some heritage varieties planted from cuttings from heritage trees

Tomoko, with her baby along for the ride is busy tilling the soil at the Sunriver Allotment Garden in Sooke. The garden on 2.5 acres is experiencing its second full growing season.

in the Sooke area. Volunteers have planted potatoes on the unused berm and squash in between the small fruit trees. The potatoes will be donated to the food bank. Phoebe Dunbar was at the garden along with Emily Moreland, puttering and doing whatever needed doing. Moreland is the garden mentor and is there on Sundays and Wednesdays sharing her knowledge and advice. Dunbar said there is always room for volunteers

and they can come to the garden and pitch in with a multitude of tasks. or just check out the gardens. Often there are plots which some can no longer deal with and may be available for another avid gardener. Raised beds built for those with mobility issues are also often available. Another goal of the Sunriver Allotment Garden and Orchard is to preserve Sooke’s local heritage. Some of the very old fruit trees found around the Sooke

Time to think Feast of Fields already VICTORIA — It’s time to get tickets for FarmFolkCityFolk’s 14th annual Feast of Fields on Vancouver Island, hosted by Marley Farm in Saanichton on Sunday, Sept. 18 from 1–5 p.m. Marley Farm is located in the tranquil Mount Newton Valley where they produce both grape and fruit wines such as kiwi, blackberry and raspberry. But more than grapes, the five-acre farm is also home to a barnyard full of sheep, geese, horses, chickens, turkeys, ducks and pigeons. “Feast of Fields highlights

the importance of sustainable, local food systems while showcasing the bounty that Vancouver Island has to offer,” says event organizer Melanie Banas. “It’s so exciting to see people’s support and enthusiasm grow each year as more people begin eating locally and seasonally.” With a wine glass and linen napkin in hand, you can taste the very best of B.C. Nearly 200 chefs, vintners, brewers, farmers, food artisans and more will be on hand to dish out food and drink samples on Marley Farm.

Over the past 13 years FarmFolkCityFolk has directed more than $100,000 of these funds to support a variety of independent projects on Vancouver Island. Beginning in 2010, funds raised from the Vancouver Island Feast of Fields will be used to fund projects that directly support Vancouver Island. On sale now, tickets are $85 for adults, $15 for children ages 7 to 12, and free for kids under six. For more information and details as they become available, please visit www.

region are a direct link to its pioneer history. With the sudden explosion of urban expansion, some of the oldest apple trees in B.C. have been destroyed to make way for new sub-divisions. The Lemon Pippin apple trees planted around 1856 on what was the original homestead of Capt W.C Grant were the most recent victims. These trees were healthy, productive and an invaluable source of scionwood used in the grafting process. With the federal laws governing the importation of apple trees to Canada it is impossible to reintroduce some varieties. These old trees are the only supply of many rare cultivars and some are the only trees left in Canada. Once they are gone so is that variety. Volunteers have slowly been trying to locate and regraft these trees for future generations to enjoy.

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west_coast_farmer_July 15  

Complete July 15, 2011 issue of West Coast Farmer newspaper as it appears in print. For more online, all the time see www.albernivalleynews....

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