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”What do you want your food system to look like?”

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On Wednesday night I attended an exciting and interesting discussion on local food in Kingston. As readers of the LOFT Food Guide, I hope you enjoy my report of this inspiring event. At least 200 community members were in attendance, ranging from new born babies and their parents to the old and gnarled, and including a handful of students like me. We met in the Wilson Room of the Kingston Public Library. Local wine was sampled, and attendees mingled about, munching on tiny quiches, cheese, and chocolate meringues from Epicurious Catering.

As I took my seat, the man next to me eyed my snacks. I told him where he could find them, and when he returned he introduced himself. Turns out he used to work for Dupont (now Invista), the chemical plant in Kingston, but that he’d been looking into working on the new ‘ecological community farm’ that is Salt of the Earth. I shook hands with another man who introduced himself as Ian, the head chef of Chez Piggy. It’s one of Kingston’s most highly esteemed restaurants and a proud supporter of local farmers.

The discussion, hosted by Charles Summer and Morgan Alger of Salt of the Earth, began with the farmers answering questions about their position at the forefront of the local food movement. How they got started, what their greatest accomplishments and challenges were, what kept them joyful, and where they saw themselves in the next five years. We heard from Wendy Banks of Wendy’s Mobile Market, Justin Hillborn of Fat of the Land Farm, Charlie Forman of Forman Farms, and Ian Stutt of Patchwork Gardens.

It was truly inspiring to hear the passion that these people have for good and ecological food production. Wendy has been helping farmers in the region for almost a decade by making their products more accessible through her delivery service. Justin and his wife Andrea pasture-raise beef, pork, and poultry on their farm between Kingston and Napanee. Charlie is an agricultural legend: he has 2400 planted acres and is thinking about expanding. He’s grown crops, including non-GMO soybeans and corn, for nearly his entire life. Ian and his partners at Patchwork Gardens grown certified organic vegetables. 

When the discussion turned towards how to create a good and healthy local food system, I was inspired by the support that Kingston  has for organic and locally produced foods. One woman, in response to the comment that consumers have to be prepared to spend more, said that since she’s saved money since her family started receiving all her produce from a Community Supported Agriculture bin delivery system. ”The packaged crap doesn’t end up in our cart anymore!” Many restaurants in Kingston buy a substantial amount of their ingredients from farms in the area. Places like Chez Piggy, Harper’s Burgers, and the Kingston Brewing Co., as well as the rest on this list http://tourism.kingstoncanada.com/en/kingstonfood/localfoodrestaurants.asp.

The questions, comments, and applause were still flying as I slipped out after two hours. If I learned anything from Wednesday night’s event, it’s that Kingston is a great place to be. My desire to support the farmers and food producers of the area is stronger than ever after having seen the face of local food. Farming isn’t an easy life,but these people are so passionate about what they do.

Building a good local food system is the goal of many, and here are some of the conclusions that arose that evening:

  • Kids need to be targeted, because if they get hooked on the taste and excitement of good food, parents will follow. Focusing on lunch programs in schools as well as school gardens are two things that Wendy is involved in.
  • One of ways to convince others of the necessity and goodness of local food is to feed them. Invite someone over and cook them dinner. Serve them Justin’s grass-fed beef, and Ian’s vegetables, and watch them start to understand what all the fuss is about.
  • We have to accept the seasonality and imperfection of food, as well as the true cost. Strawberries just don’t grow in the middle of winter! Eating local isn’t necessarily a more expensive choice, but we can’t expect constant availability or to expect the same prices. 

 Learn more!

Salt of the Earth Farm- http://saltofkingston.com/ 

Ian Stutt and Patchwork Gardens- http://www.patchworkgardens.ca/

Justin Hillborn and Fat of the Land Farm- https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fat-of-the-Land-Farm/809417689086906 or fatofthelandfarm@gmail.com

Wendy and Wendy’s Mobile Market- http://www.wendysmobilemarket.com/

Charlie Forman and Forman Farms http://formanfarms.ca/

Kingston Farmer’s Market- http://www.kingstonpublicmarket.ca/

Community Supported Agriculture through Root Radical Rowns- http://www.rootradicalrows.com/ 

Epicurious Catering- http://food.epicuriouscatering.ca/ 

 

 

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Drip Irrigation Systems

Part of the LOFT movement includes a commitment to environmental responsibility. Less packaging, more reusable and recyclable materials, shorter transportation of food itself – but more directly, and perhaps most importantly, is farming techniques. The meat industry is often highlighted as unsustainable and inhumane as well as highly wasteful. Surprisingly, the agricultural industry can be equally as unsustainable.

Farms are major contributors to water scarcity – about 70% of all water consumed is through farming techniques…and most of the water is wasted.

Drip irrigation (also known as trickle or micro irrigation) is a horticultural method engineered to control the application of water and fertilizer to enable water to drip slowly to the roots of the plants. Although the technique continues to be developed, the network of valves and tubes has proven efficienct, effective, and worth pursuing for both farmer security and water security.

What are the benefits of drip irrigation?

  • reduced water use – drip irrigation can use up to half the amount of water overhead irrigation systems do
  • improved efficiency – the direct application of water and/or fertilizer keeps costs low and less nutrients are losses (and nutrients can be timed more precisely to the plants’ needs)
  • less weeds – the direct application can also help focus the irrigation on the plants rather than the surrounding foliage
  • low pumping – drip irrigation requires lower operating pressure than overhead systems
  • better distribution – the direct application improves the ability of the field to be watered equally and properly throughout (even with irregularly shaped fields)

ImageUnfortunately, drip irrigation systems can be expensive to both install and maintain but the benefits may outweigh the disadvantages especially when considering the amount of water such a system can save.