Local, Seasonal and Organic Food
By: Dr. Peggy Malone
On this week’s episode of my television show ‘Living Well’, I chatted with Shawn DeVree, the manager of the Horton Street Farmers’ Market as well as Brigitte Cosens, the co-ordinator of the St. Thomas Community Gardens.
Both of these women shared some extremely valuable information on ways to increase your awareness about the foods that you eat and how to get access to foods that are organic, seasonal, local and most importantly better for your health!
The Horton Farmers’ Market in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada has been around for 130 years. It opens the first weekend in May and is open for business from May to October every year.
The market is 100% Producer based which means that the person/vendor behind the table at the market who you are buying the product from is the person who made or grew the product. There is no reselling or middle men in the process.
If you have questions about the food or product that you are buying, you can get really great information straight from the producer by chatting up the vendors at the market.
At least half of vendors at the market are local fruit and vegetable growers and everything that is sold at the market must be grown within 60km of the market site. This very local aspect is one of the things that makes the market special.
Another special thing is that the produce you buy will be in season. Whether it’s berries or cherries or cucumbers or potatoes, whatever is in season is picked and is at the market 2 days later!
Some of the vendors also sell organic produce. Organic is a word that sometimes leads to confusion. In order for your food to be considered Organic, the farmer who grew it has to be certified and accredited. If you aren't sure, ask the farmer at the farmers market.
This is really helpful in terms of knowing with more certainty what you are putting in your body and what you are feeding your family.
Know your farmer, know your food.
By shopping at the local farmers’ market, you can ask questions directly to the grower to find out how the food was grown, as well as if and why any chemicals may have been used (or not used).
Buying local, seasonal food that was in the dirt 2 days (or less) before you take it home with you is a great alternative to some of the produce that you are getting at the grocery store.
Many of the fruits are waxed to look pretty. Lettuces are picked and then sprayed with a chemical to preserve them and keep them looking good until you buy them sometimes up to 2 weeks after thev’ve been picked!
These practices are another reason why shopping at your local farmers’ market is a great option for your health and wellness too.
The local farmers’ market also has a positive effect on the local economy by creating local jobs and by acting as an incubator for small businesses that start with a table at the market and end up with a larger store front in town as a result of relationships that began with customers at the market.
If you haven’t already, get out and check out your local farmers’ market. There are lots of reasons why it is a great choice!
For more information on the Horton Street Farmers’ Market in St. Thomas check out www.hortonfarmersmarket.ca .
My second guest on this week’s episode was Brigitte Cosens the Co-ordinator of the St. Thomas Community Gardens.
What is a community garden?
It is any group of people that come together to garden. Community gardens come in many different shapes and sizes. They can be large or small, on the ground or on rooftops, in plots or in planters. And they can be a mix of all of these things.
They don’t have to be “communal” either, where everyone shares the work and the harvest. Gardeners can have their own individual plot within the community garden and can also join with others to grow some crops communally.
Like zucchini, for example. Squash, zucchini and other plants in the squash family can often be such vigorous growers that they can take over an entire plot and often neighbouring plots as well. Community gardens will often designate a communal squash plot where people can share the work and the harvest.
Another good crop to plant communally is corn. If every gardener had 5 or 6 corn plants in their plot, the tall corn from one plot would shade neighbouring plots. By planting corn communally in one large plot this problem is solved and the corn will actually grow better because it needs to be planted in a” block” for better pollination.
So every community garden is different and is determined by what the gardeners themselves want.
What can you grow in a community garden?
Community gardeners grow many things, not just vegetables. You can grow fruit, herbs, flowers, you can grow a butterfly garden, a bird garden or a woodland garden.
Most community gardens start out as vegetable gardens but will often have a communal area where flowers, both annual and perennial, are grown. Often this flower garden will have a particular focus, like a rose garden or garden that attracts butterflies and provides habitat for them.
How much time do I need to spend in the garden every week?
Most gardens require that every gardener must spend enough time in his or her garden so that each plot is kept properly maintained and as weed free as possible.
Most gardens hold a couple of group work days every year, usually for spring and fall clean up. Often there will be an improvement project that the garden committee organizes, like building a seating area or a children’s garden area.
Every community garden sets their own rules about required participation for these group work days.
How can I start a community garden?
First, talk to your friends and neighbours about it. If you can get at least 5 people who will commit to the project, then look for some land close by.
The next step is to call FoodShare's Urban Agriculture Programme at 416 363- 6441 ext 225 to help you get started.
Every year, usually in mid winter, they hold a 5 session course on community garden start up.
Brigitte mentioned that they also have many helpful information sheets that you can order for free or an extensive manual, HOW DOES OUR GARDEN GROW: A GUIDE TO COMMUNITY GARDEN SUCCESS.
The subject of food is a very important one. I have talked and written often that people need to take responsibility for their health and wellness.
By learning how your food is grown, and taking some control over growing your own food, you will be taking big steps to improving your health and wellness by upping the level of awareness that you have about what you are putting in your body.
Dr. Peggy Malone is a Chiropractor and an Athlete who helps other athletes to overcome injury and get back to their sport. Her weekly Television Series 'Living Well" inspires people from all walks of life to take control of their health to be as happy and as healthy as they can be.
A former varsity Basketball and Rugby player, she has since entered the world of endurance athletics where she has completed 2 Ironman Triathlons, 3 Marathons, several Half Marathons and many other Triathlons, Road Races and Off-Road Adventure races of varying distances.
Her own athletic endeavors and injuries have given her valuable insight into working with athletes in her practice for both the care of injuries as well as for the improvement of athletic performance.
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