October 31, 2014
by Kyla Schwarz-Lam
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Agroecology in rural and urban farming

On October 15th, as part of the World Food Days events at New College, UofT, Christine and I were able to attend a panel discussion on agroecology in urban and rural contexts with Damian Adjodha from the Black Creek Community Farm and Alvaro Venturelli of Plan B Organic Farms.

WFD Agroecology panel

Agroecology is a systems approach to agriculture, seeking a deeper understanding of our traditional farming practices, local ecosystems, and the niche we occupy in our environment. Damian talked about how he’s putting this approach in place in smaller, more intensive urban farm and community gardens, and Alvaro discussed the approaches they’ve taken on his farm which uses a direct marketing, community-supported agriculture practice to supply the Hamilton, Halton and Toronto area with local, organic produce. Damian and Alvaro have both incorporated traditional farming knowledge in an effort to find real solutions to the farming problems they face. In this sense, agroecology appears to be a step beyond organic farming practices, which Alvaro described as treating symptoms, as opposed to understanding the underlying problem, as agroecologists try to do.

Two of the key concepts from the discussion were observation and experimentation. By learning about the natural systems around his farm, Alvaro has been able to capitalize on existing natural defences against pests, and also beneficial partnerships. From seeding his compost with fungal spores that will attack harmful beetles or build stronger soil structure, to providing breeding places for parasitic wasps on wild carrot plants, he has been able to farm in a much less disruptive way than traditional methods of pest control and fertilization would allow. Experimentation, of course, is a key part of this process. Damian expanded on this, describing his attempts at building a new Three Sisters. The Three Sisters, corn, beans, and squash, are traditional companion plants in North America: the corn provides a support for the beans, which fix nitrogen from the air, and the squash provides a ground cover, discouraging weeds. Damian has been trying variations with other crops, including Jerusalem artichokes, and cucumbers.

Both Damian and Alvaro agreed that education and engagement are crucial for youth. If you’re looking for ways to get involved, why not check out the farm visits or volunteer and intern opportunities at Black Creek Community farm and Plan B Organic Farms?

October 29, 2014
by Christine McPhail
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Getting our hands in the dirt at World Food Days!

By: Christine McPhail

In celebration of World Food Days, New College at the University of Toronto ran numerous events for people to learn about agroecology, urban farming, and many other topics. World Food Day marks the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

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Toyin Coker from Permaculture GTA

One of the events TYFPC members attended was a permaculture workshop, which was facilitated by Toyin Coker from Permaculture GTA. Students and community members gathered to create a learning garden at new College that would be based off the principles of permaculture.

There was a lot of dead plant matter left over in the garden from months past but instead of raking it up to be composted, we used the dead planter to make pathways. Toyin explained that by reusing the plant matter we were restoring energy and nutrients back to the garden. We created tiers for herbs in the corner of one of the plots and we dug out little paths in the soil so that when it rains the water is contained in the garden. This helps the garden keep moisture naturally and it also reduces the maintenance needs of the garden. We planted various bulb plants using the principle of companion planting so that the garden would flourish all on its own.

Permaculture focusses on bringing balance back to systems. Toyin discussed how permaculture is more than just an agricultural phenomenon.  Permaculture is also a foundation of brining balance back to communities of people. It is an avenue for social justice and especially food justice.

The group of volunteers after we planted the New College Permaculture garden.

The group of volunteers after we planted the New College Permaculture garden.

The garden at New College is meant to be a learning space and is open to everyone so please feel free to come by and take a look!

To learn more about:

Permaculture GTA visit www.permaculturegta.org
Permaculture Principles visit www.permacultureprinciples.com/principles/

October 28, 2014
by Lora Murray
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U of T Talks About Agroecology

By Ravi Wood

On Friday October 17, U of T hosted a panel “Agroecology – The Next New Thing” as part of its World Food Days series of events. Speakers included Dr. Filiberto Penados (Institute for Sustainable International Studies, Belize), Toyin Coker (Permaculture GTA) and food policy expert Wayne Roberts. Each provided a vastly different but equally informative perspective on agroecology and its connections to topics such as indigeneity, sustainability and urban agriculture. Dr. Penados, an activist and scholar in indigenous studies and education, spoke in great detail about agroecology through anecdotes of a Mayan farmer in Belize. He discussed the dreams and challenges of agroecologists, as well as how the practice is helping indigenous farmers reconnect with their heritage by “eating Maya”. Toyin Coker is the director of Permaculture – GTA, a local organization devoted to implementing the principles and values of permaculture into work into their projects to build more socially just and sustainable communities. Toyin’s talk focused on how we as humans fit into our social and biological ecologies, how the theory of permaculture emphasizes a more holistic perspective on ourselves and our environments, and how permaculture relates to agroecology. Wayne Roberts, a renowned Canadian food policy maker, discussed how the agroecological mindset could be applied to local food systems and urban agriculture.

For more information on the speakers and the great work they’re doing, check out

these sites:

http://www.isisbelize.com/

http://www.permaculturegta.org/

http://wayneroberts.ca/

And to see a short film on traditional agriculture in Honduras that Wayne Roberts

presented during his talk, follow this link:

October 26, 2014
by Lora Murray
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Food and Indigeneity in Belize

By Alia Karim

 

As many of you were aware, last Thursday October 16th was World Food Day! I attended a discussion by Dr. Filiberto Penados, adjunct professor of Aboriginal Studies at the University of Toronto and founder of the Tumul K’in Centre of Learning. The subject of Penados’ talk was his centre in Belize that was established to teach about agroecology and indigeneity. His discussion raised questions such as, what do we mean by indigeneity? And, how can students begin to understand indigenous food cultures?

Penados explained that Belize was only made independent (from British colonial rule) in 1981, so they are facing challenges of developing countries (e.g. food insecurity). Belize has also seen an erosion of its traditional Mayan culture, yet an indigenous movement has remained. In reaction, Penados and other educators wanted the Tumul K’in Centre to ‘decolonize’ education. For example, their educators incorporated indigenous knowledge into the centre’s curriculum. Penados even gave the centre a Mayan name meaning “new day/light”. By incorporating indigenous knowledge, the centre has challenged the “hegemony of Western knowledge”—namely, by asking who ‘owns’ knowledge, or “who knows?” Continue Reading →

October 23, 2014
by Kaylen Fredrickson
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Municipal election resources

We heart voting.

Who can vote? Where? How?

All of this information is answered on the City of Toronto elections website.

How do I learn about the candidates?

Colour of Change Colour of Poverty’s Racial Justice Report Card.

Women in Toronto Politics Position Primer.

ArtsVote Report Card.

What can I ask my candidates about food?

Sustain Ontario’s Vote ON Food & Farming Municipal Elections Toolkit.

Toronto Food Policy Council’s Election Primer.