Fall Gathering – 2011 – Summary
Farming community and local food enthusiasts discuss the past, present and future of Kingston area food system at Fall Gathering
Posted Dec 15, 2011 By Hollie Pratt-Campbell
EMC News – The NFU’s New Farm Project (NFP) hosted another packed house of farmers and other local food enthusiasts this year for its fourth annual Fall Gathering, held Dec. 10 at Golden Links Hall in Harrowsmith.
The estimated 120 guests turned their focus to the theme of the day: the past, present and future of the food system.
“A lot of things have changed since the New Farm Project started a few years ago,” said coordinator Miguel Hahn. “Not only have we been doing things to help develop farmer capacity and farmer community, but there have been tons of things that have been happening in the Kingston area.”
He explained that the need for more coordination between pieces of the system is becoming increasingly clear, particularly after the NFP’s commissioned study Plan to Grow identified a need for enhanced coordination tools such as a new type of aggregation system and more farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing and skill development.
“That’s going to help us personally in thinking about what next steps the New Farm Project could take, as well as inform action that the rest of the community could be taking,” said Hahn.
One of the highlights of the Fall Gathering’s program included a presentation of the details of Plan to Grow’s findings from researchers Linda Stevens and Harris Ivens. They summarized the report and emphasized that there is much that can be done to continue building the local food system in ways that encourage an increase of local production for local consumption, stimulate further development of local food infrastructure and nurture an engaged community that drives economic activity through its demand for local food.
Guests also heard from Queen’s professor emeritus in geography Brian Osborne, who spoke about the history of how the area land has been interpreted over the last several centuries, and how current trends such as experiential and culinary tourism can benefit today’s farmers.
“It has been a rich past and there is a promising future,” Osborne concluded. “I look around the room and what do I see? Young families, a strong gender balance, and it looks to me like there’s a set of optimistic people searching for new ideas in the Frontenac Lennox & Addington area.”
NFP coordinator Ian Stutt agreed that the enthusiasm of the people involved is what will ultimately turn the local food system into a resounding success. He commented on how the past year’s wacky weather revealed an impressive resilience within the farming community.
“It’s been a mixed year for sure, but there’s still a lot of enthusiasm,” he said.
“That’s exactly where this event is coming from – just rebuilding the sense of excitement and ambition, and also figuring out things like how to develop the market so that there is more of an appropriate environment for local food…(and how to) keep farms profitable.”
This year, the future of the NFP itself was also a topic in question, as its funding from Heifer International is set to end in June of 2012 after a four-year run. Stutt hopes to successfully re-apply for further funding so the community can continue to pursue its goal of scaling up local food to the best of its ability.
All the same, he notes that there are still things that can be done either way, such as continuing to support and bolster the CRAFT farmer training network and engaging in some of the cross-sector discussions that are happening around developing a local food charter in the Kingston area.
“Those would be two of the next steps regardless of future funding,” said Stutt.
Fall Gathering 2010 Summary
Fall Gathering discusses the spirit of food, farming, and community
Posted Dec 2, 2010 By Hollie Pratt-Campbell, EMC News
EMC News – The third annual Fall Gathering for Frontenac County farmers was held on Sunday at Harrowsmith’s Golden Links Hall. The event was hosted by the NFU’s award-winning New Farm Project, as part of the initiative’s effort to strengthen capacity and build a sense of community amongst area farmers, an estimated 120 people participated.
New Farm Project Co-ordinator Ian Stutt was involved in organizing the gathering. Over the past three years, he has been excited to see solidarity and positive energy steadily increasing within the farm community.
In addition to winning the Premier’s award for agricultural innovation last April, he noted that the gatherings have been among the highlights of the project thus far.
“The Fall Gatherings have been amazing,” he said. “It’s great to see how much interest there is and how many people are coming out.”
Sunday’s gathering included a panel presentation on the spirit of farming, food, and community. Panellists Bob Lovelace, Tibrata Gillies, and Wendy Luella Perkins discussed, respectively, the importance of respecting how bio-regions should, in a healthy society, affect food culture, food as a life source at all levels of production, preparation, and consumption, and be aware of the places our food comes from.
“We wanted to highlight and celebrate the relationships that exist within the farm community,” said Stutt. “That seems to be what really helps (farmers) and motivates them to remain confident and keep going even when it gets difficult.”
He added that helping new farmers get started is another major goal of the project.
One emerging farmer at the gathering was Karen Holmes. She and her husband, Kevin Wenkoff, are in the process of starting up an agricultural spiritual centre, including a sustainable garden, an apiary, and a small livestock herd at their Bellrock home.
“We want to be able to learn how to first co-operate, and then prepare, grow, and distribute food together,” she said.
Holmes noted that she found the gathering’s panel discussions very inspirational, particularly Bob Lovelace’s talk about how the cultures and languages of First Nations people rose out of the land.
“I think in a way that’s what’s being asked of all of us to do,” she said. “A lot of the time it’s very much working on a small scale with micro-farming, gardening, that kind of thing.”
Holmes added the New Farm Project will soon be sponsoring her to take a course on bio-dynamic beekeeping.
“It’s nice that they have so many people in this community that can help us learn how to do that kind of thing,” she said.
The idea of feeding the larger community was also an important topic at the gathering.
“Food issues and farm issues cannot be separated,” said NFU Local 316 Vice President Dianne Dowling. “They work together, and the NFU works under that philosophy.”
Dowling noted that the union has been in the news quite a lot recently in relation to local food movement issues such as the closure of the prison farms and KGH’s decision to outsource food services to the multi-national company Compass Group.
“It may seem like we’re always fighting something negative that’s happening,” she said, “but it’s a lot more rewarding to do more positive things like the Fall Gathering. We’re helping people make connections that will help them in their business or in their appreciation of the local farm community.”
Dowling explained that there is much cause for optimism even in light of the recent setbacks. She noted, for instance, that although the NFU was not able to keep the cows at the prison farm, they were very much inspired by the show of support from community members.
In addition, Dowling believes there is still an opportunity to work with Compass Group and incorporate local food into the KGH’s cafeteria service.
“The Board of Directors has left that opportunity open for us and we’ll be following up on that,” she said.
Stutt is also optimistic about the future of the New Farm Project, which is funded until the spring of 2012.
“We’d like to explore how to scale up local food, develop the infrastructure to move it, and develop the demand of eaters whether it’s through farmers markets, stores, CSAs, (etc),” he said. “The demand brings supply and vice versa.”
Inspiring more Kingston-area residents to make an effort to eat food produced locally will be key.
“Us farmers, we want to feed you,” he said, “but we need you to help us do that.”