Wow! We are 50% through September already. I would love to hear what some of your highlights have been. I have a lot so far:

Squid cutting, totally cool, totally weird!

Squid cutting, totally cool, totally weird!

One of my highlights started before the month even started with the squid-jigging adventure I went on with my friends and club members, Vanessa and Steven. I haven’t had the opportunity to do much fishing although I eat lots of it! My favorite part of that adventure was realizing that there is a whole urban culture around fishing that goes on right in the downtown of Sydney. Some of the people I met there go everyday; retirees in the day time, families in the evening (although not all of them eat the squid or the other fish for that matter). However, it is pretty amazing that this little community of various aged people come together to share in an outdoor food related activity and share skills and knowledge with each other. My friend Steven taught all the kids and adults present how to clean a squid. Everyone thought he was super cool!

 

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Another highlight this month was a workshop that the Old Sydney Society hosted on edible wild plants in an urban setting. It was really interesting to see how many plants can be found on one city block. Food really is everywhere! We even found some hop vines on an old fence.

Amber and her adorable son guide us on a plant walk.

Amber and her adorable son guide us on a plant walk.

Then last weekend I attended an absolutely fantastic workshop on making cheese, which may have been the highlight of my entire relationship with dairy! We made several kinds of cheese including fromage blanc which is something I intend to do often now since I love it!!

Owen gets serious about mozzarella!

Owen gets serious about mozzarella!

Other highlights of this month included making maple syrup candy, finding salt after running out, dinners out at Telegraph House and Bitehouse, and visiting Joe Djubek who gives me walnuts each year. But I guess all in all what has made this year special for me so far is not blogging about every single meal as I have in past years. There is a lot of freedom in just doing it!

 

 

So this is it, day one, again.

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I was reflecting earlier about how much this adventure has grown over the last 4 years and how many friends I have made, and foods I have found in that time. It is amazing.

Squid caught in Sydney, ugly but delicious!

Squid caught in Sydney, ugly but delicious!

Each year it gets a little easier to source all my food from Cape Breton because I know so many more producers and have met lots of interesting people who invite me out on crazy food adventures. For example, yesterday my friends Steven and Vanessa invited me to go squid jigging and then to their house for some fried calamari. It was the weirdest food I have ever processed because it kept changing color and sticking to me when I cut it up, but it tasted great once totally cooked. Steven is the expert at cleaning it after watching some tutorials on youtube. He really impressed all the kids at the wharf but not his wife quite so much. I didn’t know that squid were something you could catch here until this week. How cool!

This will ripen into a walnut after the green husk comes off.

This will ripen into a walnut after the green husk comes off.

Another great find that started on year one was walnuts from a gentleman from Whitney Pier. He called me up after hearing me on the radio back in 2011 and told me to come over to pick up some walnuts. I had no idea they even grew in Cape Breton. They have made this adventure so much more tasty. My favorite breakfast any month of the year now is mashed butternut squash or acorn with walnuts and maple syrup.

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And now the 50% local food club is a Nova Scotian initiative. Honestly when I started this blog 4 years ago I didn’t have a clear vision about what I wanted to happen, I just wanted to try to convince more people to eat locally. The idea of a 50% local club came out of nowhere during a conversation with my husband in 2013 and it is nice to see the next stage of that evolution this year. There are still some bugs to work out but like anything it will be a work in progress forever. We can never really “finish” this work in  the local food economy anyway.

day14-So what is new this year? A couple of things will be a little different. One is that you can get recipes, updates about events and lots of other resources at nslocalfoodclub.wordpress.com. Another change is that in honor of this becoming a provincial initiative I will be eating food from Nova Scotian producers if I know them, including everyone who is involved with FarmWorks, which is a great investment fund created by Linda Best, (and I sit on their board), but I will still do 100% for fun. Thirdly, I will not continue blogging everyday about every meal that I eat. I find it boring and I’m sure others do too. Instead I will blog about interesting farm visits and other food adventures. You can always follow our facebook page – 50% local September Club for daily updates from people across the province.

Happy Eating!!

 

 

The countdown is on; we are one week away from the September adventure!

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So, by now some people must be wondering, “What now?”. There are a couple of steps that need to be taken to make sure you are ready for this adventure:

Step 1Determine what your definition of local is. What do you mean when you say local food? For some people defining local may be as simple as, “food produced in my province” while for others it may be more local such as a region or community within the province. For me local is all about knowing my producers and having a relationship with them that allows me to have a good understanding of their practices and being able to trust them. I typically define my region of Cape Breton as my local area, but as I  visit more and more producers around the province I feel like my definition is broadening. It’s up to you what local is but it will help you with this adventure if you decide on it upfront!

Step 2 – Determine what 50% means to you. Some people will do 50% of their food budget to be spent locally, while others may decide 50% of the volume of food and others may go with 50% of their meals coming from local sources. It’s up to you so do whatever you are comfortable with. It will be really helpful if you keep track of how much money you spend on local food to provide to us as feedback at the end of September regardless of what method you use.

Step 3 – Find sources for local food. There are lots of places around Nova Scotia to find local food but at first it can be not so obvious. Remember that the corporate food companies have multimillion dollar budgets for marketing – our farmers do not.

These are a few resources that can help you get started: Select Nova Scotia has a website page with a map that shows producers and markets here – http://www.selectnovascotia.ca/where-to-buy . Farmers Markets of Nova Scotia has a list of markets in the province here – http://farmersmarketsnovascotia.ca/find-a-market/ . There are also some smaller initiatives like this local food map in Cape Breton here – https://sites.google.com/site/cblocalfoodmap/.

Now is the time to start asking if your local restaurants and grocery stores have local products. We have a list of some of these on our website under the food tab. The restaurants that are participating for example can be found here – http://nslocalfoodclub.wordpress.com/restaurants-in-your-region/ . Some of these may offer discounts and special meals, watch the web-site for details.

Flavor on the Water in Sydney will be offering members of the 50% Local Food Club a 15% discount during September!

Flavor on the Water in Sydney will be offering members of the 50% Local Food Club a 15% discount during September!

In my experience it’s possible to find local foods at a variety of retailers including Co-op Atlantic stores and Sobeys. You may have to really look for them, but treat it like a scavenger hunt!

Step 4 – Be Adventurous! This is a great opportunity to learn and try new things and meet new people. Take in a workshop, (these will be listed on our website too.) go out and find some farms that have a road side stand or a U-pick operation, go out looking for wild apples or berries and try new ways of cooking with local foods. Our website has some great recipes as well as a meal plan but there are lots of other resources too; one of my favorite blogs has lots of recipes – here – http://thebitehouse.com/

We will also be hosting some introduction meetings along with market tours and lots of other great events so keep watching the website. Happy local eating!

 

 

Print   This year my local food campaign has taken an interesting turn. Starting in September of 2014 the 50% Local September Club is now a province-wide initiative called the 50% Local Food Club! The provincial expansion is due entirely to the work of Famers’ Markets of Nova Scotia with help from the Ecology Action Center and the Friends of Agriculture group.

This is extremely exciting news for me because it means that there is so much more organization behind this effort that it will be much better this year. Last year I was operating on a zero budget and with the help of my friends only. Although I think we did a great job for a first year, it felt like there was so much more we could be doing.

I think that this is going to change a little bit about how I do things as well. I have always felt that “local” meant knowing and trusting where my food comes from. Stopping it off at Cape Breton for the last 3 years made sense because we are an island which provides a nice contained area to define local, and I know many of the people producing food and meet others that I buy from at the markets. However, now that I am a member of FarmWorks Investment Co-op, and have been travelling around Nova Scotia more, I know a few more producers from the mainland. This year I will expand my diet to include these sources. However, I will still eat 100% local under this restriction, because I like a challenge and also I eat more than 50% local all year.

To sign up for this adventure visit - http://nslocalfoodclub.wordpress.com/join/

So, here we go! Happy eating Nova Scotia!!

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This blog post has been brewing in my mind since last fall. Now that we are in the clutches of winter it seems I am better able to reflect and write, so finally the time has come to post in this blog for the first time in months!

Late in the fall of 2013 I found myself visiting a local vegetable and egg farm on a Saturday morning. I was there to buy my winter’s worth of potatoes, but found myself being given leeks, celery and eggs. After the transaction (which included me haggling UP the price from next to nothing, to something that could be slightly profitable for the farmer) I was invited in for a visit.

The farmers I was visiting that day were a lovely and friendly couple. They sell products at the farmers market in my town so I know them from there, but this was my first visit to their home. I was struck by their enthusiasm, the multiple talents the wife demonstrated in sewing and baking, along with farming, and by the chickens running around the yard.

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We  talked about farming and pricing. I spent some time trying to convince them that they should be charging more for their free-range eggs because they have real value over other eggs and should pay for at least the upkeep of the chickens. The wife reluctantly agreed, but the husband told me that, “the chickens are part of the family, and we never make family pay their own way.” 

So fittingly, in the next breath this gentlemen asked me how all my projects were going and if I was still only volunteering at the market and at the various other local food initiatives I’m doing. When I told him that I was in fact just volunteering because it is my passion and unfortunately there aren’t many jobs in local food around here, he said, “We’re lucky to have you, if you got paid for all the work you do, you would be a rich girl.”

Although we all laughed about it at the time, as I drove home I began to reflect on what he said, and I have been thinking about it ever since. Very sadly, this man died only a couple of months after having this discussion with me. Perhaps this is partially why I have come to think of that as such a profound moment in my life, but I don’t think that’s just it.

I have come to the conclusion that I am in fact a rich girl. No, I don’t have a high paying job, and I don’t get to spend money on whatever I like, or go on expensive trips every winter, but I think that I have found something much richer.

1267068_10201853154721001_1114214042_oSince becoming so heavily involved with the local food movement, I have built up a whole community of wonderful farmers, chefs, activists, politicians, bureaucrats, foodies and friends around myself and my family.

I have been able to develop deep and meaningful relationships with the people who produce and prepare my food, and those who work on common local food goals. I have learned a whole new level of trust and mutuality through these relationships. I have developed new habits, like paying for food with blank cheques and having all-local potlucks! I get to participate in totally cool activities like planting community gardens or slaughtering chickens.

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I also have people that give me food from their special stores of peaches, grapes, nuts or other exotic things in Cape Breton. People call me to give me recipes, or to tell me how much my food promotion has inspired them. I receive emails and thank-you notes from farmers for the work I do. I am asked to come and speak at events and share my passion about local food. I am constantly filled with feelings of joy and belonging in my community. This is my passion and it makes me richer than you can imagine!

 

 Dinner at Telegraph House, with the soon to be Premier of NS and his wife, along with Chef George Smith who specializes in local food, and Mark and Pam Eyking who were big supporters in September and brought me veggies and herbs all month.

Dinner at Telegraph House last September, with the soon to be Premier of NS and his wife, along with Chef George Smith who specializes in local food, and Mark and Pam Eyking who were big supporters in September and brought me veggies and herbs all month.

Sarah Nettleton - Farmer, shearer, teacher, mother, wife, daughter, community leader, runner = superwoman.

Sarah Nettleton – Farmer, shearer, teacher, mother, wife, daughter, community leader, runner = superwoman.

 

On Saturday, September 28th, I got to spend an incredible day in the small community of Arichat, which you can learn more about here. I traveled to Arichat to spend the day with a woman who I have heard about for years, but really only started to get to know since this summer, Sarah Nettleton. Sarah is the owner of Rockloaf farm; a mixed farm producing sheep, chickens, beef, pork, eggs and of course wool products. Sarah is also a sheep shearer and travels around shearing for many people around Cape Breton. She sells her products at the Port Hawkesbury and Arichat  farmers’ markets as well as at the farm gate. Her farm originally belonged to her parents, and her mother still lives and works on the farm.

Sarah is also a wife and mother of 4 boys, as well as an instructor at a literacy agency. She is highly educated, brilliant, determined and extremely hard working. On top of everything else she likes to run, and that is where my Saturday started – 9AM at the starting line of the Martell-Richard mini marathon!

Cooling down in private.

Cooling down in private.

Earlier in the week Sarah had suggested that I come  to visit the farm and re-learn how to butcher chickens, something I hadn’t done in over 20 years, the race was an afterthought! But I figured why not? If Sarah can do 10km and then butcher chickens I should be able to do 5km no trouble. My only goal in the race was not to be overtaken by the walkers and I am proud to say that I was successful in that but I won’t reveal my time here!

After cooling down in my car, away from the ever-energetic children who are there to make the rest of the crowd feel old, I went down to the waterfront to check out the farmers market. It was fantastic; lots of veggies, happy people, music, dancing, pottery, baking and a good selection of prepared foods. I even found lots to eat despite being on my 100% local diet at the time! I can’t wait to go again!

After the market I had time for a brief drive around Arichat and a few minutes to chat with Sarah before heading to the barn. Between her efforts and those of some neighbours it seems that this tiny community has a lot going for it in terms of food security. I saw several signs on people’s doors advertising eggs for sale and even found one farm stand although it wasn’t open at the time. Also, this community has a lot of fishing and a large fish processing plant that burnt a few months ago but will be rebuilt this winter.

Sarah and I got to the barn ahead of the others and began getting things prepared for the butchering session. We filled up barrels with clean water and she disinfected all surfaces and containers with Javex. I had a chance to look around the barn; very neat. She has a type of double floor system designed so that the area where the sheep are kept is raised up leaving a 4′ or so high space under the floor for the pigs to live. This space has a dirt floor and all the hay and grain that falls through gets processed by the pigs, along with the other farm waste they are fed such as vegetable scraps. Every few years they remove all the build up of compost that results from this system.

After the rest of the family and one farm hand arrived the real work got underway. Watching the family move and work together was really quite fascinating. Everyone knows exactly what they should be doing, from the youngest son grabbing the chickens out of the pen to Sarah’s mother Martha who invariably shows up with the right knife, clean rag or bucket of water just before anyone becomes aware that they need it. I became very aware of the knowledge transfer that happens over years of perfecting certain skills and processes. Farmers need to have tremendous amounts of knowledge tucked away in order to be successful at what they are doing I think.

I tried to keep up with the plucking as well as my 25 year old rustiness would allow. I didn’t venture too far out of my skill level since more than anything I didn’t want to mess up the works. Paul, Sarah’s husband, offered to let me cull the chickens, but I was afraid I would mess it up and cause them undue pain. Maybe next time I’ll have a bit more confidence after doing my small part this time, especially now that I know the routine!

I must admit that this was much more arm and shoulder exercise than I am used to! By the end of the 31st chicken my arms and shoulders were stiff! (Even more so than my legs from the morning run!) I was quite glad to be brought into the warmth of Martha’s farm house and fed a delicious meal with all local ingredients before returning to the now cooled chickens to bag them and freeze them.

Once the chickens were in the freezer and everything was cleaned up it was time for everyone to head home and end the day…. until the neighbour called.

3 sheep had been spotted down on another road a few miles away from the farm. We jumped in cars and trucks, grabbed a sheep dog and headed down the road. It was so exciting I couldn’t go home or even stay in the car I had hopped into! When we found the sheep I stuck close to Sarah as she first attempted to drive them deep into the woods to settle them in for the night and then when the sheep disagreed with that plan, we ran behind them as one car was leading the way in the front and one was keeping other cars at bay behind us. We laughed that this was our 2km late day sheep run.

Once the sheep were behind the fence we could all breath a little easier and finally it was the end of the day. We ended up back at Sarah’s at 8:30PM; her husband had dinner ready; she told him she was sorry for being late, “I was off playing Little Bo Peep.” He nodded an all too well knowing nod. This is life as a farmer, life as a super hero.

Settling into bed that night several hours later, I realized that I felt fantastic, tired and sore but with that content feeling that I did something worthwhile with my day. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t farm. I really hope that I get to spend more time in the future with Sarah and her family; I’m sure that if I hang out with her more I will also be able to develop super hero strength and confidence of my own. This was the highlight of September for me.

Well I am finished for another year – what do I do now?…… Keep eating and promoting local food of course, with the exception of chocolate of course!

Chocolate ice cream and chocolate cake at midnight!

Chocolate ice cream and chocolate cake at midnight!

Last night we had a small get together at my house to celebrate the end of the month. I made chili and two other people brought soup. Luckily some other people brought appetizers too! My friend Kim made an amazing chicken and cantaloupe thing that I need the recipe for! I wish I had taken a picture.

My friend who owns Marvelous Moos ice cream factory brought ice cream, and I piled it on my traditional midnight chocolate cake that my loving husband makes for me each year. Along with a glass of Nova 7, I had a serious sugar high and am surprised I didn’t get sick!

A number of people have emailed me and called over the last few days to tell me that although the month is over they will continue on eating more locally. I think that making any effort to think about what we are eating and make choices we feel good about is the most important thing. We don’t need to get tied down or overwhelmed by the politics of food, but together we can change the world one bite at a time. (cheesy hey?)

Wowza, only one day left! Already I am planning on how to make this better for next year. I think with a little more planning this could be a transforming thing. We held an end party potluck tonight and the same thoughts seemed to be reflected around the table too. So 2014 watch out!

Breakfast - eggs (Roakloaf farm) potatoes (NorthRiver organics) all cooked up in Glenryan chicken fat.

Breakfast – eggs (Roakloaf farm) potatoes (NorthRiver organics) all cooked up in Glenryan chicken fat.

I love colorful food! These are purple potatoes served with a lamb chop braised in local red wine.

I love colorful food! These are purple potatoes served with a lamb chop braised in local red wine.

 

My wonderful plate of potluck food! Stuffed grape leaves from Faith and Dave, tomato  salad and stuffed clams from Len and Monique, sausage stuffed tomatoes from Vanessa and Steven and quiche from Maria. There was also soup from Monika and the dishes I made.

My wonderful plate of potluck food! Stuffed grape leaves from Faith and Dave, tomato salad and stuffed clams from Len and Monique, sausage stuffed tomatoes from Vanessa and Steven and quiche from Maria. There was also soup from Monika and the dishes I made.

 

 

 

 

The recipe for the chicken dish I brought to the pot-luck tonight:

Method:

To save money, start by cutting up a whole chicken. For instructions on how to cut it up see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1I3tHqdD0MU&feature=share

Place the breasts, thighs and drumsticks in a large roasting pan and place in a 350 degree oven. Place the remainder of the carcass along with the giblets in a large pot with cold water, turn on medium high heat; this will be your dinner for tomorrow night.

Prepare fresh herbs by stripping from stems (or you can use dried herbs) don’t worry about getting every bit because you can throw the stalks into the soup pot, along with bayleaf. Any herbs you have on hand are fine. I use sage, rosemary, summer savory and tyme. You should have about 1/8 of a cup but adjust to taste. Also use a few pinches of salt.

Chop up some garlic and 2 onions into small pieces, put in bowl with herbs. Throw a few whole onions and garlic cloves in soup pot without peeling; you can take this off later when you remove bones and herb stalks.

Chop up about 6 large tomatoes, try to get the field tomatoes from a farmer, these have blemishes but are very cheap. You may have to cut out some bad spots. Put these in the bowl with herbs, onion and garlic mix it up and then pour over chicken in oven.

Let this mixture cook until chicken is white right through and easy to get off of the bones. Remove chicken Place sauce back in the oven with eggplant, corn kernels, zucchini or any other vegetables you want to add. When chicken is cool enough to handle cut into bite sized pieces and return to pan.

Continue to cook until added veggies are cooked and chicken is back up to temperature.

For the soup, when chicken is falling off the carcass and the water looks like soup stalk, remove from heat and strain liquid back into a pot. Let chicken cool until you can handle it. Return chicken pieces to pot and add in some new onion, potatoes, carrots, corn or any other veggies you prefer along with salt and herbs to taste.

You now have two nutritious, gluten free, and local dinners at a very reasonable price. The soup makes a great lunch for adults or kids; just heat it up in the microwave in the morning and pour it in a thermos. Instant lunch!

 

 

 

Sorry if anyone reads this blog often and noticed that I didn’t post anything for a few days; I really was extremely busy. Basically, we organized a fundraiser to buy tables for the hall we do the market at each week in Baddeck that featured food and everything from our vendors, board members and volunteers.

I spent a lot of time at this hall over the last few days - glad I could spend it with so many amazing people like these two here. The guy who grows the veggies, Peter, and the guy who cooks them, Bryan.

I spent a lot of time at this hall over the last few days – glad I could spend it with so many amazing people like these two here. The guy who grows the veggies, Peter, and the guy who cooks them, Bryan.

It was a fantastic night with so many great people involved! But it tied me up all evening Thursday and then for the entire day on Friday…. But then Saturday came along and I already had plans to run a 5KM fun run in Arichat with a new farmer friend and then help her butcher chickens for the day…… but I will write more about that later. So it has been flat out and I noticed that I have over a hundred emails in my inbox:-(

If you are reading this you may wonder if I fell off the wagon in all that craziness? I’m happy to report that I did not!

On Thursday morning I made a disastrous potato pancake with eggs, not so good! Then for lunch I had a bowl of squash soup from Allegro. For dinner I had left over ham and bean soup. Also on Thursday I had a lot of plums that my friend Jim brought for me!

On Friday I had an omelette with  spinach and cheese. Lunch was really nothing that I can remember. For dinner Bryan did use cream and butter in everything so I was limited to just veggies although I did sneak home and fry up a chicken breast really quickly. Also, a lot of the volunteers from the dinner came to my house for Big Spruce beer after the dinner and we ate a ton of watermelon, thanks to Peter LeBlanc from Scenic Valley farm.

On Saturday, I didn’t eat before the race but found a lovely amount of veggies at the Arichat market and a sausage that I was able to eat. We worked through lunch but then they gave me a wonderful tomato soup for dinner.

The 50% local club is gearing up for a potluck tomorrow night at Flavor 19 at 4PM. Please join us!!

Breakfast! Spinach omelette with smoked bacon and loads of cheese.

Breakfast! Spinach omelette with smoked bacon and loads of cheese.

For breakfast this morning I made a spinach omelette with frozen spinach from earlier in the season. I used smoked bacon I found at the Port hawkesbury market, Eyking eggs and loads of Wandering Shepherd cheese.

At lunch I was at the market so ate what was there – Blueberries, cheese and a sausage cooked by Peter Buschman.

If you want purple mashed potatoes start with purple potatoes.

If you want purple mashed potatoes start with purple potatoes.

For dinner I used left over crab, potato, eggs and onion to make gluten free and 100% local crab cakes. I also made a little plum sauce to go on top with local plums, water and honey. On the side you see mashed potatoes. Since I didn’t have local milk or cream, or butter, I just left a little water in with the cooked potatoes, threw in salt, summer savory and a bunch of grated sheep cheese. It was delicious and colourful!!