Raise a glass to the last gasp of August. Hopefully that glass contains something locally grown (perhaps locally fermented too). It’s harvest time and the land is lush with bounty. Now is a time to celebrate my favourite heroes (outside medical one) … farmers and gardeners. You thought I was going to say Superman, Wonderwoman or Xena, Warrior Princess, didn’t you?

Sweet! Beets in the UHN Real Food Garden
Sweet! Beets in the UHN Real Food Garden

I developed a healthy respect for them (farmers, not Xena), especially after a recent trip to Prince Edward County (PEC). We learned a thing or two about cultivation and climate, like how PEC survived last year’s bone-chilling and crop-destroying winter. Many PEC grape growers bury their vines in earth and mulch halfway to knee-high. Add a layer of snow and you have lovely insulation over a harsh winter. That back-breaking practice allowed them to reap what they sowed. Unfortunately, it’s not so popular in the Niagara region where many vines and some entire grape varietals didn’t survive (RIP, Chenin Blanc vines). Niagara was an earlier trip … our vacations this year may have a theme.

Ontario has some of the best and most fertile soil in the world. Because of that, it’s great news that the Government of Ontario is going to try and do something for the little guy… the really little, black and yellow guy that works hard pollinating all day so we can have plants and flowers and food. This little guy’s had a hard time of late with all the neonics it’s had to buzz through. There’s a great article in the Globe and Mail on Ontario’s plan to restrict neonicotinoid insecticides, the pesticide linked to bee deaths. The challenge is to have this in place for the 2015 planting season and I’m rooting for them (get it? roots? groan):

Ontario intends to become the first province to restrict the use of a controversial pesticide linked to bee deaths, requiring farmers and other commercial growers to apply for permits to plant seeds treated with neonicotinoid insecticides.

This brings me to the Real Food Garden at UHN, our happy plot of veggies n herbs (and NO neonics) right near Toronto Western Hospital. This is our 3rd dig in the dirt. Dedicated UHN staff volunteer some time to sow, hoe and grow a veggie garden. The harvest is used to teach cancer survivors healthy cooking in the ELLICSR kitchen. We’re nearing the end of the season this year which means it’s a great time to (have a seat and put up our feet) start thinking about next year. For UHN-ers, if you’ve been thinking of joining in, contact us to have a look and chat.

With harvest on the brain, let’s check in with our Talkin’ Local Food Project. It’s flying high, crowdsourcing great ideas, comments and votes. As I write, there are 384 solvers,159 ideas, 211 comments, and 196 votes. You can still join and add your 2 cents, plus vote on what’s there to make the cream rise to the top, separate the wheat from the chaff, the corn from the cob, the peach from the pit (add your own food analogy here). Our very own Adeline Cohen will share some of the happenings at the next Food Forward Meetup on Friday, Aug. 29, noon, 11 Wellesley Market. Plus there’s street food! They had me at street food.

image credit: Darcy Higgins, Food Forward Meetup - Street food edition Aug 29
image credit: Darcy Higgins, Food Forward Meetup – Street food edition Aug 29 noon, 11 Wellesley Market

All the locally grown best,