Be the Change…

Last weekend, Ralph and I spent two beautiful fall days in Ontario’s wine country, near Niagara-on-the Lake.  It was a well deserved break, and a chance to explore another type of agriculture on our bicycles.    We had no time schedule, just a map that showed us how to get from our drop off point back to my sister’s house.  There were many vineyards and wine-tasting locations, although I have to admit, we did not actually sample any wine flights.  We just enjoyed seeing all the colourful scenery, and the acres and acres of grapes (some already harvested, some still wrapped in protective netting to keep the birds from eating the grapes).
After over two hours of cycling, we decided to stop for lunch at a small bistro called, appropriately, About Thyme.  Anyone in the Jordan Station area should definitely check it out, as the food was delicious!  A feature that we really enjoyed was the large “community” table in the back of the restaurant, used for when the tables up front were filled.  It was at this table that we met up with a young family from Toronto that was visiting the area for the day.

As often happens with us (surprise!) once it was discovered that we farmed, the conversation turned to agriculture and food.    It turned out that our lunch companion was the Federal Policy Manager for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Associaion.  We discussed various issues involved with her job, including migrant worker employment, and livestock transportation.  Although we voiced our opinion about the dangers of genetically modified food (ie. GMO’s) , our conversation turned to agribusiness and the task of feeding large cities, like Toronto.  Her viewpoint was that large farms were a necessity, to provide all the food to feed the large city population.  We explained that the larger the (factory) farms, the larger the dependence on pharmaceuticals to deal with health problems – most of which occur because of the overcrowding.  “How, then, do we feed the big cities?”, she asked.

A good question.
Basically, the huge metropolis is a problem.  One solution would be to have smaller towns, each one the hub of an agricultural area, which could supply all the necessary food.  We drove through many towns like this in Germany years ago.  There is a finite population that can be sustainably supported by an agricultural sector, and when that limit is reached, no more development is allowed.  Obviously, this doesn’t help out the case with Toronto.  The population is there, and other solutions must be found.

I offered local farmers’ markets as an option for sourcing out food.  As I’ve heard before, quite often the prices at some of these “downtown” markets seem a bit high, whether it’s because the farmers need to be compensated for the time away from their farm and the commute into the city, or for a simple reason of economics  – the market bears the heavy prices people will pay for local (within 50 miles) and usually organic food.  Then, I suggested, maybe a half hour drive out of the city would allow them to visit a more rural market and provide a nice outing.  Better yet, why not grow your own food?

This suggestion was discarded almost immediately.  “We just don’t have the time”, she said.  When I told her about the incredible diversity and bounty our gardens produced for us this summer (and are still producing), she started to warm up to the subject, and her husband became interested, too.  We explained how you can grow alot of food in a small space, through efficient planning.  Pots on a deck or veranda (or even apartment balcony) can grow crops of herbs, greens and tomatoes.  Early spring vegetables such as spinach and peas can be replaced with the heat loving peppers and tomatoes.  Fall crops such as chard, beets and kale can feed a family well into November in the city.  It was at this point that I think they got hooked.  There was a sparkle in their eyes, and talk turned to how nice it would be for their two young daughters to experience growing their own food.  I would not be at all surprised to learn that they will spend some time this winter figuring out their new garden plans, and will be enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of their labour next summer.

Later that evening, we were talking (again) about food, GMO’s and the challenges facing agriculture.  My sister said that “you can’t expect to get through to everyone”, it’s an uphill battle to educate everyone.  I have never been one to balk at a challenge, but in this case, I know that I am already making a difference.  Just as the young boy throwing the starfish back into the ocean was making a difference to each and every starfish he returned to the water, I know that everytime I make a Facebook post, or write a blog, or speak to my customers at the farmers’ markets, I AM making a difference.  Not everyone will “get” the message right away.  Some will read many of my posts before they understand the issues.  Some customers will ask me a few questions every week, expanding their education.  But best of all, I know that I am following Ghandi’s instructions – “Be the change you want to see in the world”.  On our own farm, and in our relatively small market gardens, we ARE the change we would like to see everywhere.

I leave you with a photo I saw this morning.   When you think the hurdles are too great to overcome, and that your efforts just won’t be enough, think of it and it will encourage you to keep trying.  It is this kind of thinking that helps me believe that if we all “become the change”, and keep plugging away at the truth, we CAN make a change… 🙂



7 responses to this post.

  1. Wow, Julie, that is a powerful message. When you take baby steps, in a year it will be amazing to see how far one actually got. I love the powerful statement, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It was not a coincidence that you attracted that conversation. Congratulations. You did make a difference!


  2. Hi Julie! We met you this past August at the Elora farmer’s Market! My boyfriend Reed and I drove from Chicago to stay at Drew House. You certainly left us with a beautiful memory of your home grown mushrooms, so amazing! I appreciated your words here, small steps, yes! so much to share and little by little, we leave little impressions on everyone we meet:) many blessings, Margaret


    • Hello Margaret! So nice to hear from you, and I definitely remember you and the conversations we had. As it turns out, I had recently read a book by the author who inspired you to come up to Elora…small world 🙂 Hoping you and Reed are well, and continuing to share your light.


  3. Great work, Julie! Isn’t it amazing how a little calm discussion can really open people up to new ideas. Often, we get so entangled in our emotions, our egos that we fail to open ourselves to hear the messages that we need to grow. You are an inspiration.


    • What I used to struggle with before was this need to “convert” everyone to MY way of thinking…banging my head against the proverbial wall, trying to get the message across. Perhaps some ego involved, ha ha… I find this approach, teaching by example, to be more effective (and less painful on my head!) Thank you.


  4. Posted by Barb Lee on October 19, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Bautifully said Julie. We can make a difference.


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