I moved from Canada to Vermont in 2002 to marry the man I fell in love with five years earlier. During our back-and-forth courtship between Ontario and the States, I also fell in love with Vermont. Before my move, I lived in and near Toronto, a city with enormous soul consciousness regarding food. Ethnicity in this large metropolitan center manifests as humus, souvlaki, rosti potatoes, and countless other delights; the city offers a global feast with each opening of its myriad eyes. In time, all that food and all those people began to pale and I moved into the more rural parts of southwestern Ontario to meet the people I thought were growing most of the food we were eating in big cities like Toronto. What I discovered unnerved me.
Local, small farmers were losing their farms to huge conglomerates. Food grown in one place was being shipped hundreds, even thousands of kilometers to other places. Communities and the land itself were suffering terribly. Before long I began to discover small farmers who banded together to support Community Shared Agriculture farms (CSAs), no-till farming, and no-pesticide practices. I also learned of Wes Jackson's Land Institute in Kansas, an educational treasure exploring the viability of prairie grasses as food and fuel sources. Throughout this process of discovery, mostly in my native Ontario, I would go to our large supermarkets and ask for local, organic foods. Over time, and very slowly, I began to see change happen as organic sections opened up (mostly supporting Californian growers initially, but eventually the locavore movement took hold and people found small farm gates and rural markets and of course farmers' markets for the food they wanted to eat and the growers they wanted to support).
The process of understanding our food system began for me in 1993, with my first visit to the CSA Resource Centre in Wroxeter, Ontario. In 1996 I published "Transformation in Canada's Deep South," a summary of the hopeful movements springing into being that will protect our land and water and air, as well as our communities. As Barbara Kingsolver suggests, this way of eating is a spiritual pilgrimage into place, one we are ever on.
I have given up coffee although I do drink fair trade tea and sometimes cocoa from time to time. I eat seasonally and locally as much as possible; that means no bananas, no oranges, no grapefruits. We buy local blueberries and strawberries in season and stock up on frozen ones for the winter. (When I visit Ontario, I treat myself to a Niagara Peninsula peach, the best in the world, and an Essex County tomato, but only when I am passing through these small facets of paradise.) A vegan (no meat, no dairy, no eggs), my food choices are plentiful especially here in Vermont. We have a thriving organic food network, local farmers who do CSA, and co-ops which link our food system to the many worthy peace and justice causes our times demand people of conscience involve themselves in. We also have a brand new soy milk, Vermont Soy, made in Hardwick from soy bean s in our local/regional growing area. This means Vermont upper New York, and Quebec, a geographical community that defies the border. As an international citizen, Canadian with permanent resident status in the States, I like this! Our North East Kingdom community blossoms with friendships, skills, and peacefulness because of our growing awareness of our place, our farmers, and our artisans. We have a thriving, diverse community here where every kale and chard leaf, every tomato, and every beet contain nourishment, education, and joy.
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