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Permaculture. Sustainable Food Production. Natural Building. Education. Community.

A Food Secure Community

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This post from on of our Sustainable Food Production Skillbuilder interns, Keith “Kirk” Schlesinger who has taken on food security on the village in a major way. (My nomination for “Villager of the Month” … hehe… imagine we actually had that.)
As the time of the 2011 “Insight into GMOs” Symposium on 17-18 September fast approaches, O.U.R. attention is definitely on this issue! The topic has opened up a whole range of concerns, expectations and desires around what we consume to nourish each of O.U.R. bodies, minds and spirits. A general consensus favouring taking a clear stand on GMO & GE food has emerged through a community council about the meaning of food, followed by a series of presentations at the regular Wednesday community lunchtime meeting, culminating in a special evening gathering devoted to exploring making this ecovillage a “GE-Free Zone”. A GE-Free Zone means that no genetically modified seeds will ever be planted and genetically engineered animal feed will ever be offered for consumption by O.U.R. cows, chickens, sheep, goats and pigs. We now have a draft declaration in hand and are preparing to introduce it as a proposal to the new “General Circle” that sits atop O.U.R. Dynamic Governance system now coming online.

But that is only the beginning. “Seeds and feeds” represent stage one of a long, challenging process of turning the “Good Ship Ecovillage” steadily onto a course toward healthy local food production and purchase. One clear guidepost of O.U.R. intention is the new food centre now under construction using a number of natural building techniques, which will be named the” Zero Mile Eatery”.

Just the Zero Mile concept means became clearer to many of us who attended the first beginning-
of-the-month “Deconstruction Dinner” on September 1st. The dinner is named in honour of Jon
Steinman’s great 5-year co-op radio series “Deconstructing Dinner”, and Jon will be one of the featured presenters at O.U.R. GMO Symposium.

Among the things that came up for some preliminary deconstruction: Lining up local farmers committed to organic practices while staying within the kitchen budget, balancing on-site production with off-site purchases, keeping up with the dynamics of growing seasons and occasional weather surprises, capturing information about local food and prices so that everyone on-site can help find things out in the wider community without asking for the same information over and over again, and an ever-changing population on-site during the many programmes offered between March and November.

We quickly realized that every single one of the new governance circles, ranging from Hospitality to Human Resources, will likely have one or more important roles to play in advancing the GE-Free Zone, organic food, and a dependable food supply. No one circle can take on food security by itself.

The way to handle this may well turn out to be the creation of a “Food Security Task Force” or similarly named group. With a long-term hearthkeeper as coordinator, the task force could draw upon the energy and talent of shorter-term residents and programme participants to support the often over-committed hearthkeepers and interns. The task force would also likely play a role in the new dynamic governance model. Figuring out just how this will work will be challenging, but it should also prove highly beneficial to advancing new ways of community decision making from which other organizations and communities may one day benefit.

The immediate goal is a safe, reliable, nutritious food supply for O.U.R., but the story will hardly end there. As Carolyn Herriot, author of The Zero Mile Diet, recently said at a local food security panel, “I am not safe until my neighbour is well fed.” This is simultaneously a spiritual, ethical, and practical approach to food security. It is a path that O.U.R. seems increasingly eager and capable of following amongst its neighbours in the Cowichan Valley and beyond.

Permaculture. Sustainable Food Production. Natural Building. Education. Community.