Growing in Revelstoke, By Hailey Ross
With just one quick visit to the grocery store, it is easy to see that industrial agriculture has largely replaced the local production and distribution of our food. That said, some people have managed to hang onto traditional, localized food production and support for their efforts is on the rise in North America. Like numerous other communities across the country, Revelstoke is experiencing a resurgence of interest in growing its own food.
Support for local food initiatives is particularly evident in Revelstoke’s “younger” generations (by “younger,” I mean anyone who is under 35 years of age.) Despite an increased interest in growing, preparing and processing local foods amongst the “younger” population, the majority of the associated knowledge and skills is held by our elders. Simply put, a lot of the newly converted local foodies didn’t grow up in environments that necessitated learning these skills.
Recently, I have been asked what it is about local foods that interest the “younger” folks in Revelstoke. In search of an answer to this question, I queried some of the young foodies I know in town. You’ll likely be inspired by what they had to say.
For Chris Paine, interest in local food stems from the “healthy lifestyle people in Revelstoke live for. … Growing your food fuels your body and your lifestyle.” He points out that growing and eating local food keeps him healthy for his mountain pursuits and serves as one way of respecting the environment in which he lives.
For Heather Sinclaire, her inspiration to cook and grow local food came from the superior flavour. “It’s simple,” she said, “it just tastes better.” After that, Heather reflected on how it was the community who encouraged her ventures into local food. “It started at the farmers market, then chatting with my neighbours to get their planting tips. Now, I realize that talking about food is how I’ve made a lot of my friends!”
Greg Hill, a newcomer to the local food movement, explained his motivations behind this season’s garden expansion this way: “My reasons for growing are fairly simple. Prices are rising for everything, and food is going to cost more and more each year.” Greg also adds, “there is a deeply rooted feeling of being able to provide for your family. Growing a garden and watching my kids graze in it is very satisfying.”
Another Revelstoke-based foodie summarized her motivation this way: “I love to grow my own food because there is no money exchanged, no middle man, and no questions about the quality of my food. I know there is no better food than what we can produce. I like the fact that I am saving money and helping the planet. There isn’t anything more local or efficient than the eggs from my chickens. Think of it: organic waste from my kitchen fed the chicken that produces protein for me in my backyard. And the waste from the egg’s creation helps my garden grow more food to feed the chicken. Wonderful!”
A final point is raised by Jesse Johnson-Hill who grew her first garden this year and explained her incentives this way: “Growing a garden is the best way to experience the alternatives to what the corporations offer up. Not purchasing from these huge businesses is the only way to not support their poor habits. … Plus, it’s the obvious option for cutting down the environmental costs of transporting the food we eat.”
While these aren’t the only responses I received, they help to summarize some of the major drivers behind people’s interest in locally-produced food: it is affordable, environmentally-responsible, flavourful, healthy, and born from community support. Together, these Revelstokians are sending the message that they are concerned about issues of food security (maintaining control over access to local, sustainably produced, nutritious and affordable food.)
Familiar with these motives, I wanted to know a bit more about who these local foodies turned to for advice. A couple of the respondents indicated having turned to their elderly neighbours, whose gardens seemed always to thrive “no matter the conditions.” More often, however, people indicated turning to the internet for advice.
I am no stranger to web searches when trouble shooting any number of garden-related conundrums. I can assure you, however, that when I turn to my elderly mentors in town for gardening advice, I get the tried, tested and true-to-Revelstoke solution. After all, the knowledge gained is specific to the region, not generic info from the web. Turn to your neighbours instead of the internet and you’ll walk away with a much richer information-seeking experience. I bet you learn more than you realized you had questions about, and maybe you walk away with something delicious that attests to your neighbour’s gardening skills. Chances are, you’ll make your neighbour’s day just by taking the time to value their advice.
The sharing, learning, and show of respect that takes place when you ask your community members for their input is what makes a small town like Revelstoke a special community to be in. There is a whole lot of wisdom held by the multi-generational Revelstokians that we are at risk of losing if we don’t let them know we are interested in learning from them. Ask them your questions – after all, it is unlikely that you’ll find them blogging their family secrets on how to get fig trees to survive Revelstoke winters.
Hailey Ross writes Growing in Revelstoke on behalf of the North Columbia Environmental Society in partnership with the United Church. The column contributes to a joint project aimed at increasing the sustainable production of local food and intergenerational knowledge sharing. This was the fifth and final column of the 2011 summer series.
For your chance to learn from a local-foods expert, join us at the next workshop in the Garden Guru Series: Smoking meats and other foods. Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Revelstoke United Church. By donation.