Full of Beans and Big Ideas

Well we did it! Our last Community Food Leader training involved receiving 27 types of beans and a certificate for completing this leadership course. We are now armed and ready for action!

Throughout Cumberland County, six individuals came together to discuss a very important topic: Food.  With food comes a variety of conversation themes such as, where does your food come from?, How is fresh food being distributed among families that need it most?, and How does food policy affect a community?  All these questions were the basis of what our training was about with Ecology Action Center’s first Community Food Leader (CFL) Certificate Program.  We were the guinea pigs, and the results, a success!

group CFL

Above:  Cumberland Community Food Leaders   Left to right:  Mandy, Su, Alex, Nicole, Tina, Karen, Megan

Hi, my name is Nicole and I am one of those 6 community food leaders who took a stand to figure out more about these questions. How and why did I get involved in this you ask? Well, I recently moved to Nova Scotia (March 2017) and between visas and waiting, I desperately needed to find something to keep me busy, as well as to meet new people. Moving from Texas was honestly, not a big change, except for the extensive winter months and much shorter growing season, which forced me to become quite adaptable. My experience and curiosity around that whole subject of food lead me to the Amherst Community Garden, where I met Su Morin, the Ecology Action Centre Our Food Project facilitator for Cumberland.

Our CFL group was a small, but very diverse one. Each of us came to the table with a food goal that we shared progress reports on at each of our monthly training sessions.  This process helped us to refine our projects goals and to stay focused.  The networking that the CFL training provided was probably the most important aspect of the whole program, but we also learned many practical lessons each session – everything from resources and tools around fundraising, hands-on cooking skills and food miles, to how to engage our communities in making positive changes around food, such as improving food access, localizing our food system, etc.  All in all, we all benefitted from this fabulous leadership training experience!

Now here is a little bit about each of our proud Cumberland CFL graduates:

Mandy CFL grad

We have the butcher, Mandy from Dandy Little Farm (above), whose bright personality kept us on our toes and always thinking. Mandy’s food goal is to organize a basic food preservation series with the local food bank and Maggie’s Place.  She and Su successfully wrote a grant from the local Community Health Board to fund this project which will run from July-Oct. and utilize local food in all of the cooking classes.

CFL Alex grad

Then we have Alex Watson from Springhill Community Garden (above, with Su Morin), who I will forever remember as the gentleman with the Space Tomatoes and the fruit cocktail tree in his back yard. He is a retired senior and garden guru who really knows his stuff and is always willing to share his vast knowledge with others.  Alex’s food goal was to organize class visits to the Springhill elementary school and he managed to not only get several class visits arranged, but also to connect with the local high school green club, who he has brought into the garden programming.

Then there was super smart Tina (below), a research student from Mount A University whose food goal was to evaluate the Cost-share Local Food Box Programs in NS. Tina is also the Coordinator of the Sackville NB Community Garden.  She brought passion around food policy and the Sackville garden’s apiary that she had a hand in getting established.

Tina CFL

We were also so blessed to have Karen (below), from Maggie’s Place Family Resource Centre, who has been in this movement for many years and who brought a wealth of knowledge and experience around community food security to our group. Karen actively runs a multitude of food skills workshops in the community of Amherst and throughout Cumberland County.  Her food goal, which was successfully met and will be funded again this year, was to partner with Schools Plus (after school youth program), to conduct a cooking series for youth and their parents.

Karen CFL grad

Then there is Megan (below), the youngest of our group and quite the outdoor explorer (Megan has been running guided kayak tours in the Bay of Fundy for the past few summers).  She brought the group a youthful positivity and the feeling that there is so much hope in the younger generations.  Megan and her partner are starting up a community garden in the community of Advocate Harbour this season.

Megan CFL grad

Finally, there is me!, Nicole Bickerton (below) of the Amherst Community Garden. My food goal is to involve more community at the garden and so far I have recruited several new individuals and groups to participate in the garden this year.  For example, I am partnering with Maggie’s Place to involve a group of women who are newcomers to the area.  We are thinking of planting a three-sisters plot. Several local school classes, including the Schools Plus afterschool youth program will be having plots at the garden this year as well.  It’s shaping up to be a fantastic season!

Nicole CFL grad

We all came together with different ideas, mindsets and goals, developing our skills, networking and making friendships that will last a lifetime. Guest speakers from all over Nova Scotia came to ignite our minds on all the ways we could make a difference.

Taking action can be as simple as joining a community garden in your area, signing up with a CSA local farm, or simply by volunteering at a food bank. What we put into our bodies is of such importance. The biggest question and challenge for me remains how to we get those that are comfortable with their current unhealthy lifestyle take interest and become active in a better way of living and eating?   I encourage you to get out there. Get involved. There is nothing quite like harvesting your crop after a season of hard work and tending the garden or farm, but once you taste that difference, there is no way one can go back.

To sign up with your local community garden or for more information on living food active in Cumberland, contact the Cumberland Food Action Network at www.cumberlandfoodactionnetwork.ca

The Community Food Leader Certificate Program is now taking new entrants!

For more information on the CFL Program or to register see: www.communityfoodleader.ca

Guest Blog Written By: Nicole Bickerton                                                                                         Nicole is the Coordinator for the Amherst Community Garden and a lovely local foodie and food activist! 

Adventures in Local Food is your source for food news in Nova Scotia, from pickles to policy. It is a project organized by the Ecology Action Centre

Learn more about our program at https://www.ecologyaction.ca/ourfood

Or follow us on:

Twitter: @OurFoodProject

Facebook: The Ecology Action Centre

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