Words from a Cumberland Community Food Leader

Today was the first day of CFL training.

No, I’m not preparing to play professional football… I assume football and me would end with my person being injured, concussed, or possibly hung up in traction.

The CFL I’m referring to is Nova Scotia’s new Community Food Leader Certificate Program, and for those who know me, this program makes a lot more sense. Here’s a link for those who want more information.


Hi my name is Mandy, I’m a chef/farmer/writer, who is passionate about all things food, from cow to steak on a plate, and I’m here to guide you through my personal development, as I work my way to being a Community Food Leader.

The CFL program differs from person to person. Alex, Megan, Nicole, Tina, Karen, Gloria, and I, are all there to strive towards a different end goal. We each had to choose a food project that we would work on throughout the course. For some it’s becoming the community garden coordinator, or expanding on their position of co-ordinator, for another it’s striving for the successful completion of a crock-pot culinary workshop program, and someone else is hoping to work at becoming a farmer, where she can teach others how to grow their own food.

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Above:  Left to right:  Alex, Megan, Mandy, Nicole

My goal is to create and deliver a series of workshops that revolve around food preservation, all while keeping a focus on maintaining nutritive values and flavour, as well as being safe for consumption. I plan to tie into the Farm to Food Bank program here in Amherst with the Food Bank to Pantry program.

I hope to share the knowledge I’ve learned from my recently completed Master Food Preserver course with the public, as canning, pickling, fermenting, and pressure canning, seem to be skills weren’t shared as readily through a few generations.

The new group of soon-to-be CFL’s met up at Maggie’s Place in Amherst. It’s a wonderful location and they are letting us use their venue for the inaugural roll out of the CFL program.  Thanks Maggie’s Place!!!

Our first class was a lot about of getting to know one another, learning about each other’s goals, and talking about food sovereignty. It was a breath of fresh air to sit around a table with people as passionate about food, food security, and gardening, as I am.

As we settled in with coffees and snacks, we took care of some paperwork, getting to know one another as we chatted and joked with each other. Our first activity, or icebreaker I guess it could be called was interesting. We used cards to talk about what being a Community Food Leader meant to us. The cards had pretty images on it, fantasy-style, with strange, if any meaning, instead of words, and we were asked to choose a card and describe to the group why it elicited feelings of leadership, or why we felt had a connection to the card.

My card was a man standing on a tower of books, reaching down towards a shiny golden princess, who stood on one book and reached up towards him in return. I saw that as me having the knowledge, as I stood on the tower of books, and I was reaching out to share with the shiny princess-y person, who had less knowledge than me, as she stood on her one book. She was shiny and golden though, because she was rich, as she was receiving the “treasure” of skills and knowledge.

Okay, so I am sure that sounded crazy cheesy to you, but it made sense for me at the time, and I really enjoyed the activity. I think it was being around a table of my peers, a group of people who had some of the same visions for the future as I did.

After completing that exercise, we broke off into pairs and spent some time discussing our food goals with one another. It was an experience in communication and listening, as after lunch, we were to reiterate what the other’s plan was.

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Above, from left to right:  Nicole, Karen, Tina participate in a food systems mapping exercise.

Lunch was a delicious home-made chilli, cornbread, Greek salad, and carrot cake for dessert. We ate, chatted more, and then got back to work.

The afternoon was split into two activities, the first one was going over our food projects for the course, and then discussing it with the group. We asked each other questions, and helped others iron out some ideas.

As our final discussion/activity, we broke up into two groups and spent some time talking about what factors influence food systems. Each group created a poster board to explain how all the systems were linked. Between the two groups, the poster boards were very similar, both groups focusing on individuals, farmers, and government, as well as touching on labour, climate change, seed supply, and everything in between.

Eight hours is a long time to spend learning and the like, but the day flew by, and we were already at the end, finishing up some paperwork, and preparing our homework assignment for the next class.

I’m so intrigued to be part of this group and I feel like I’ve already made some excellent friends with like-minded aspirations. I’m excited to see the melding of some of the projects already, as my food preservation workshops can fit in well with some of the community garden projects.

It was an interesting day, with tons of information, and the ability to share ideas with like-minded people, about things that should happen in our community. I’m already excited for next month’s class, I suppose I should get on with the homework assignments…

I leave you with that, until next time.                                                                                         Your Nova Scotian CFL-In-Training  Mandy da Costa

Guest Blog by Mandy da Costa: Mandy is a new farm entrant. Chef, Master Preserver and food activist in Cumberland County.

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 

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