Posted on August 30, 2016

KidsFeeding more than seven billion people with minimal environmental and climate impacts is no small feat. That parts of the world are plagued by obesity while starvation is rampant elsewhere shows part of the problem revolves around distribution and social equity. But agricultural methods pose some of the biggest challenges.

Posted on May 28, 2016

Rachel Parent Speaking - Photo by Shirley HealeyThe Watershed Sentinel recently caught up with 17-year-old Canadian activist Rachel Parent during an Earth Day speaking engagement at Highland Secondary in Comox, BC. Rachel founded Kids Right to Know in Toronto at age 12, after learning about the issues surrounding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Posted on March 17, 2016

North Island College launches the FEED Comox Valley Research Project - Click to view largeA cartoon in the January 26 edition of the Globe and Mail depicts two figures dancing with glee near an oil tower while a man in surveyor’s garb tells his friend: “We’ve struck cauliflower!!!” It’s a humorous take

Posted on January 05, 2016

YaraZIM probe on leafSimon Ruger offers the Yara ZIM Plant Technology probe, the Norwegian company’s latest water saving innovation, for inspection to our group sitting around the table at the Yara ZIM office in Berlin. The device is two small magnets that resemble fat button cell batteries, with a red cable attached to the end of one of them.

Posted on June 05, 2015

If you are a mushroom fan you have probably heard of the Garden Giant mushroom (Stropharia rugoso-annulata). Or if you heard mycologist, Paul Stamets speak or have read his book, Mycelium Running, you may also know a bit about this species’ role in fungal bioremediation. If you engaged in Garden Giant companion planting last season, then the mycelium is already hard at work helping to protect and groom your garden.

Posted on October 30, 2013

by Joyce Nelson

In early September, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) launched a major campaign targeting 20 of the largest snack food companies that use palm oil in their candy bars and potato chips. “Cut Conflict Palm Oil, Not Rainforests” says RAN, citing massive conversion of rainforests and peatlands to palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. RAN’s campaign also highlights labour abuses, declining wildlife populations, and violent clashes between communities and palm oil developers.

RAN says these issues cause major risk to the reputations of

Posted on September 05, 2013

by Gavin Fridell
Photo Credit: Simon Granovksy-Larsen

A major coffee crisis is brewing in Central America. Its impact has already been felt by the poorest workers and farmers, and things could get a lot worse. In 2012 an outbreak of “coffee leaf rust” (a fungus that has long haunted the industry) hit Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The outbreak is the worst in over thirty years, affecting over 50 per cent of the total coffee growing area in the region, causing a nearly 20 per cent drop in production and costing the

Posted on March 07, 2013

by Dawn Paley

Even in the quiet of late afternoon, the market down the street from my apartment in Mexico City is a hive of activity. Dozens of butchers cut up all kinds of meat and make sausages. Women display whole chickens, and offer to prepare them according to what a passing customer desires. There’s homemade ice cream for sale across from a fish stand, and a tortilla stand that always seems to have a line-up. I buy my vegetables from a man who stands at the top of a pyramid of lettuces, tomatoes, avocados, carrots, potatoes, and whatever happens to be in season. While heweighs and bags the veggies I select, he often talks about how good Mexican food is, but how so many people don’t eat the healthy and tasty things he offers for sale. Before I started working on this story, I assumed he was just talking up his business.

Posted on March 06, 2013

Land Grab in Guatemalaby Susan MacVittie

In March 2011, ethnic Maya Q’eqchi communities of smallholder farmers in southern Guatemala were violently evicted by state security forces from land they had farmed for generations. About 3,200 people from 14 communities in the Polochic valley were forced off land they believed they had a right to live and work on. Within months, hundreds of hectares of the lush valley in the province of Alta Verapaz were being planted with sugar cane that would be turned into ethanol for European cars. Today, displaced families live by

Posted on March 06, 2013

by Susan MacVittie

When Leesee Papatsie started the Facebook group, Feeding My Family, to raise awareness of the high price of food in the North and to gather Nunavummiut for a demonstration, she began with two people who said they wanted to help. Since that time in May, the FB group has caught the attention of the world, gathering over 19,000 members – more than half the population of Nunavut, where Papatsie lives.

Posted on October 17, 2012

Seed exchange ensures the survival of genetic diversity.

by David Hiatt

I first started saving seeds when I discovered that a variety of squash that I was fond of growing was no longer being offered by Stokes; fortunately, I had about 10 seeds left, so at the end of the next year I saved a fruit for seeds and have been growing it and saving seeds for some time.

Posted on October 17, 2012

The community marketplace not only provides health benefits, it also contributes to the quality of life in rural settings.

Community marketplaces and related endeavours, such as farmers' markets, seed exchanges, and simple networking, are among the best features of rural life. Indeed, such amenities also produce benefits for city dwellers, as produce is frequently brought into urban settings to be sold country style. Vancouver's Granville Island is one of the most successful of such city marketplaces.

Posted on October 10, 2012

Cubans made the most of the break up of the Soviet Union. Losing their source of pesticides and fertilizers, they're growing some of the cleanest produce in the world.

by Robert E. Sullivan - Earth Times News Service

The Cuban revolutionary threat is back. In an innocuous, unmarked building in the Miramar suburb of Havana technicians from Fidel Castro's communist government are training cadres from all over Latin America.

Posted on October 09, 2012

Eventually it's many problems will overcome conventional industrial farming.

by Colin Graham

It is becoming stunningly clear that conventional, chemically based agriculture faces a grim future. Organic farming, on the other hand, seems to have blue skies popping up all over.

Posted on September 25, 2012

by G. Willow Wilson

The city government of Seattle, Washington has declared 2010 the Year of Urban Agriculture. The program, developed through the Department of Neighborhoods, aims to make locally grown produce af­fordable and available to as many of Seattle’s diverse residents as possible, while supporting the urban and exur­ban farmers who grow it. New zon­ing laws will allow backyard farmers greater flexibility in what they grow and raise on residential property. A bold pilot program is in place to cre­ate ten urban farms inside city limits.

This initiative is just the latest stride for a city that has long been the pacesetter for sustainability in the American Northwest. As a transplant to Seattle, I was immediately im­pressed by the vigor of the city’s farm­ers’ markets, where a variety of public benefit programs give struggling fam­ilies access to the

Posted on September 15, 2012

Amidst the concrete and skyscrapers of the city sprouts a determined group of folk who are turning backyards, balconies and vacant lots into a green oasis of food. Growing food in the city is not a novel idea, but with concerns about food security, food systems and people wanting to connect with the land – urban agriculture is a “growing” movement. Our Solutions – Urban Food section highlights some of the urban agriculture initiatives and ideas that are playing a role in regreening the urban landscape. This series of articles includes Vancouver’s Urban Farming Census, Sharing Backyards mapping project, youth guerilla gardening, community trust farming, myths about backyard chickens, how to turn lawn into garden

Posted on August 30, 2012

The “agri-tourism movement” is growing. In British Columbia, the BC AgriTourism Alliance (BCATA) incorporated in 2002 and is in the process of doing a comprehensive survey of BC agri-tourism operations [see].

by Maggie Paquet

Posted on August 30, 2012

by Bob Collins © 2003

Hunger is a daily reality for hundreds of millions of people. It rules their lives. Each day brings another grim struggle to find something to eat, often unsuccessfully. The heartbreaking reality for many is watching their children starve to death. Canadians (and Americans) enjoy a far more comfortable reality. Food is abundant and cheap. Much of it knows no season. Fresh produce finds its way to our grocery shelves every day of the year. The rows of preserves that lined Great-Grandmother’s pantry shelves are obsolete. No one need worry about having less than a week’s food on hand; there are air-conditioned, conveniently located stores full of it. Perhaps even with

Posted on August 24, 2012

by Maggie Paquet

There’s no question that the seeds of civilisation were sown with the beginning of agriculture. In fact, at dif- ferent times, agriculture has shaped the rise of civilisation in every region of the world. In the “fertile crescent” between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, it was rye. In Mesoamerica, it was squash and maize. In Egypt, it was the precursor of modern wheat. In China it was rice. Most of these were wild grasses that became domesticated, likely through a combi- nation of the effects of climate change and inventiveness by small groups of people trying to feed themselves.

Between 13,000 and 7,000 years ago there were a

Posted on August 24, 2012

The Rodale Institute’s 23-year comparison of organic and conven­tional cropping systems confirms that organic methods are far more effec­tive at trapping and holding carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, in the soil as beneficial organic matter.

Launched in 1981, the Farming Systems Trial (FST) is a 12-acre, side-by-side experiment, comparing three agricultural management sys­tems: one conventional, one legume-based organic, and one manure-based organic. In 23 years of continuous recordkeeping, both organic systems have shown an increase in soil car­bon of between 15-28%, while the conventional system has shown no statistically significant increase. For the organic systems, that translates into more than 1000 lbs of captured carbon or about 3670 lbs of CO2 per acre-foot per year, not even count­ing the reductions in CO2 emissions represented by the organic systems’ lower energy requirements.

Posted on August 23, 2012

Review by Maggie Paquet

I knew Diary of a Compost Hotline Operator had potential for humour when I read the opening quote by Bette Midler, who said her first compost heap was an epiphany: “a manifestation of God’s presence, the kind of transcendent…experience that lets you see your place in the big picture…” [Think about it.

The “compost crises” the author has dealt with in over a decade working at the City Farmer garden in Vancouver ( will have you chuckling earthily, and all the while you’ll be learning the rules of successful composting—and a lot more. 

Read about “The Recipe”—the proper ratio of green to brown stuff—and the “Rap Rules” of what NOT to put in your compost.

Posted on August 23, 2012

by Kathy Smail

In this age of ever increasing political and economic change, and environmental damage, local sustainability is imperative for the well being of communities. Our ‘little’ island, which is not really small but has a proportionally small population, is feeling the tug of growth and development, and an eroding of sustainability. 

Posted on August 17, 2012

by Julie Muir

Whether we think that eating animals is justified or not, most people seem to agree that (food) animals should have a decent life and humane death. Attempts have been made at regulating the labels on animal products to acknowledge the producers’ efforts to ensure that minimal suffering accompanies the transformation from living animal to meat on our plates. That is, terms such as “free range,” “free run” and “Certified Organic” have been gaining in popularity

Posted on August 17, 2012

by Danielle Murray, Earth Policy Institute

From farm to plate, the modern food system relies heavily on cheap oil. Threats to our oil supply are also threats to our food supply. As food undergoes more processing and travels farther, the food system consumes ever more energy each year. 

The US food system uses over 10 quadrillion Btu

Posted on July 15, 2012

by Leslie Gillett

Vancouver’s City Farmer has been dishing up dirt for 30 years now, first through a newsletter and workshops, now through classes and its extensive website. 

The dirt – as befits a society formed to encourage urban agriculture – is often about just that, things of the earth and compost and worms.  

In fact some of long-time environmentalist and City Farmer executive director Micheal Levenston’s

Posted on July 15, 2012

by Delores Broten

Sometimes everything just falls together in one simultaneous movement. In the case of urban farming, it’s hard to unravel the factors that have melded. Health, politics, maybe even evolution, all meet and point to one simple conclusion: It’s time to grow food in the city. 

Gardening, especially decorative gardening and landscaping, has been steadily growing over the last few years, along with the housing boom. In 2005, almost 100 million households in the US participated in one or more types of Do-It-Yourself indoor and outdoor lawn and garden activities, according to the National Gardening Association (NGA). In 2006, American homeowners spent a record $44.7 billion to hire professional lawn and landscape services. 

Posted on July 14, 2012

The sweet carbohydrates that are in our daily diets. Some are good, some aren't so good.

by Delores Broten

It is one of the four basic flavours that we can taste (salty, sour, and bitter are the other three), and it is a shape-changer. The simple carbohy­drates sucrose, glucose, and fructose show up in many forms – from table sugar, honey, and maple syrup to corn and

Posted on July 11, 2012

by Susan MacVittie 

When feeding hungry people free food in a public space is against the law and those doing so are criminalized and face incarceration, we are no longer living in interesting times, but desperate times indeed. 

I am speaking of the grassroots group, Food Not Bombs (FNB), who have been feeding people free homecooked vegan food in parks around North America and beyond since the early 1980s.

Harassment is nothing new to FNB volunteer

Posted on July 10, 2012

To raise awareness and to direct available funds effectively, Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project is working to assess global agricultural innovation, from farming methods and technologies to agricultural policy.

by Delores Broten

For many years Worldwatch In­stitute has been

Posted on July 04, 2012

by Christopher Hawkins

It’s the fourth week of spring, and Leeann is thinking about this year’s garden. In the past few years she’s put in good effort, but she hasn’t had much luck: a few tomatoes, a few peppers and a handful of green beans. Leeann knows it’s possible to grow a good crop, but she hasn’t been able to do it on her own yet, so she’s asking for help. 

She’s posted a listing on,

Posted on June 25, 2012

by Susan MacVittie

With supermarket aisles filled with a colourful array of foods and accessibility to farmers’ markets and farms, a discussion on Vancouver Island about food security may seem like someone else’s problem. It’s not.

Fifty years ago, Vancouver Island farmers produced 85% of the Island’s food. Today, Island producers provide only about 10% of the food consumed; the rest is imported at the economical and ecological expense of all of us. Why we aren’t able to access more local food led the Vancouver Island Good Food Box Collective to spearhead a research project in 2007, Contending With the Local Food Access Puzzle.

What they found out echoes the sentiments of farmers and local food activists: it doesn’t pay to farm because

Posted on June 25, 2012

Cleaner methods of cooking, such as the eco-KALAN, will not only reduce health hazards, but will also lessen emissions and ultimately help slow global warming.

by Stephen Leahy

Rebecca Arrieta Ver­meer often woke up choking on the smoke from the open-wood fires as her neighours

Posted on June 21, 2012

by Maggie Paquet

Food – along with air, water, and shelter – is a need that all liv­ing organisms share. Growing our own food is one of the behav­iours that sets people apart from the rest of the ani­mals. Earlier in our social evolu­tion, we hunted for it and gathered it from our local environment and moved on. Then, some bright spark (some say it was a woman) discov­ered the secret of seeds. These marvellous lit­tle packets of energy could be saved and sown in greater quantities and in new places, places that often had other amenities favourable for human habitation, like plentiful water.

The need to keep wandering in search of food was no longer imperative.

Posted on June 14, 2011

by Joyce Nelson

With an entire agricultural edifice constructed upon cheap energy, Canada is especially vulnerable, and not just because of rising oil prices - which economist Jeff Rubin (Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller)  recently claimed will reach "record highs" by 2011.

Canada's dominant form of agriculture follows a high input, energy-intensive, export-oriented model of industrial food production that gives little thought to feeding ourselves. According to the Toronto Star (Oct. 12, 2009), "Canada now imports 80 percent of its fruits and vegetables," even though we grow more than 100 varieties of these foods, mostly for export.

Posted on July 08, 2010

Excerpt from Joyce Nelson's WS article, "Eating Our Way Back to the Future: Low Greenhouse Gas Agriculture"

Peak oil may soon give us peak food. As we run out of fossil fuels, food will get increasingly expensive not only to produce, but to import and export. Changes to this system can also be good news, however, since globally, agriculture and our industrial food system account for almost one-third of all greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to climate change. Changing how we farm our food can literally change the fate of the world.

"Low GHG agriculture" places top priority on soil restoration and on soil as a carbon sink. It looks to farming methods that are common practice in organic agriculture and, in some cases, practices that were widely used by Canadian farmers sixty or more years ago.

Posted on August 12, 2009

by Susan MacVittie

Sipping on a morning cup of Jo goes beyond the quick fix of liquid wake-up - it's now a reflection of the drinker's ethical values. In the 1980s a rise in ethical consumerism, driven by issues like child labour and environmental degradation launched the branding of organic, fair trade and union-made products. For coffee-drinkers this means that there is now a befuddling assortment of coffee to choose from. Knowing which one is the real ethical deal is a lesson in the coffee commodity chain.

Bean 101

Coffee has always been a boom and bust crop in Latin