Thursday, December 23, 2010

Six Expansion Initiatives Show Healthy Greenbelt Support in 2010

TORONTO, December 23, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (OGA) is pleased to announce that six proposals to expand the iconic Ontario Greenbelt have received approval from municipal councils or committees. The proposals would connect more than 4.5 million additional residents to the world's largest Greenbelt, now in its fifth year.

The proposals demonstrate the continued support for the Greenbelt among Ontarians. Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Guelph, Hamilton and Oakville are municipalities working on requests that will ask the Province expand the Greenbelt into their communities.

"As we celebrate the support for growing the Greenbelt, it is also important to note that we are entering a provincial election year and with that comes some uncertainty," said Dr. Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence. "We know that there are groups out there like the Ontario Landowners Association who will be a voice in the next election for unmitigated sprawl and loss of protected greenspace. We are hoping that well in advance of the election, all parties, including the Progressive Conservatives, clarify their stand on the Greenbelt, and their relationship to the Ontario Landowners Association."

Two years ago, the province released "Growing the Greenbelt," a process by which municipalities could identify areas that could be added as protected countryside to the Greenbelt by illustrating how the area would meet seven criteria. Since that time, local citizens' groups and municipal councils have been working to expand the Greenbelt into their communities and build a tangible connection to local farmland and the greenspace that help to clean our air and water.

"We are heartened that this past year saw so many municipalities interested in connecting to the Greenbelt. The recent municipal elections have ushered in a number of new councilors and mayors who are keen to protect what is left of Ontario's greenspace," said Dan McDermott, director of Sierra Club Ontario, a member group of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. "We know how important this land is to the people of Ontario, and call on all candidates and parties running in the 2011 provincial elections to also show their support for this essential piece of Ontario's environment."

About Environmental Defence (

Environmental Defence is Canada's most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.

About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (

The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a diverse multi-stakeholder coalition of close to 100 organizations who share a common vision for protecting and expanding the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. Environmental Defence is the coordinator of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Futurist predicts Canadian agriculture will reclaim place of honor

OTTAWA, November 30, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Futurist and economist Dr. Jay Lehr says Canadian agriculture is poised to once again be held in high esteem by Canadians as farmers and their partners set the record straight about the ways in which farming helps make our food safer and healthier.

"Agriculture was revered by the public but it lost some of its prestige as a result of the misinformation that exists about the modern tools that are part of today's farming reality," Lehr says. "By speaking with one voice, the ag sector is making it clear that the inputs they use are all aimed at improving our quality of life and the quality of life of those around us."

Lehr, who has five decades of experience in agricultural economics, agronomy, environmental science and business administration, will combine his deep understanding of both science and economics to describe the impact of advancing technologies on local, regional, national and global economics at the 2010 GrowCanada(R) conference.

"As we watch the world population grow and the level of affluence around the world increase, we know that the demands on agriculture are only going to intensify," said Kamel Beliazi, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience Canada, sponsor of Dr. Lehr's presentation. "Canadian agriculture is ready to meet those demands because our producers operate with the safest, most effective technologies the world has to offer."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

10 Years On: Recovery Elusive for Species at Risk in Canada

OTTAWA, November 29, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Two birds considered extremely rare to Canada were both re-assessed as Endangered despite recovery initiatives. The White-headed Woodpecker and Sage Thrasher are just two of the 52 Canadian wildlife species that were assessed for risk of extinction or extirpation by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) when it met in Ottawa, November 22-26, 2010. Of the thirty-two species that were re-assessed after 10 years, as required by the Species at Risk Act, only four were found to be less at risk.

Fewer than 100 of the spectacular White-headed Woodpecker nest in southeastern British Columbia. This bird depends on mature Ponderosa Pine forests which continue to decline due to severe fires and Mountain Pine Beetle infestations. Even rarer is the Sage Thrasher. Although never common in BC, Alberta or Saskatchewan, the total population of this small brown songbird in Canada ranges from only seven to 36 individuals. Loss of sagebrush habitat, used for nesting, is undoubtedly responsible for declines of this bird in Canada.

Although increased efforts to survey rare plants in Ontario resulted in larger population estimates for the Dwarf Lake Iris; habitat degradation still plagues species with extremely limited ranges in the Great Lakes region of Ontario and Québec. Two small orchids, the Nodding Pogonia which was assessed as Endangered and the Purple Twayblade, a Threatened species, are highly vulnerable to ongoing habitat alterations associated with invasive plants, introduced earthworms, and land development. The Endangered White Prairie Gentian, a large showy perennial known for its traditional medicinal uses, now exists as only a single small population in southern Ontario where its savannah habitat is protected from degradation by the Walpole Island First Nation.

Two Iconic Canadian Fishes at Risk

The Atlantic Salmon, one of the world's most commonly farmed marine fishes, has suffered declines in the wild, particularly in southern parts of its Canadian range. Regardless of ongoing activities to rebuild stocks, one population in southern Newfoundland was designated as Threatened, and five populations in the Bay of Fundy, outer coast of Nova Scotia and Anticosti Island were assessed as Endangered. The unique Lake Ontario population was considered Extinct. To the north, the situation is not as dire. Populations in the Gulf of St. Lawrence were assessed as Special Concern and three of the most northern populations in Canada were considered Not at Risk; relatively pristine rivers and improved fisheries management likely explain the stable to increasing abundance of these northern populations.

Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge contributed significantly to understanding the biology and threats for Dolly Varden, a trout-like fish of great significance to the people of the western Arctic. Despite the relative health of these populations, climate change poses a significant risk. This factor, in addition to the sensitivity of this fish to habitat impacts and fishing pressure, resulted in a designation of Special Concern.

Zebra Mussel Now Threatens Species West of the 100th Meridian

The Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel is a large conspicuous freshwater mussel residing in the Okanagan Lake basin. Its restricted range coupled with the threat of the invasive Zebra Mussel and burgeoning lakeshore development elevated the risks to this species which led to an assessment of Endangered from a previous assessment of Special Concern.

Some Cause for Optimism.

The case of the Barndoor Skate does give cause for some optimism. This large, distinctive marine fish experienced severe population declines and was virtually undetectable in Canadian waters for two decades. Reduced fishing pressure has contributed to significant increases in the Barndoor Skate since the 1990s. While this skate has not fully recovered to historical levels, the fish was assessed as Not at Risk.


COSEWIC assesses the status of wild species, subspecies, varieties, or other important units of biological diversity, considered to be at risk in Canada. To do so, COSEWIC uses scientific, Aboriginal traditional and community knowledge provided by experts from governments, academia and other organizations. Summaries of assessments are currently available to the public on the COSEWIC website ( and will be submitted to the Federal Minister of the Environment in late summer 2011 for listing consideration under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). At that time, the full status reports and status appraisal summaries will be publicly available on the Species at Risk Public Registry (

There are now 617 wildlife species in various COSEWIC risk categories, including 270 Endangered, 153 Threatened, 172 Special Concern, and 22 Extirpated (i.e. no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition to these wildlife species that are in COSEWIC risk categories, there are 14 wildlife species that are Extinct.

COSEWIC comprises members from each provincial and territorial government wildlife agency, four federal entities (Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Federal Biodiversity Information Partnership, chaired by the Canadian Museum of Nature), three Non-government Science Members, and the Co-chairs of the Species Specialist and the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Subcommittees.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

$3k Website Connects Farms to Restaurants, Creating Virtual Coop

by Sami Grover, Carrboro, NC, USA

From beekeepers using the internet to fight colony collapse disorder, through crop mob and other new agrarians organizing online, to wireless soil sensors optimizing farm resources, a return to sustainable farming does not mean a rejection of what technology has to offer. Inspired by the death of his granddaughter, one retired telecommunications analyst has set about using the power of the internet to promote social justice, reverse the decline in small farming, and create a vibrant food economy for his community.

The Optimistic Futurist writes that 2010 Purpose Prize Winner Timothy Will was driven by high levels of rural unemployment and poverty in his community to bring about a revival of agrarian traditions, and he used the internet to do it. His first step was to ensure inclusion in the information economy, securing over $1.5 million to provide broadband internet to the rural Appalachian county in which he lives... read more at

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beef and Pork Farmers Partner to Support Insurance Program

Local Ontario farmers push to establish risk management program to protect themselves, taxpayers, consumers and local economies

GUELPH, Ontario, November 23, 2010 /Canda NewsWire/ - Today marks the official launch of Ontario Cattlemen's Association and Ontario Pork's joint campaign in support of a risk management program (RMP) for the beef and pork industries. Beef and pork farmers are striving to educate politicians and enlist the Provincial and Federal governments to partner with them in establishing insurance programs similar to the successful pilot program recently implemented by the Ontario Government for the Grains and Oilseeds industry.

Ontario's beef and pork industries are experiencing a severe downturn. Ontario's beef cow herd has declined 18.4% since the beginning of 2003 while sow herd has declined over 20% since 2007. This downturn is the result of several factors including BSE, H1N1, and a high Canadian dollar, bringing increased competition from imports. With multiple economic threats occurring over an extended period of time, the current AgriStability program alone is not enough to sustain these industries.

"We understand that a solution is needed now and for the future. Therefore farm groups from across the province are working together to discuss the best way to move forward," says Curtis Royal, President, Ontario Cattlemen's Association. "We have undertaken unprecedented consultations with our members and the broader farming community to shape our specific insurance programs, and it is clear that creating this plan is our members' number one priority."

Part of the province's broader farming community, Ontario's beef and pork farmers are ready to partner with the provincial and federal governments now to establish these insurance programs that would protect against market fluctuations and allow all partners to share and limit risk.

The proposed insurance program would see local Ontario farmers in the beef and pork industries pay premiums to the government representing 30% of the long-term cost of the insurance program on a voluntary basis. We are asking governments to participate according to the traditional 60/40 federal/provincial split and for the province to act immediately to kick start and fund their share of the program.

"Not only would the program offset the difference between the current market price and the average long-term cost of production, it would also eliminate the need for ad hoc government support for both the beef and pork industries in the future," says Wilma Jeffray, Chair, Ontario Pork. "We are encouraging many of our members to meet with their local MPs and MPPs and become ambassadors for these programs in their communities. In addition, members and the general public can visit the campaign website to learn more about the proposed insurance programs and to continue to show their support for Ontario's local beef and pork farmers and a strong local food supply."

The immediate focus of the joint campaign is to achieve a commitment from both the federal and provincial governments.

In September 2010, Ontario Pork and Ontario Cattlemen's Association presented their proposed insurance programs to Ontario's Minister of Agriculture for consideration. By partnering with Ontario's local farmers, the provincial and federal governments will help sustain local food production and strengthen the rural economy.

Ontario Pork and Ontario Cattlemen's Association have been working with the Ontario Agricultural Sustainability Coalition (OASC) for the past year and continue to do so. In addition, the two associations have been working together for the past three months on finalizing their plans and are now prepared to move forward.

For more information, visit:

Government's 'completely inadequate' plan on farm safety will leave workers at risk

Conservatives have clearly caved in to pressure from industry, says AFL

EDMONTON, November 23, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Alberta government announcement that it is forming an advisory council on farm safety is a stab in the back for all farm workers, says the Alberta Federation of Labour.

"Once again, the government has chosen to waste a real opportunity to improve working conditions on farms and ranches," says Gil McGowan, president of the AFL, which represents 140,000 workers. "Once again, the government has chosen to listen to the agribusiness lobby and ignore the voices of working people, of safety advocates and even a provincial judge."

The move to create a council to advise the government on how to "enhance farm safety education and training" is an empty gesture. The government says the council will be co-chaired by industry and government, but no leadership role is given to workers or their advocates - the people whose lives are on the line.

"This council will be an industry-dominated joke. Following on Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk's refusal to act on recommendations to increase minimum wage, it shows just how little the minister is willing to do for our most vulnerable workers. Much like Energy Minister Ron Liepert's advisory committee on energy policy, it shows who really calls the shots in this province - big-business pressure groups," says McGowan.

Alberta remains the only province that maintains 19th century rules where farm workers are excluded from occupational health and safety laws, as well as legislation governing hours of work and overtime, statutory holidays, vacation pay, the right to refuse unsafe work, being informed of work-related dangers and compensation if they are injured on the job. In the nine years the Alberta government has said it is consulting on how to improve safety for agricultural workers, 160 people have died on farm worksites.

In 2008, after being asked by the Premier to investigate the workplace death of Kevan Chandler, Justice Peter Barley recommended that farm workers must be included in Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to prevent future workplace injuries and deaths.

"Rather than take that obvious and simple step, we have an industry-dominated advisory body looking at education measures! It is completely inadequate and an absolute failure by the province to protect agricultural workers," says McGowan. "This is what you get when governments talk only to the business community and not to workers."

The government claims that work-related protections, such as employment standards and occupational health and safety rules, will punish family farms. That argument is not based on fact. Large agribusiness dominates the industry. Farms with income over $250,000 accounted for three-quarters of farm cash receipts in 2007.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Government of Canada Investing in Community Action to Preserve Local Habitat and Species at Risk on Ontario

LONDON, Ontario, November 5, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Joe Preston, Member of Parliament for Elgin—Middlesex—London, on behalf of the Government of Canada, today announced funding from the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk. In total, $292,000 in federal funding will support environmental action focusing on conservation and protection of species at risk and their habitats, helping to preserve Canada's biodiversity.

"As part of the International Year of Biodiversity, we are pleased to support the work that our partners are doing to help conserve and protect our environment," said MP Preston. "The Habitat Stewardship Program funding announced today is a great example of how the Government of Canada is supporting community projects that will help improve the habitat of species at risk."

The Habitat Stewardship Program funding will enable the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority to enhance water quality and aquatic habitat. In collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and through the Thames River Aquatic Ecosystem Stewardship Initiative, softshell turtle and queensnake habitat will be created and maintained, and their nesting/birthing sites will be protected from human disturbance and destruction.

"Through Habitat Stewardship Program funding, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority has been able to focus efforts on a number of species at risk fish and reptiles, as well as source water protection and general habitat recovery," said Scott Gillingwater, species at risk biologist with the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. "Despite the various threats affecting species at risk along the Thames River, great successes have been achieved through the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority's consistent and effective stewardship programs. Without Habitat Stewardship Program funding, such large-scale opportunities for species conservation would not have been possible."

The goal of the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk is to contribute to the recovery and protection of species listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern under the Species at Risk Act.

Projects that will receive funding this year include stewardship actions to conserve habitat for plant species at risk, negotiations with landowners to develop voluntary Land Care Agreements, targeted educational outreach efforts to reduce the entanglement of species at risk in fishing gear, and the enhancement of water quality and aquatic habitat on private lands to benefit aquatic species at risk. They will be undertaken with many partners such as agricultural producers, private landowners, and commercial fishers. These projects will benefit many species at risk, including the north Atlantic right whale, steller sea lion, swift fox, and small white leek.

The Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk is administered by Environment Canada and managed cooperatively with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Parks Canada Agency. More information on the Species at Risk Act and the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk can be found on the Internet at or .

For more information and to view a backgrounder on this announcement, please visit Environment Canada's website at

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Small-Scale Dairy Production Fights Hunger, New Report Shows

by Sami Grover, Carrboro, NC, USA

Studies may have shown that meat and dairy production create huge carbon emissions, and even Bill Clinton is going vegan these days. But dairy is not all bad news. In fact, a new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) claims that small-scale dairy production could play a significant role in fighting hunger.

The report, by the Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Initiative (PDF), aims to assess the current status, and the future potential, for smallholder milk production across the Globe. Looking at the writing about the prospects for small-scale dairy production over at the FAO blog, it seems the focus is as much on economic development and job creation as it is on the efficiency of dairy as a food production system.

With demand for milk increasing by 15 million tons a year, and with about 150 million small scale milk producing households currently producing, on average, about 11 liters of milk a day per household, small-scale dairy is an established, reliable and scalable method of local food production. The report's authors argue that it would take very little investment to help farmers make the most of their animals:

"Smallholders are generally very resource-efficient," said Joachim Otte, one of the co-editors of the report. "Access to credit, improved animal genetic resources and animal health services, together with supportive political measures enabling them to participate in changing markets, are crucial."

... read more story at

Friday, October 8, 2010

U of G Opens Advanced Public, Animal Health Research Facility

Guelph, Ontario October 07, 2010

Canada has strengthened its capacity to solve health problems that occur at the intersection of the human and animal worlds with a new cutting-edge research and diagnostic centre that opened today at the University of Guelph.

The Pathobiology and Animal Health Laboratory will support the growing role of veterinarians in research and teaching in public health, infectious diseases, pathology and immunology.

Researchers working in sophisticated laboratories will diagnose and study a range of animal diseases and pathogenic organisms, from bird flu and SARS to E. coli and West Nile virus. The 126,000-square-foot, four-storey structure also houses a 120-seat lecture theatre, flexible lab space, seminar rooms, teaching labs and office space.

The federal and provincial governments have invested some $62 million in this project. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada committed $37 million; the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) contributed $25 million.

“The health and safety of Ontarians and a safe food supply are top priorities for the McGuinty government,” said Carol Mitchell, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “Our government is pleased to provide funding to the University of Guelph to help support ongoing research activities that preserve consumer confidence, protect against animal disease and demonstrate our commitment to a competitive and sustainable agri-food industry.”

U of G president Alastair Summerlee said the facility places Guelph at the forefront of improving the health of animals, humans and the environment.

“Here, current and future scientists will make and share discoveries that will improve the health and well-being of animals, people and the planet,” he said. “This new building will further our ability to identify both the risks we face and the potential benefits and treatments that can be realized by taking an integrated approach to these questions."

Veterinarians have a great deal to share about health relationships among humans, animals and the environment, added Ontario Veterinary College dean Elizabeth Stone.

“About 75 per cent of new and emerging diseases are zoonotic, transmitted from animals to humans and back again," she said. "Animal health researchers play an important role in identifying, controlling and understanding this phenomenon. We will use this knowledge to improve the health of animals and the prospects for human health, here and around the world.”

As a partner with OMAFRA in the Ontario Animal Health Surveillance Network, the U of G Animal Health Laboratory helps maintain healthy animals and safe food in Ontario by providing specialized diagnostic services for veterinarians and public- and private-sector agencies.

The new lab areas include open-concept space that encourages cross-training and staff sharing. Improved facilities also allow for better control of pathogenic organisms, said Stone.
“This will greatly improve our biosecurity and biocontainment, to protect both our staff and our clients.”

The new building fulfils a key component of OVC’s strategic vision as the college approaches its 150th birthday in 2012. Key initiatives include the OVC Health Sciences Centre with its Companion Animal Medical Complex, Large Animal Medical Complex, Hill's Pet Nutrition Primary Healthcare Centre, animal cancer centre, Equine Sports Medicine and Reproduction Centre, and large-animal isolation unit.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oregano Is New CO2-Cutting Drug of Choice (For Cows)

by A.K. Streeter, Portland, Oregon

You weren't one of those teenagers that tried to smoke oregano straight from your mom's spice rack, were you? The urban lore of the 70's held that smoking oregano would get you high, and yes, I tried it. It definitely didn't work.

But though oregano may not be a great high, it turns out that this common herb has a lot of other medicinal properties, including curbing cows methane production by as much 40%. As cows are such a potent contributor to CO2 emissions, this is good news.

A study by Alexander Hristov of Penn State's dairy cows found that feeding them oregano along with their regular rations caused the cows to produce up to 40 percent less methane in their belches. (Contrary to earlier belief, it seems to be the burps, not the farts, that produce the most methane in ruminants.) In addition, the oregano supplement Hristov fed the cows increased their milk production by a few pounds over the course of the trials.

Grass-fed cows (who tend to eat a lot of herbs) have already been thought to be less methane-producing.

According to this LiveScience report, Hristov screened hundreds of essentials oils and plant compounds before settling on oregano as the supplement most effective at reducting methane while causing no negative effects on the cows.

Oregano is a mainstay of Italian, Greek, and other cuisines. Wikipedia says oregano became popular in the U.S. after World War II when returning soldiers brought back a taste for the "pizza spice."

But interestingly, this hearty herb also has health benefits due to its strong antioxidant properties and antimicrobial action. Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. Oregano has recently been found to have extremely effective properties against methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), showing a higher effectiveness than 18 pharmaceuticals it was compared with... read more story at

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Organic Strawberries Have Better Taste & Nutrition Than Conventional & Better For Soil Too: New Study

by Matthew McDermott, New York, NY

In the tug of war over whether organic farming is really better than conventional chemical-laden farming, a new study in the online peer-reviewed journal PLoS One comes out solidly in support of the benefits of organic. Self-described as the most comprehensive study of its kind, researchers from Washington State University found that commercial organic farms produce was more flavorful and nutritious strawberries, while leaving the soil healthier and genetically diverse.

In coming to that conclusion, the scientists analyzed 31 chemical and biological soil properties, soil DNA, as well as the taste, nutrition and quality of three strawberry varieties on 13 organic farms and 13 chemical farms in California, where 90% of the US strawberry crop is grown.

Science Daily sums up the findings:

...The organic strawberries had significantly higher antioxidant activity and concentrations of ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds.

...The organic strawberries had longer shelf life.

...The organic strawberries had more dry matter, or, "more strawberry in the strawberry."

Anonymous testers, working at times under red light so the fruit color would not bias them, found one variety of organic strawberries was sweeter, had better flavor, and once a white light was turned on, appearance. The testers judged the two other varieties to be similar... read more story at

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Honeybee Breed Key to Combating Colony Collapse Disorder

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California

A British beekeeper has been working on creating a new strain of honeybee resistant to the varroa mite, a prime suspect in colony collapse disorder (CCD), and it looks like he's hit a high note after 18 years of careful observation and selective breeding. Ron Hoskins found that bees in one of his hives figured out what a great idea mutual grooming can be -- they learned to clean the mites off one another. Hoping that this learned behavior is hereditary, he spread the genes of bees from this colony to his other hives. It worked. Now, combating CCD could be linked in no small part to how quickly the new strain of bee spreads across the country.

Daily Mail reports that the British Beekeepers Association is excited about the work Hoskins has done, and the hope is the drones from his "grooming" bees will mate with wandering female queens to spread the heartier genes across Britain. It could take quite a long time, and a lot of generations of bees before the behavior becomes normal, but if it's a way to combat the mites that wipe out entire colonies, then it's quite an exciting evolution to witness.

Hoskins, who is from Swindon, has named the new strain the "Swindon Honeybee" and all his colonies consist of this new breed. And the behavior might be the only thing that can save honeybees from the verroa mite:... read more story at

Monday, August 23, 2010

Loblaws' Grown Close to Home Foods...Aren't

by Bonnie Alter, London

Way back in 2007, TreeHugger Lloyd went to Loblaws, Canada's largest supermarket chain, looking for fresh local food in July and he found: cherries.

It's three years later and things have changed--sort of. Now they have a little booth at the front of the store called "Grown Close to Home" and they are selling Ontario peaches and potatoes and cucumbers. But right behind it they have their cherries from the USA and pineapple from Costa Rica. That's a rather broad definition of local. We aren't the only ones noticing this...local farmers and shoppers are pretty annoyed too.

Calling it " Grown Close to Home", the store crows that it is "bringing the
farmers market to Canadian neighbourhood grocery stores -- all in one
convenient location with bushels of variety." They are doing that for us lucky shoppers because hitting a "farmers market doesn't always fit with the realities of Canadians' hectic lifestyles."

Their definition of local and commitment to buying locally is broad. For example, Ontario peaches shipped to the western provinces are still considered part of the event. One Halifax shopper complained to the local newspaper because she "spotted plums and radishes from the United States along with rows of peaches, plums and nectarines from Ontario, with the words Grown Close to Home and the Atlantic Grown logo on the signs for some products." Loblaws apologised.

The Globe & Mail, Canada's national newspaper, points out that the farmers participating in the program are very large operations, some with hundreds and thousands of hectares, and greenhouses in Mexico and South America as well. This hardly benefits local farmers.

The Farmers' Markets Canada which represents 550 farmers markets across the country says that according to their research, farmers receive just 10% to 21% of the retail price of their produce at supermarkets, "not enough for a small family farm to survive on, while at farmers markets they get to keep an average 84%."... read more story at

Friday, August 13, 2010

NASA: Jan-July Hottest on Record, 2010 Shaping Up to be Warmest Year Yet

by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York

Okay, you get it. It's hot. Perhaps I've been ticked off by one too many 'global cooling' myth purveyors, but here it is -- another story about how hot it is this summer, and this year in general. NASA has released another report showing that from Jan. to July, 2010 is still the hottest year ever recorded. Last July was in a three-way tie for the hottest of that month ever recorded. And yes, while it's still a bit uncertain, all signs seem to point to 2010 being the hottest year ever.

Here's more from NASA, which released the info in an article aptly titled 'What Global Warming Looks Like':

The July 2010 global map of surface temperature anomalies [above figure], relative to the average July in the 1951-1980 period of climatology, provides a useful picture of current climate. It was more than 5°C (about 10°F) warmer than climatology in the eastern European region including Moscow. There was an area in eastern Asia that was similarly unusually hot. The eastern part of the United States was unusually warm, although not to the degree of the hot spots in Eurasia.

... read more story at

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Goat Rentals For Weed Control: Perfect For Managing Steep Slopes, Woody Plants, & Air Quality

by John Laumer, Philadelphia

Last week I wrote about the zero-emission bow-knife for vegetable garden weed control. For certain tasks the bow-knife is superior to any gasoline powered weed-wacker. It's not very good for trimming on steep slopes and handling woody shrubs, however. For those situations, there are few better methods for weed control than goat grazing. However, few of us would want to be a full time goat herd and if you left them there they would over-graze. Enter the perfect solution: goat rentals.

Gwendolyn Bounds covers the goat rental option for the Wall Street Journal in Free-Range Landscaping: and Others Bring in Herds to Trim the Yard, Get Rid of Weeds. Goats, apparently, fit into the corporate office landscape as well as they would in the hills around century old mansions. Goats also are a safe alternative to power tools (can't rip a foot off or tip over on you like a mower); they're cost competitive; and, IRS has no jurisdiction. But there are drawbacks; and Gwendolyn has some amusing ones to share... more story at

Friday, July 23, 2010

Swinging "Cow Wash" Means Happy, Healthy Cows and More Milk

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California

Everyone loves to get their back scratched. And for cows hard at work in dairy farms, a little rub against the "cow wash" goes a long way for getting cleaner both cleaner and calmer. The swinging brush stimulates blood circulation and improves milk production, while also relaxing the cows and helping to keep diseases from spreading. The invention by DeLaval is already popular in Swedish farms and is now making its way to the UK. Check out a video of cows enjoying their brush-up... read more story at

Dairy Farmers to Canadian ice cream lovers ...beware of imposters

'Frozen dessert' is not ice cream

MONTREAL, July 22, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Summer is here and Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) is once again warning Canadians to beware of imposters masquerading as ice cream. They are urging all ice cream lovers to visit to get the scoop on how to make sure they are buying real ice cream and not 'frozen dessert'.

There was a time when everything in the ice cream freezer was made from milk and was clearly labeled 'ice cream'. Recently, some manufacturers have removed the 'ice cream' label from major brands, replacing it with the term 'frozen dessert'. These products likely contain palm or coconut oils instead of cream. As a result, consumers are often completely unaware that the brands they buy are not ice cream. Instead they are buying a product that contains oils that many people are trying to avoid in their diet. Real ice cream is made from milk including ingredients derived from milk such as cream, skim milk powder and whey powder.

"There is nothing more satisfying on a hot day than delicious, cold, real ice cream made from 100% Canadian milk," says Solange Heiss, assistant director, marketing and nutrition communications at Dairy Farmers of Canada. "That's why Dairy Farmers of Canada is urging Canadians to look for the 100% Canadian Milk symbol on ice cream packaging and make sure it says ice cream not 'frozen dessert'."

DFC launched a new contest to help Canadians recognize when they are purchasing real ice cream and when they are buying 'frozen dessert'. Canadians can enter the contest for a chance to win a $10,000 trip to Jasper with their family at participating grocery stores, dairy bars and ice cream shops or on the internet at The website also links to the 'Make Better Choices' Facebook page where Canadians can upload their own funny videos and photos on the general topic of 'making better choices'.

Look for the 100% Canadian Milk Symbol

Dairy products bearing the 100% Canadian Milk symbol certify the origin of the milk used - renowned for its high quality, purity and great taste - and buying it supports local dairy producers and the economy. Dairy products made from 100% Canadian milk are rich in essential nutrients and are part of a healthy diet.

About Dairy Farmers of Canada

Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) strives to create favourable conditions for the Canadian dairy industry, today and in the future. DFC works to maintain policies that foster the viability of Canadian dairy producers and to promote quality Canadian dairy products made from 100% Canadian milk as part of a healthy balanced diet. DFC is completely funded by dairy producers.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Growing and Harvesting Tips

from the Old Farmer's Almanac

... As melons come in, place a board beneath them and the ground to keep them off the moist soil and to prevent insects from attacking.

... Beans have the best flavor if you harvest them in the morning.

... Are your tomatoes setting fruit? If it's over 90 degrees F, tomatoes don't do well; try shading them to reduce the heat.

... Keep plants moist but do not overwater (even in dry climates). Water slowly and deeply; let soil dry between watering. Wilted leaves in the morning is a sign of too little water.

... When you pull carrots, cut off the green tops; if left on, they will make the carrots limp.

For more harvesting tips, see our Ripeness Guide and our all-season Plant Guides for your common vegetables, fruits, and herbs.

Succession Gardening

Planning a second (or third) vegetable crop once you're done harvesting? Our succession gardening chart shows you the last planting dates for your area. Get free chart.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

In Toronto, a Backyard Transformed into an Urban Farm

by Alex Davies, St. Paul, Minnesota

In New York, a group of twenty-somethings who live together make up a hit sitcom. In Toronto, they make up Trinity Reach Farm. Let's call it The One Where the Gang Makes Their Backyard into an Urban Farm. An urban farm where they raise chickens, grow herbs and vegetables, smoke fish and meat, make cheese and brew beer and cider.

Trinity Reach Farm, recently profiled by Vidafine, was founded in the spring of 2009 by four young restaurant employees, Paul, Dave, Chris and Jacob. (Chris left the farm at the beginning of June; his room has been converted into a dining room.) Soon kicked off the roof by their landlord, the group moved into the apartment building's backyard, where things really took off, as they write in their blog:

Ideas began spilling out at a rapid pace. A smokehouse; chicken coupe; fire-pit; compost... perhaps fueled by a few too many home-brews, our small herb garden had turned into a full-fledged small-scale urban-farm, overseen by three inexperienced twenty-somethings.

And although raising your own chickens is technically illegal in Toronto, an otherwise very forward-looking, green city, the urban farmers haven't had any trouble with the neighbors or the law. Vidafine writes:

The team at Trinity Reach Farm isn't here to present anything revolutionary, they are just looking to use their talents and interests to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Ultimately, producing your own foods is fun, and enjoying the fruits of your own labour definitely tastes better!

... read more story at

The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth Begins!

CALGARY, July 9, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - The 2010 edition of the Calgary Stampede, one of Canada's most famous tourism icons and one of the world's great urban festivals, kicked off this morning with the spectacular Stampede Parade.

More than 220,000 visitors from across Canada and 70 other countries are expected to visit Calgary for this year's city-wide celebration, Juy 9 to 18. With fireworks exploding and jets soaring overhead, the Parade was officially set off by Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper along with the Stampede Parade Marshalls Jet and Cord McCoy, real-life cowboys and celebrated contestants from the CBS show "The Amazing Race". An estimated crowd of 350,000 people lined the streets of downtown Calgary for the Parade.

Known as The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, with 1.2 million visitors once again expected to spin the turnstiles at Stampede Park, the Calgary Stampede offers a unique set of experiences:

- the Calgary Stampede Rodeo, the most famous rodeo on the planet;
- the GMC Rangeland Derby, the world's premier chuckwagon championship;
- one of the world's leading western art exhibitions;
- the world's largest and most unique agriculture showcases;
- unique First Nations exhibition and encampment;
- an Evening Show spectacular that includes an amazing fireworks display;
- one of Canada's largest music festivals, and
- city-wide festivity that involves Calgarians pulling on cowboy hats and boots to participate in Stampede pancake breakfasts and barbecues in workplaces and neighbourhoods across the city.

These features are why BBC World called the annual Stampede festival the No.1 thing to do in the world in July and Mastercard Canada's 2007 Priceless Index called us the No.1 attraction or event in Canada for tourists to see.

"We have an exciting 10 days planned for Calgarians and the thousands of visitors who come from around the world," said Dr. David Chalack, Calgary Stampede president and chairman of the board. "People know they can come to the Stampede for a fun and exciting summer vacation and this year will be no different."

The Calgary Stampede is a volunteer-supported, not-for-profit community organization that preserves and promotes western heritage and values. The Stampede contributes to the quality of life in Calgary and southern Alberta through its world-renowned 10-day Stampede, year-round facilities, western events and several youth and agriculture programs. All revenue is reinvested into Calgary Stampede programs and facilities. For more about the Stampede, visit

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rural Doctors Call for Better Rural Health

SHAWVILLE, Quebec, July 5, 2010 /Canada NewsWire Telbec/ - Today a study published in the Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine, found that one in 7 (14%) of rural physicians planned to move from their communities within the next 2 years. Given that we already know that physicians are under-represented in rural communities, this finding risks making a bad situation worse.

Society of Rural Physicians (SRPC) President, Dr. John Wootton, said

"Canadians living in rural and remote areas are the mainstay of our country's resource producing economy, and deserve equitable access to health care."
The studies' authors reported that the rural doctors might stay if they had a more reasonable workload, and professional backup.

Dr. Wootton outlined a number of specific SRPC suggestions on how Canada and the provinces can do better to address rural Canada's needs.

The federal government can introduce measures to increase the number of students from rural Canada in medical school. Most current medical students come from affluent and urban backgrounds and most will choose specialty practice in the cities. Rural origin medical students are much more likely to enter into rural medical practice while only one in twenty origin students do so.

"This survey shows that while a wide array of incentives are being used to attract physicians to rural areas, more consideration needs to be paid to the factors that will encourage them to remain there," said Dr. Anne Doig, President of the Canadian Medical Association.

The study also found that the opportunity to provide comprehensive care and practise the full set of skill for which they have been trained is one of the things which attracts generalist physicians to rural Canada. By supporting generalist training and providing communities with local hospital services, provincial governments can create conditions to encourage more physicians to enter rural practice. Further programs are however needed for those who need special training in surgery, maternity care, anaesthesia, endoscopy, cardiac care, geriatric care, aboriginal health and others areas.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wild Birds Shun Organic Food

TUESDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) — You may think organic food is always better for you, but a new British study finds that wild birds beg to differ.

The researchers found that the birds prefer conventional wheat seed, which helps them pack in the protein.

The findings, study author Ailsa McKenzie of Newcastle University said in a news release from the school, were likely to be of “considerable interest to the general public in the debate over the relative merits of consuming organic food.”

“Protein is an essential nutrient in the diet of all birds and mammals, and getting enough of it, especially in winter, can be hard,” McKenzie said. “We showed that when given free choice, wild birds opt for the conventional food over the organic, and the most likely explanation is its higher protein content.”

McKenzie points out, however, that the study doesn’t look at some of the reasons that humans eat organic food: because it could be healthier over the long term, because it’s less exposed to certain fertilizers and pesticides and because non-organic food can be harmful to the environment.

The researchers reached their conclusions after studying feeding stations at more than two dozen gardens in northern England. They twice examined what birds ate — organic or non-organic seed — over six weeks in the winter.

Apparently, the birds like the protein in the non-organic food, which was estimated to be about 10 percent higher.

“Conventionally grown crops tend to contain significantly higher levels of protein than those grown organically due to the application of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers in conventional farming systems,” McKenzie said. “This makes our findings potentially applicable across many food types and suggests the issues surrounding organic food are not as cut-and-dried as some might think.”

The study was published online May 18 in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ontario Health Coalition Releases Cross-Province Report Appealing For Equity and Better Access In Rural Ontario

TORONTO, May 17, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Ontario Health Coalition has released a report appealing for equity and improved access to hospital services in rural Ontario. The report, "Toward Access and Equality: Realigning Ontario's Approach to Small and Rural Hospitals to Serve Public Values," is based on input received from more than 1,150 people who attended 12 hearings in regions across Ontario in March 2010.

The coalition organized its own public hearings after the government's own rural and northern health panel - created after hospital closures in small and rural communities - refused to hold any public consultations. In total the coalition received 487 submissions into the state and future of local hospitals.

Today's report has been written and submitted to the Ontario Health Coalition by a non-partisan panel including doctors, nurses, health professionals, representatives of each region of Ontario and representatives active in each political party.

Key recommendations include:

- Create a basket of services, available in every hospital, including the smallest and amalgamated hospitals. These services must include an emergency department, blood, x-ray, ultrasound, inpatient acute and complex continuing care beds, palliative care close to home, rehabilitation and others.

- Ensure that these services are provided, at optimum, 20 minutes in average road conditions and at most 30 minutes in average road conditions, from residents' homes.

- Step up efforts to address shortages of nurses, physicians and health professionals.

- Institute a moratorium on emergency department closures and revision of the closures of ALC/complex continuing care beds across the province.

- Phase out the LHINs within three years and create new local planning organizations with a new mandate that does not include closing rural hospitals.

- Restore democratic hospital boards and curb the powers of government-appointed hospital supervisors.

- Reform hospital performance measures to restore compassion and access to care as primary.

- Impose a hiring freeze on consultants and plan to increase hospital funding to meet the national average.


"We heard stories of poor care practices resulting from hospital bed cuts whereby patients are forced out of hospital too quickly in a bid to empty a hospital bed, then spend most of the rest of their lives in the emergency department with poor quality of life until they die," said Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition. "In the worst instances, we heard of patients left waiting on stretchers in emergency departments for days without food, without enough nursing care, under bright lights, with no privacy. Whole communities have lost access to vital services and now must travel 100 km or more to access care. The cuts are neither serving small hospitals well, nor are they serving larger and regional hospitals well, as patients are piling into already-overwhelmed hospitals in larger centres when their local services are cut. We have concluded that urgent change is required. We have put together a set of recommendations to restore the principles of access, compassion, equality and democracy in our health system."

"Our panel has heard an overwhelming consensus that the millions of healthcare dollars spent to set up and operate the 14 LHINs could have been better invested in patient care," said Barb Proctor, RN, and one of the panelists who traveled the province. "LHINs have not demonstrated improvements in care, only service cuts that leave huge gaps in service delivery. We heard over and over that individual citizens and municipal leaders trying to contact their LHIN with questions or input have been met with arrogance or received no response at all. The LHINs are viewed by rural and northern communities as a firewall between the government and the people."

"Closing services in small community hospitals downloads travel costs to patients," noted Dr. Claudette Chase, another panelist. "It is my greatest concern that many patients cannot afford access to care when it is moved out of their local community."

"The pride of people in the small communities we visited certainly is an inspiration to us all. We heard that we must not let the provincial government and its creature, the LHINs, destroy healthcare for those of us who do not choose to live in urban centres," added Dr. Tim Macdonald, panelist.

"We heard clearly the great frustration of communities removed from all control of local hospitals," observed the Honourable Roger Gallaway, former MP and a panelist. "The McGuinty government has created a group of elites called CEOs who control hospitals, even to the point of contriving their boards of directors. Communities now have no decision-making function in community hospitals."

"This is a wake-up message that our healthcare system is in an ever-deepening crisis," added Kathleen Tod, RN, another panelist. "Having spent half my nursing career working in a busy emergency department, I thought I had seen it all. After listening to the presentations across Ontario, I realize it was not even close."

"The coalition deserves thanks for its hard work in organizing the panels and for writing such a thorough report," said France Gelinas, MPP and one of the panelists. "I am disappointed that the government's own panel on rural and northern health care failed to consult the public about the future of their local hospitals and health system."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Recycled Wine Corks For Eco-friendly Penny Tile Flooring

by Kimberley D. Mok, Montreal, Canada

Cork is pretty versatile, given its credentials as a renewable material (the bark harvested from the cork tree renews itself each season, so the tree itself remains unharmed), so it's no surprise to see it popping up as furniture, fabric, jewelry, ornaments, cutting boards and of course -- as flooring. Cork tiles can lend a warmer feeling to any room. While cork planks and tiles are not bad, these cork penny tiles from Canadian-based Jelinek Cork Group are even better, being both stylish and eco-friendly (ie. made from recycled wine corks). Plus, they do a good job of masquerading as ceramic tile, without the need to fire them at high temperatures.

Through initiatives like the CorkReHarvest drop-off recycling program, Jelinek collects old wine corks to be cut into circular discs of ¼" thick. The tiles are then glued onto a special paper backing to form mosaic patterns, and can also be painted and arranged in different colours as well. The tiles are glued to the subfloor and then grouted like regular ceramic tile and sealed with polyurethane to boost cork's natural water-resistance (best done with a low-VOC polyurethane sealant).

Some advantages to cork flooring: it's an excellent insulator & sound absorber, hygienic, anti-static, anti-allergenic, water resistant, doesn't entrap dirt or fungi, won't chip like ceramic when you drop something on it, plus it is easy to more story at

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Transplanting Tips

from The Old Farmer's Almanac

May is a green as no other,
May is much sun through small leaves,
May is soft earth,
And apple-blossoms,
And windows open to a South Wind.

–Amy Lowell (1874–1925)

For many gardeners, May is the biggest transplanting month. A seedling’s move to the outdoors can be traumatic. Here are some tips to minimize transplant shock:

• Be sure that the plants “harden off.” During the plants’ last week indoors, lower temperatures a bit, withhold fertilizer, and water less often.

• For the last 7 to 10 days, bring seedlings outdoors for increasing periods each day, first placing them in dappled shade, protected from winds, and then gradually moving them into full sun and wind.

• Do not leave outside if there is danger of frost. See your frost-free dates.

• When buying transplants at a nursery, choose stocky plants with deep-green foliage. You’ll need to harden off these transplants, too.

• Ideally, the transplants that you grow or buy are in individual containers so that you do not disturb the roots of neighboring seedlings when you remove each plant.

Read more tips on transplanting.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Volunteerism as Backbone of Farming: Return of the Barn Raising

by Sami Grover, Carrboro, NC, USA

Conceived originally as a means for landless farmers to get farming, Crop Mob has grown and flourished in little over a year. Volunteers get together once a month and descend on a local farm or garden, and work together to get a big job done. No money exchanges hands. And everyone shares a meal at the end of the day. I may have once worried that volunteerism is the cheap oil of permaculture, but a new video about Crop Mob has sent my thinking on a different path.

Created by UNC TV, and brought to my attention by my friend and colleague TAO, the video explores a February Crop Mob that convened to build rice paddies in North Carolina. Besides the obvious joy and energy in peoples' faces as they get together for collective work—which should be reason enough to dispel any doubts about the utility of such volunteerism—an old farmer in the community provides some perspective on why this phenomenon matters.

Far from being a fun pass-time for volunteers to 'play' at farming, or a new form of 'serfdom' as one cynical commenter once wrote, Crop Mob is really a return to a tradition that has been absolutely central to viable, sustainable farming in regions all across the Globe—and that tradition is community more at

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Going Bee-less - Trials of Self-Pollinating Almond Trees Begin in California

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, Californi

What happens as bee numbers decline and there aren't enough to pollinate all the crops grown in California? One solution is to make the plants self-pollinating. And that's just what scientists and farmers are testing out with almond orchards in California. Almonds are the top California food export and the nation's sixth largest export. Over 90 countries import almonds from California, and that means growers are increasingly concerned about how they're going to get their trees pollinated without bees. A new variety of self-pollinating trees has been created, and results of how its doing are just starting to trickle in.

According to Physorg, a self-pollinating tree variety has been in development for over a decade, and the new tree is going through a field trial by the Almond Board of California, the industry's marketing and research arm. Last year, however, Chowchilla farmer Jim Maxwell planted 40 acres of one new self-pollinating tree variety called Independence, and so far they've been fairing well. Still, it will take a few seasons before we'll know what kind of output they have, especially for a commercial orchard. Because it takes awhile for the trees to mature, it will be about eight years before farmers know if self-pollinating trees stand up in the commercial market compared to those pollinated by bees.... Read the full story on TreeHugger

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Public Campaign Launched to Promote Conservation Path for Ontario's Water Opportunities Act

TORONTO, April 14, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - A diverse coalition of environmental, industry, labour and community organizations as well as individual Ontarians have launched a public campaign today to ensure the provincial government includes a strong conservation and efficiency theme in the proposed Water Opportunities Act. The Ontario Water Conservation Alliance is also releasing its platform entitled Conserve Our Water.

"A strong water conservation and efficiency program will create jobs, protect the environment and save Ontario taxpayer dollars by avoiding new and unnecessary water facilities and lowering energy costs," said Carol Maas, Innovation and Technology Director, POLIS Water Sustainability Project.

"It is far cheaper to fix inefficiencies than to build new infrastructure and the savings go beyond our pocketbook," added Derek Stack, Executive Director of Great Lakes United. "Water conservation will reduce the energy used to pump, treat and heat water and this will lower greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment."

The Alliance came together after the government announced its plans for the Act as part of The Speech from the Throne. While supportive of the government's intention to make water issues a public policy priority, the Alliance believes an environmentally sustainable and economically secure province requires a comprehensive water conservation and efficiency strategy.

The Alliance's platform is built on three key themes:

- Setting meaningful targets and measuring performance. Targets build momentum for improvement and accurate performance measurements ensure we succeed. Accountability can be maintained through mandatory monitoring and reporting of targets.

- Requiring conservation plans, establishing efficiency standards and supporting green infrastructure. Linking water conservation requirements explicitly to infrastructure grants will ensure we do not repeat past mistakes. In addition, land use planning, landscape design and building decisions should incorporate innovative water conservation, leafy green infrastructure and low impact development approaches.

- Fostering market transformation and a culture of conservation. The province should lead by example and ensure public sector buildings, operations and facilities initiate and embrace
conservation plans and water efficient procurement policies. This would feed into a broader social marketing strategy with the goal of instilling a province-wide "ethic of water stewardship."

The economic benefits from a strong government commitment to water conservation and efficiency are vast. The revenues of the world's water-related businesses is expected to nearly double to $1 trillion by 2020 and global water shortages will drive the need for innovations that emphasize efficiency, reuse and source diversification. Mississauga-based Niagara Flapperless is an excellent example of this innovation in action. The developers of leak-free water efficient toilets and the world's first single flush 3 Litre toilet represent the green economy this government is trying to build.

"Government incentives used to help foster a culture of water conservation would create new opportunities for green technology developed by Ontario entrepreneurs," said Jerrad Hennessy, General Manager, Niagara Flapperless. "Programs aimed at the adoption of new green technology would be good news for businesses, good news for consumers and good news for all Ontarians concerned about the responsible and efficient use of water."

Over the coming weeks, the Alliance will be releasing evidence of the economic, energy and taxpayer benefits that can be realized from a legislated commitment to water conservation and efficiency. The Alliance's full platform, list of partners and opportunities for public engagement can be viewed at

"The Province has opened the door to a new way of thinking about water," said Stack. "The Ontario Water Conservation Alliance urges the government to seize this historic opportunity to secure a healthy, clean water supply for many generations to come."

About the Ontario Water Conservation Alliance

The Ontario Water Conservation Alliance is a coalition of citizens, non-governmental organizations and businesses who believe an environmentally sustainable and economically secure province requires a comprehensive water conservation and efficiency strategy. The Alliance is therefore advocating for a Water Conservation and Opportunities Act for Ontario. For more information please visit:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Azure Magazine: Designs For Food

by Lloyd Alter, Toronto

The design magazine Azure's May issue is almost all about food, and the subject never looked so good. The issue focuses on the changes in the food system, and how it affects design:

"There's a profound shift taking place in the realm of what we eat, how we eat it, and the social and political climate around food.....The following pages consider many ways to rethink cooking, eating and growing - and food's relationship to landscape architecture, graphic design, product development, interiors and more."

Designs for food include a few items seen in TreeHugger, including the Ekokook kitchen and the MIT Food printer. ... Read the full story on TreeHugger

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Canada Approves Enviropig™, Piglets Inherit Genetic Modifications for Clean Manure

by Christine Lepisto, Berlin

Canada has approved limited production of animals dubbed "enviropigs™," a genetically modified breed of pigs producing up to 65% less phosphorous in pig poo and urine. The pigs pass the genetic modification along to their young, as well. The very idea that a genetically modified animal rates the moniker "enviro-" points to the severity of the issue addressed by the science behind these pigs. Phosphorous is a fertilizer. Phosphorous in animal and human wastes runs off or discharges to surface waters, where it spurs large algal blooms. The algae use up the oxygen in the water, leaving behind a "dead zone," an area of lake, river, or ocean where nothing can live due to the hypoxic conditions.

How does the enviropig work (image in extended)? And does the dead zone problem justify permitting production of these "franken-pigs"?

The genetic modification used by scientists at the University of Guelph, Ontario involves an enzyme known as phytase. Phosphorous plays an essential role in the growth of bones, construction of DNA and RNA, and in regulating cell and organ processes. But most of the phosphorous in a grain-based diet are bound up as organic complexes which pigs cannot digest. Supplementing pig diets with phytase, itself produced from genetically modified fungi Aspergillus Niger, has been advocated as an environmental protection measure.... Read the full story on TreeHugger

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Brits Take the One Pot Pledge to 'Give Growing a Go'

by Jennifer Hattam, Istanbul, Turkey

The many U.K. residents who reportedly lack the confidence to grow their own food are being encouraged to start small by the nationwide One Pot Pledge campaign, which is asking Brits to sign up to grow just one edible plant this year -- and recruiting "gardening gurus"to help mentor the newbies along.

"Despite the surge in interest in 'grow your own,' many newcomers -- although keen to have a go -- still don't know where to start when it comes to food growing. Many are put off because they think they don't have space to garden, or because they don't have the time or knowledge," the organizers wrote in a recent release about the campaign.

Weathering the Financial Crisis Through Self Sufficiency

An unrelated survey last fall by the Soil Association showed that while "92 percent of Brits say that self sufficiency and traditional skills like growing your own food, crafting, and rearing your own livestock have become more and more important during the financial crisis," few felt equipped to introduce such habits into their own lives:

Lack of confidence in their skills could be holding Brits back from taking the plunge towards self sufficiency, with half admitting they have lost the practical skills of their grandparent's generation -- 45 percent admit they have fewer cooking skills, 47 percent say they are less able to grow their own food, 48 percent have lost the rural craft skills that make self sufficiency possible, and 51 percent say they would have no idea how to rear animals.

... more story at

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sustain Our Farms Town Hall Meeting

GUELPH, Ontario, April 1, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition (OASC) to host a Town Hall meeting of Ontario's agricultural leaders and as many as 200 local farmers.


Sustain our Farms Forum - A Town Hall meeting for farmers and
agricultural leaders.


Ontario's local food supply is in jeopardy, along with thousands of
families, farms and processing jobs. Urgent government action is needed
to ensure that Ontario agriculture is sustainable.


Tuesday, April 6, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm


Stratford Rotary Complex, Community Hall, 353 McCarthy Road, Stratford,


MP Gary Schellenberger,
MPP John Wilkinson,
MPP Ernie Hardeman, Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Critic, Invited
Mayor Dan Mathieson, City of Stratford
Chris White, Chair of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) and
Mayor of the Township of Guelph/Eramosa

The OASC's members include the Ontario Cattlemen's Association, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association, Ontario Grains & Oilseeds, Ontario Pork, the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency and Ontario Veal, together with the Christian Farmers' Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

For further information: OFA President, Bette Jean Crews: (613) 921-0597; Lesley Robinson, Redbrick Communications: (705) 241-3287,

Friday, February 26, 2010

Junk collector or Antiquarian

By: AlienOverlord626, Contributor

Anyone who has ever seen the television program "Antiques Roadshow" knows that often people may have a small fortune in their houses without realizing it. An old rug can be worth thousands. In many instances the person inherited the item from a relative and had no idea of it's true value. The chance of this happening to the average person is pretty slim. It is possibe however to enter the exciting world of the Antiquarian (someone who collects antiques) with only a minimum of preparation and cost. Here are a few simple suggestions that will help the average person get started.

Start at your local Thrift store. Often people donate old, unused furniture and household good without thinking about their possible value. People love the new, shinny gadgets that come out year after year. They are incouraged to get rid of their old things and buy new ones. This is of course foolish. New furnishings are often designed to last only a few years while older furniture can last literally for hundreds of years. 'Grandma's old table may be worth hundreds more than that new glass table.

Which brings us to the next important thing: Learn what to look for. Valuable antiques will often have the name of the craftsman who made them on an underside. Plates, dishes and silverwear will have what is called a 'watermark'. This is simply the stamp of the person or company who made it and the date it was made. Designer clothing can often be found in such places and can be purchased for a fraction of their original cost.

Special note: The reason Antique stores aren't mentioned in this section is because the people that own them often know the real value of their goods and will charge much more than that just to cover costs and profit.

Yard sales. One person's trash can literally be another's treasure. A classic example is a man (Who shall remain nameless) who bought a set of wrought iron lamps for 35 dollars. He went home and looked them up to discover they were worth 900 dollars each! The man who did this understood the two most important rules for buying antiques. 1. If it looks valuable it probably is. 2.Gold is where you find it. That is an old expression that means you have to be looking for something to find it. The man I just mentioned has been doing this for years. He enjoys filling his house with high quality furnishings and artwork for a fraction of what new furnishings would cost. There is no rule that says you have to look for yard sales in your own neighbourhood. By taking a Saturday to check out the yardsales in town it is possible to discover a secret world of treasure.

There is another aspect to this hobby that makes it particularly appealing these days, the savings a person achieve by furnishing their homes this way. The same man furnished an entire house for 300 dollars. There are a couple of things to consider though. The popularity of television shows about antiques means there is more competition than in earlier years. The second thing to consider is the economy. There was a time when only a few people frequented yard sales and thrift stores and most of those people were poor. Such is not the case these days. It is not unusual to see new cars in the parking lots of thrift stores and parked in front of yard sales. This is where homework comes in. The average person will look at an old crank operated record player and not realize it's an old 'Victrola' and worth it's weight in gold (even at today's rates).

The simple act of research can make the difference between buying old junk and making a prudent investment. Collecting antiques is the only hobby where a person can spend twenty dollars and recieve something worth hundreds. It is worth well worth doing even if only for fun.

"One of the most obvious facts about grownups to a child is that they have forgotten what it is like to be a child." - Randall Jarrell