When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the future of the Cannard Family Farm was looking bleak. Their organic vegetables supplied a single Berkeley restaurant.
Ross Cannard is the son of an iconic leader in the local organic movement in California. Bob Cannard built his 30-year career by rejecting organic certification in favour of his own “better than organic” breed of “natural process agriculture,” enriching the soil on his Green String Farm with crushed rock and compost.
He and his son have long sold the fruits of their labour to the famous restaurant Chez Panisse, where, since 1971, chef Alice Waters has pioneered an elegant cuisine based entirely on fresh, local foods straight from the farm.
But in March, the stay-at-home order hit, and the restaurant closed.
“You’re a farmer. Plants are already in the ground,” says Evan Wiig, director of membership and communications for the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. “You make plans months and months in advance. You can’t just turn on a dime.”
Waters was worried about the vulnerable situation her workers and producers were finding themselves in. She rushed to establish a subscription CSA, which stands for community-supported agriculture, offering weekly food boxes that could be picked up at the closed restaurant, filled with goodies from her regular producers like Cannard.
She was trying to connect her network with the people who would like to have that food in their home, skipping the restaurant for now, and helping people do the cooking in their own kitchen.
Cannard augments that market with his own local CSA, setting up a farm stand in the parking lot of Baker & Cook, a café in nearby Boyes Hot Springs, now serving only takeout. Along with produce, Cannard has his olive oil available, as well as wine from a friend’s vineyard, and flowers from another local farm. Friends and neighbours are among his 100 or so customers.
Similar situations are sprouting up across North America. In Edmonton, every year, farmer Graham Sparrow welcomes spring. But this year, he’s plain crazy about it.
That’s because of his certified organic farm, Sparrow’s Nest, is part of a business model that stands to benefit from COVID-19. Known as community-supported agriculture (CSA), the model sees customers pay farmers upfront to guarantee their supply of vegetables throughout the season.
Sparrow is celebrating 20 years of farming 20 acres of certified organic soil near Opal, and with this crisis, he is almost sold out.”
Last year, Sparrow sold 35 shares for his farm to customers who care about fresh, local, and organic. This year so far, he’s already at 40 shares and is still taking more orders. Customers tell him they’re worried about disruptions to the supply chain caused by COVID-19.
“People are talking about food security, local food, the supply chain — the COVID-19 words of panic,” says Sparrow, who also has a booth at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market starting May 2. “It’s about time. I’ve been working so hard and people need to wake up.”
The pandemic may be a boon for Sparrow, whose shares are competitively priced at $825 a family for 18 weeks of fresh produce starting in late June with spinach, baby lettuce, and scallions. But other market garden farmers are less enthusiastic about the current situation.
Tam Andersen, owner of Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm near Bon Accord, says the business is a mixture of community-supported agriculture, restaurant supply and tourism. Two of those three anchors have disappeared.
Tam Andersen (right) and her daughter Laurel Andersen (left) in the tomato greenhouse at Prairie Garden farm, northwest of Bon Accord, Alberta, where they are running a community-supported agriculture program. Larry Wong / Postmedia
With mandated restrictions on gathering, the 25,000 seasonal visitors who usually come to the farm for activities (including a petting zoo, plus strawberry and pumpkin festivals) will trickle to unprecedented lows. RGE RD is Andersen’s only restaurant client still operating and although she hopes to sell more CSA shares to make up the difference, it’s uncertain that will be enough.
Janelle Herbert of Riverbend Gardens, which has both a farmers market business and a CSA program, says her CSA sales are up 100 percent over sales last April. One factor is that people have dropped their plans to travel this summer, and now will be home to enjoy week-after-week of fresh produce delivery.
Still, only about one-third of Riverbend’s business is CSA clients and Herbert worries about the overall viability of Alberta’s farmers’ markets this season. Usually, summer markets are bustling with customers, who enjoy the fresh offerings and the opportunity to socialize. Though markets are allowed to be open, customer numbers have been dramatically reduced by health officials. Also, people are worried about gathering, even at smaller markets.
“I’m hoping people will still see the farmers market as a safe place to shop and continue to go there,” says Herbert.
She feels optimistic that citizens value fresh and local enough to visit the markets, perhaps buying for more than one family to help limit crowds while still supporting farmers.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if people could turn these challenging circumstances of COVID-19 into something positive? One of the benefits of COVID-19 has been that our waterways and air are getting cleaner. It’s interesting how quickly it started making an impact and gives hope that it is not too late if we don’t just go “back to normal” when all this is over.
In February, The Earth Island Institute filed a lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court, which is believed to be the first of its kind. The Earth Island Institute asked for unspecified damages and an order for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestle USA, Procter & Gamble and six other companies to clean up the plastic waste that the group says has created a global pollution crisis. It follows a rising public outcry about plastics pollution — particularly in the world’s oceans — and initiatives by state and federal lawmakers to force companies to take ownership of the material they use to package their products.
On the face of it, I would say that it is a great start, but you have to ask yourself this. If these big corporations actually cared about our environment and their customers why have they not done something about this before? Why do they have to wait until lawsuits are filed all the while people, animals and our environment have been harmed for decades? Do you think they actually care? And why have they been buying up any of the small natural or eco-friendly companies like:
So why are they buying out these companies? Because they now suddenly care about their customers and the environment? I don’t think so. They could have changed their products and packaging decades ago if that was the case. As people have become more aware of some of the dangers of ingredients, the benefits of healthier versions, and the impact their buying decisions can have, big corporations have taken note, and are trying to eliminate the competition.
And if you still think they are changing, and the products will stay the same as when owned by the original small businesses, think again!
After Kellogg Co. acquired the Battle Creek, Michigan-based Kashi, customers worried that Kashi would begin using genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, which were known to be used in Kellogg’s cereals. Controversy erupted in 2012 after a Rhode Island grocer posted a note saying he wouldn’t sell Kashi cereal because he discovered the brand used genetically engineered ingredients. Kashi said it had done nothing wrong and noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the term “natural.”
Cascadian Farm used to be famous for its cereals with “no added sugar.” A few years ago, this label disappeared from its boxes. A Cascadian Farm customer said her children noticed a funny new taste in their Purely O’s. It turned out the cereal had tripled its sugar count to 3 grams from 1 gram in 2009.
Now here’s an idea…instead of relying on the legal system to force big corporations to stop polluting our environment, and have them “green-wash” us into thinking that they just didn’t know, but now they care. Why not use our buying power to no longer support these big corporations? Why not switch our shopping and use our spending dollars on better products while supporting our friends, family and neighbours businesses, and organic farmers that have safer, healthier products and are better for the environment?
Have you seen the documentary, “The Human Experiment”? It is a big eye-opener, and although disturbing, is also a “must-see” movie.
Narrated by Sean Penn, THE HUMAN EXPERIMENT lifts the veil on the shocking reality that thousands of untested, unregulated chemicals are in the products we use every day, our homes, and inside each of us. Simultaneously, disease rates are rising: everything from cancer to infertility is appearing at levels doctors and researchers have never seen. This is the shocking reality explored by Journalists Dana Nachman and Don Hardy, as they follow the personal stories of people who believe their lives have been drastically and painfully affected by these chemicals.
Taking viewers to the front lines as activists go head-to-head with the powerful and profitable chemical industry, staking their lives on this battle to protect our health, these activists bring to light a corrupt, unaccountable system that has been hidden from consumers … until now. THE HUMAN EXPERIMENT makes the case that the biggest chemical threat facing humans today is not from an oil spill, or a nuclear meltdown, but could be right in your kitchen. Take a look at the movie trailer:
So what can we do? Don’t support the manufacturers who are poisoning us and our families. Those same manufacturers are also poisoning our water, environment and wildlife. Do your research. Products you think are “green” may have been bought out by the same companies that have been poisoning us for decades: Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Clorox, etc.
I was listening to the radio today while driving my daughter to school and heading for a walk with our dog, and the DJ said that most of the top New Year’s resolutions this year involve money – get a new job, ask for a raise, start a business, be more productive at work, etc. So I decided to do a search to see what I came up with.
I found that according to Statistica.com, these are the top New Year’s resolutions in America this year, so they may or may not be the same in Canada, or other countries worldwide, but I would expect that most would make the list, perhaps with different percentages.
So for those wanting to start a new business, or who already are in business, it would make sense to take note of these resolutions and provide products and/or services that meet the demands of most people’s desires and needs. In that case, I would look seriously at spending time developing a business that helps people achieve better health and wellness, that teaches people how to develop new skills, improve their social skills, helps them be more eco-friendly, and earn and save more money since that will meet the majority of people’s goals.
The other aspects that I believe are vitally important to look at as well, is the business’s scalability and having a continuity business plan.
What I mean by scalability is this. The majority of people starting a new business do not have the funds at their disposal to quit their job, invest a lot of time and money in a business, and still be able to pay their mortgage, rent or other living expenses. They need to find something that can be worked part-time as a side-hustle until income is high enough, at least 3 times their current income, before going full-time into their business.
And having a continuity business plan is vital to overcome the challenges beyond your control. You need to have products and/or services that people will continue to need, want and buy day after day, year after year, no matter what is going on. Something that will withstand bad politicians, poor government, a recession, and even war.
Having been an entrepreneur, business consultant and have been in traditional business, and the work from home industry for almost 20 years, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. First, there are the new, glitzy businesses that tell you that you are starting on a ground floor opportunity because no one has heard about the product, service or company yet. The problem is most businesses fail in their first three years.
I used to think that if you got involved with a company that has made it past the 4-5 year mark, you have the best of both worlds, but that is not the case either. You really need to look at the stability of the company, the integrity and experience of those leading the company, and the products/services being offered.
What is the unique selling proposition? What do you have that customers want that they can not get from someone else? Is your product unique? Is your quality better? Is your price better? Is your service better? People will pay more for higher quality and better service, but only so much more, especially if the economy is poor, and if you can actually provide higher quality AND save them money, then you are really onto something!
And something to note on uniqueness, if the product or service is so unique that they don’t understand why or how they will use it, and it is not something that people really need and use every day, chances of them continuing to buy the product or service for long duration is not likely. You need to have something that really solves a problem, that they see benefits them, and is consumable. That is what really provides the stable, monthly residual income.
And finally, for those in business, what are some good New Year Resolutions for Entrepreneurs?
I welcome your thoughts and feedback in the comments, and love to hear your goals and plans for 2020!
I consider myself very fortunate that I have worked from home for almost 20 yrs. now, and I really doubt I would be able to go back to teaching in a public school or work for anyone else. But as in anything, although there are many advantages in working from home, there are also some challenges.
When I first began working from home, my most important reason was to be able to be home with my three children who were ages 5, 3 and newborn at the time. Once I started homeschooling, I became determined to be able to make it work so I could continue.
I love that my three children were able to learn at home and I was able to spend so much time with them while they were growing up. Life was an adventure, and very messy! Most mornings we devoted to reading and other school work, except we had lots of life-learning days when we went off on hikes with our homeschool group or other educational -learning and life adventures.
I would squeeze work into little blocks of time when they were playing, reading or engaged, but my main block of work time was from 8pm to midnight. The kids thought I never slept because I would be dressed in daytime clothes when the went to bed, and when they got up in the morning!
It was challenging to do everything, and I must say that the house did get messy at times, since I had to prioritize my time and focus on the most important things, but we have some great memories of fun and learning!
During those times, money was very tight as I struggled trying different ways to earn enough money from home, but when I ended up going through divorce and becoming a single mum six years after starting on this adventure, I was able to buy a house on my own and continue homeschooling them. Now that they are all grown up with the youngest in her last year of high school, there are new advantages and challenges.
One advantage in working from home is you can set your own hours, but that can also be a challenge, especially for an ADHD personality like me. You have to develop systems and schedules to keep yourself on track, and eliminate distractions. I set my start time and breaks for the day go to my studio so I don’t get distracted by things that need done around the house.
Setting goals and creating a schedule is vital. I use a bullet journal to track everything, and an online family calendar to put everyone’s events in. It is on my phone and my laptop, and emails me reminders. Also, I have a very poor sense of time, so I have alarms go off on my phone at different times during the day to help the day from “getting away from me”. I also have an alarm when I need to pick my daughter up from school, so I don’t accidentally leave here there!
But family and other people can unintentionally mess up your schedule or work time. They forget, or don’t realize, how important your schedule is and the fact you are working, even though you are home. Because you are at home, they will ask you to pick things up while you are out, or ask you to do things because you are “at home”. You may need to tell people that it is not okay to stop by to chat because you have work to do and let them know your schedule is jam packed!
I believe those who work at home successfully probably work more hours than most of those who work outside the home for someone else, especially in the beginning. Because of that, one of the things that is vitally important is to schedule family time and “down time”, so you don’t suffer from “burnout”. If you work a 9 to 5 job, when you are done working, you are done; but when you work at home, work is always there. So having a separate work space is not only important so you aren’t distracted from work by home life, but also so you can “shut the door” on work when it it family and “down” time.
The mobile phone and all the apps we now have is another double-edged sword. The advantage is that you can work on the go, but friends and family can distract you with texts, calls. Also, you need to learn to let things wait, that can wait until tomorrow, when you are in non-work time.
When you work at home you may not have the regular paycheck, health benefits, and “security” that those who work for someone else may appear to have, but if you are working in the right industry, put in the necessary time to build your business well, you can make far more per hour, and have more security, peace of mind and time freedom. For all the challenges I have had, I have no regrets because I learned so much and would never want to go back to working for someone else.
On our little 8 acre hobby farm here in Southern Ontario, we have lots a animals that we have rescued or that have found us! Animals have always been an important part of my life, and I have been rescuing and caring for them since I was very young.
I became interested in holistic health when I was in my early twenties, after having digestive problems that doctors could not help me with, and healed myself through diet. It was at that time that I became vegetarian, and later switched to a vegan diet.
Because our animals are part of the family, I also believed they would benefit, and have seen the positive results of them living as chemical-free as possible and utilizing a holistic health approach. An excellent resource book in my personal library is Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats. It has a lot of great information and an excellent resource. Unfortunately we don’t have a holistic veterinarian in our area, so I rely on educating myself and then working with our local traditional veterinarians.
In Dr. Pitcairn’s book he states, “…there are some problems with vaccinations that I should be understood by anyone interested in a holistic health approach. Vaccines are not always effective, and they may cause long-lasting health disturbances.” He also goes on with alternatives he uses in his practice and other recommendations if you do not have a holistic veterinarian in your area. But the one point I would like to address here is his recommendation to avoid annual boosters. He states, “There has never been scientific justification for the yearly booster shots recommended by veterinarians, even though it has become a popular practice.”
When you look at the life span of your pet, it just does not make sense to vaccinate them every year. Humans who, live a much longer life than the average dog, cat or other companion animal, are not recommended to have that large number of vaccines, unless you count the flu shot, which is a whole other topic of something that is pointless and I don’t do! Also, within the human medical profession we have seen ill effects and allergic reactions to vaccines, so it makes sense that our animal friends, would suffer some of the same problems.
I did some research into titer testing, which is most commonly done when a vet or vet tech draws blood and send it to an outside lab for testing for immunity to the various common diseases that your pet is normally vaccinated for. However, this is very expensive. So I did some more searching and found out there is a company that manufactures an in-house titer test that any veterinarian can perform in-house at a very low cost. It is called VacciCheck and here in Ontario the local distributor is Aventix. I contacted Aventix directly and inquired if there were any veterinarians in the area that they supplied with VacciCheck.
In our area, the is only one veterinarian who uses VacciCheck, so last year I made an appointment for our dog with her. For under $70 we found our dog was healthy and did not need the annual vaccine that most other veterinarians would have given her. I had the results sent to our regular veterinary hospital, which is only 10-15 minutes from our house. This year when they called to remind me to make a appointment for our dog’s annual check up, I asked again about the in-house titer test. They asked me to send the information about Vaccicheck, but basically said that I was only the third person who asked about a titer test so they did not see a need, and most likely would not use the product. I told them that I know a lot of dog owners in the area who would be very interested, if they knew about it, and recommended they talk to a local pet store owner who specialized in raw food, and other holistic pet products, even providing her contact information and letting her know.
Hopefully some of this information and the resources I found will help you in finding some one in our area who administers VacciCheck or in educating your local veterinarians to start, and help you and your animal companions! I will be posting more about holistic health for people and our animal friends, so please follow and feel free to contact Wendy with questions!
Our family tries to live as healthy as possible. We have a little 8 acre hobby farm with lots of rescue animals, and a large vegetable garden in which we grow a lot of fresh vegetables for the people and animals in our family.
We also support local farms which grow organically to get some of the varieties of vegetables that either we did not grow enough of, or didn’t grow that season. We like to get the freshest possible by growing our own and supporting the local organic growers, when available. One local grower near us is Kalas Family Farm. They are at several different farmer’s markets in our area, and are wonderful! I will be sharing more about them next growing season, and also sharing some great sources for heritage seeds and plants, as well as organic gardening tips.
Living in Southern Ontario makes growing year round challenging, but we do extend the season with greenhouse covers for our 8’x3′ open growing boxes. And in off-season, more organic produce is becoming available in grocery stores and as the demand increases, more continues to be available at better prices. I have seen a number of times when organic or organically grown produce is the same price as the stuff with harmful chemicals sprayed on it!
And do you realize how bad products found in most people’s homes can be? An independent lung damage study was done several years ago that determined that using common household products like these are as bad for causing cancer as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day! This affects not only the people in our family, but our pets too!
About ten of the big businesses like PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, Coca-cola, Nestle, etc. control almost everything you buy in the grocery store! Unfortunately they care much more about profits than the health of consumers or our environment. You may see some greenwashing articles about them supposedly spending money to help the environment, but just looking at some of the facts such as PepsiCo & Coca Cola pesticide and pollution issues in India and the recent lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson that won, because they knew their baby powder contained contained asbestos for 30 years, and did nothing.
This is why we choose products that are better for our health, our environment and actually save us money! You would think that higher quality products that are safer for us and the environment would cost more, but we found products that save time and money and aren’t supporting the businesses that are polluting our environment and negatively impacting people and animals’ health and well-being. In the past we tried using natural ingredients like baking soda, vinegar and other DIY solutions for cleaning and personal care, but found they just didn’t work as well, and many were more time consuming to make.
As an artist, I get paint on just about every item of clothing I own! I couldn’t believe when I got paint out of one of my sweaters that have been through the washer and dryer multiple times before with the old laundry products, and our clothing lasts longer now, saving even more money. So finding safer, healthier products and food is not only possible, better for your family, animals and the environment, but it can save you money too!
I have been growing our own organic vegetable since I moved to Southern Ontario 9 years ago. Growing up in Glasgow, Scotland and living in other city and suburban areas, I didn’t do a lot of serious gardening before, although I did do some container gardening, grew herbs, and a little backyard gardening.
There is nothing better than picking and eating fresh vegetables that you know don’t have any chemicals on them! But here in Ontario, we only have so long to grow heat loving tomatoes, so we like to preserve them for a taste of summer in the winter!
Making your own organic tomato sauce not only saves money, but is so much better than what you buy, plus you know what is in it, and not in it! There is something so satisfying about seeing a big batch of beautiful jars of food you have grown, and canned yourself!
So this year I did my sauce a bit differently and it turned out so amazing, I am never going to make it any other way! Instead of cooking down the tomatoes on the stovetop and steaming up the house I roasted them on the barbecue grill! You can also roast them in the oven, which is how I did our canned tomatoes this year, and they were amazing too! What I like best is not only the amazing flavour, but the bright colour and that you get a lovely thick sauce in less time. And with the roasted canned tomatoes, you get more tomatoes in the jar and a lot less tomato juice on the bottom of the jar.
Also, as I mentioned in a prior post, we like to live as chemical-free as possible, so before I start, I wipe down everything with our favourite, eco-friendly, non-toxic disinfectant. This hospital grade EPA-registered botanical disinfectant kills over 99.9% of common household germs. Everyday cleaners doesn’t kill bacteria and viruses. In fact, when using an everyday cleaner and a cleaning rag or sponge, you could simply be spreading the germs around. One single bacteria cell can multiply into over a billion in just 24 hours. And if you are growing and canning organic, you certainly don’t want nasty chemicals like bleach in your food!
Here is my recipe for the Roasted Tomato Sauce:
Heat up the barbecue on high for all burners. I use a big ceramic disk on one side and cast iron trivets on the other side that I have to put under pots on the stove to prevent things sticking, but a ceramic pizza baking disk, fire bricks, etc. would work too. The first time I did half the recipe and put my roasting pan on one side of the grill, turning down that side of the grill and leaving the other side on high. You can also roast in the oven at 450ºF.
Wash tomatoes, cut in half, and put into a roasting pan (make sure it fits in your grill!) that you have rubbed a bit of olive oil all over bottom and sides. I divide between two roasting pans, one large and one smaller that both fit on the grill.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the tomatoes dividing to the proportions of tomatoes if using two roasting pans. Gently stir and place onto the grill, closing the lid. I turn down my heat a little bit so temperature stays around 500-600ºF. or so.
Roast for a couple hours, checking and stirring from time to time. Once tomatoes have cooked down enough, I put the tomatoes from the smaller roaster into the larger one and keep cooking until they are reduced enough for a thick sauce. One batch I cooked way down and made into tomato paste! You can also cook down a bit more on the stove top later, if you decide you want your sauce thicker.
After the roasted tomatoes have cooled enough to handle, run them through a sauce press. Here is my ancient one I got at a thrift store, but you can find them at most Home Hardware stores in Canada, or on Amazon. This contraption takes all the skins and seeds out, and does it really fast!
As my pan fills up, I transfer to a sauce pan and keep running the rest of the tomatoes through the press.
At this point you can heat the sauce on the stove top for a little while if you need to thicken it and also can adjust seasoning to taste. Get your canning equipment ready! After washing my canning jars, I like to put them into a 250ºF oven to dry and keep hot. We have hard water, so works better than sterilizing in the hot water bath.
Fill up your canning pot, with rack, put lids into a small sauce pan with water and heat to sterilize but don’t boil. Get clean rings ready, and other equipment such as a canning funnel and jar grabber.
Once sauce is at the desired thickness keep hot and start filling hot jars, adding 1/4 tsp. citric acid to each pint. You can add a small amount of sugar or maple syrup, if desired, but if you have used ripe tomatoes, sauce should be sweet enough! Put lids and rings on firmly, put into canning rack, and immerse in water with at least an inch covering jars. Bring back to a simmer and simmer for 35 min. for pints, 45 min. for quarts.
Remove jars from canner and let rest for 24 hrs. before removing rings and storing. Make sure lids sealed properly. Any unsealed can be re-canned or put into the fridge to use within the next few days.
For roasted canned tomatoes, I roast in tomatoes on trays in a single layer in the oven pressed close together, so I can pop off the skins, and pack into pints. They are processed the same way as the sauce, including the 1/4 tsp. citric acid, and I found I got a lot more tomatoes per jar and less liquid, than when I canned them the traditional way! Feel free to comment or contact Wendy if you have questions!
I will be sharing creative ideas and strategies to help you save money, make money, and live a healthy, environmentally-friendly life for you, your family, pets, animals and the planet!
I am Wendy Malowany, an Artist and Business Marketing Coach and have created this website and blog to combine some of my passions in life: Art, family, animals, working from home, and healthy, environmentally-friendly living. I have been a professional artist for 30 years, and worked from home for almost 20 years.
Some topics I will be covering will be: