COVID, Supply Chains and Food Security

Grocery stores typically carry only a three-day inventory of food, and we rely upon delivery trucks and distribution centres to keep running. Over the past decades, our primary food chain has become a long-distance, just-in-time, import-delivery system.

We now live in a new reality.

Due to COVID, and all the related structural and economic fall-out that it will be causing, these food systems are fragile and becoming greatly stressed.  Not only are we facing a virus threat, but we have entered a global economic depression and we may be facing supply chain disruptions.

Home gardening seems to be an everyone’s mind over the past few weeks.

Food security is now one many people’s minds. Interest in gardening has exploded, and many are working quickly to plan for the coming growing season by either starting a garden or expanding the one they have.

The old adage of the ‘Victory Garden’ is coming back in many discussions. Victory Gardens harken back to World War I and World War II, as a way to support the war effort through home gardening. Are we looking at a modern day version – COVID Victory Gardens? Local food production can form one of the strongest means for local food resilience and security.

We will be providing regular information to help you make the most out of the coming growing season.

Bob Cervelli

March plantings and grow lights

March is the time to start many plants indoors and it is best if you have a grow light.  Many modern grow lights use LED lighting, which demand less electricity and can narrow the light spectrum to the reds and blues.  (Did you know that the reason plants appear to be green in colour is because that’s the wavelength that they do not use, and reflect it back.  We see the green wavelength because they are absorbing the red and blue wavelengths).

Putting plants in a window will work, but it is tricky with newly germinated plants.  They will tend to stretch towards the light and become ‘leggy’ which will affect their health and physical ability to remain upright.

It is best to have a timer for your grow lights.  I set mine to 16 hour day length which gives them a good long day.  24 hours is not good, because plants need a rest period for a non-photosynthesis time called respiration.

I’ve started our peppers and tomatoes under lights.  Here is a shot of our fancy, extremely hot chillis – chichen itza, bhut jolokia, seven pot and ghost peppers.  These were started from seed in early March, because they tend to be slow growing and fussy. They need it really warm and are enjoying the bright light!

 

 

 

Producer Rant #1

Producer Rant #1

A lot of things go into the decision to produce a show. Most projects seem to start with a flash in the eye. If you turn and look a second time, and if it holds your interest, you begin to ask questions…to go a bit deeper.

In the beginning there was no “transition garden”. There was, however Transition Town, a movement based in the UK and there was Bob Cervelli connecting to it here in Nova Scotia. That was the flash in the eye. Obviously we looked a second time and one thing led to another. Before long, we had committed to filming a “year in the life of a community garden” and we began calling the garden Transition Garden.

It was always about more than the garden. It was about community empowerment. It was about food security. And mostly it was about transitioning from one way of being to another, moving from consumerism to self reliance, moving from “can’t do that” to a “can do” philosophy.

Now we have twelve, half hour episodes, that follow a year in the life of a garden. The shows typically have three parts; “In the garden”, “Connections”, and “How to do Something”. They are informative, useful and fun.

In the Garden gets down to the basics: it is about growing things.

Connections links the garden to the community, to neighbours, and to other gardens.

How to do Something is a surprise. Maybe a recipe for something that has just come out of the garden. Maybe how to use a new tool. Maybe how to get rid of hoofed rodents.

Going forward, we want to expand on the ideas that the garden represents. Bob will be the main voice going forward – your guide into a world with visits to the likes of Thoreau, Scott Nearing, and others who challenge the way we think.

If we can get enough subscribers, we will keep on going, pretty well with the same format, adding gardening tips, building a community at the same time.

All the while, I will be ranting about our process, trying to film things that matter.

Peach Blossoms and Bees

The Transition Garden peach tree is in full bloom now. This peach variety is called Canadian Harmony.

After 7 years, the tree is well formed and can produce a significant amount of peaches every year – IF we get a good spring pollination and fruit set.  Timing is key.  This variety tends to be an early bloomer, which is a bit risky.  The weather needs to behave – there must be no frosts, and no long stretches of rain and cold, so that the bees can do their pollinating.  As you can see, the tree is right next to the bee hive!

This spring has been unusually cool and rainy, which has kept the bees frustrated. I continue to remind myself that we are rapidly getting into climate change, where there is no longer a case of what’s ‘usual’ or ‘unusual.’  In the Transition Garden, we will need to learn to take each season as it comes, and learn to be as adaptive as possible.

Keeping bees is a valuable learning experience for any one.  As we know, bees and the many other insect pollinators are becoming more and more at risk in today’s world.  We need them for much of the world’s fruit, nut and vegetable production.  Beekeeping keeps you close to the action in this world, and you begin to glimpse the world of pollinators.

It is a fantastic experience for anyone, youth included, to sit for long periods near the entrance of a busy hive and watch to comings and goings.  You can even see forager bees coming in over the tree tops at full speed from a long nectar and pollen collecting journey (they can go up to 2 miles), circle around the hive a few times and go into the entrance.  Bee friendly to your bee friends!

Gardening as a Community is Best

Needless to say, its been an usually cold and wet spring here in Nova Scotia. The farmers are not happy, the bees are frustrated and we are burning fire wood very late into the season. I wonder in the back of my mind if there are no longer any ‘normal’ patterns in our weather, likely due in large part to the climate emergency.

Despite this year’s weather trend, late May is the time when a lot needs to happen in the garden and greenhouses. Traditionally, gardeners in the region wait until the long Victoria day weekend to begin their gardens. This is usually after when the last frost has occurred (but that is no longer the case, as is evidenced by last year’s very late freezing night in early June).

In the Transition Garden, we believe in a 9-10 month growing season. We have already gotten started in March with seeding transplant trays in the greenhouse, and in April with seeding directly into the ground in cold frames. There are many cold hardy crops that you can grow early. Many of these I consider to be quick 4-6 week turn-around spring crops, which go in and come out before you plant the summer heat loving crops. These include arugula, radishes, spring turnip (get the 40 day variety), bok choy, cilantro, beet greens, and the cold hardy leaf lettuces (my favorites are the old heirloom varieties black seeded simpson and red oakleaf).

So, by late May, the Transition Garden is already well into harvesting spinach (planted last fall), radishes, arugula, spring chives and lettuce). But we are also actively beginning the planting of other crops for the main summer season.

Last week, we direct-seeded more radish (we like to start a small amount every 2 weeks), dill, parsnip, potatoes and beets (I like the big storage variety Detroit red). We also transplanted cabbage (red and green), broccoli, Brussel sprouts, onions and chard. These are all frost hardy, with the chard being perhaps the more susceptible to cold – so we placed row cover over this bed. Our peas went into the ground about 3 weeks ago.

This coming week, we will continue to seed and transplant – rutabaga, radicchio and other things. We will also continue preparing 2 of our greenhouse beds for summer tomatoes and peppers.

LOCAL FOOD RESILIENCE

We consider the Transition Garden to be a ‘home micro-farm.’ About 2 acres are under production, and the gardens are worked by 3-6 gardeners on a weekly basis. This is a community effort and we all share the harvests. We run this farm differently from a community garden, where each individual gets their own small plot to grow what ever they like. In the Transition Garden, we grow most everything, everyone involved helps with it all, and we all share the harvest. Not only that, but we learn a huge amount from each other.

This community aspect of growing food is key to Transition Garden. I believe it will be key to how we feed ourselves in the future, even only 5-15 years from now. Local community-based food production will re-arise in an essential way once we start to see the increasingly dramatic effects of the climate emergency. These effects will impact the major bread basket regions of the world, and associated supply chain disruptions and food pricing. The most obvious recent example is the unprecedented spring flooding in the mid-western US farm belt, in which thousands of acres were rendered unplantable for this season.  The trends in other agricultural areas is also not good, whether it is loss of top soil, ground water depletion (used for irrigation) or other unsustainable pressures.

I will continue to discuss the important of growing your own food in further posts, and we will provide valuable how-to content as the season progresses.

Help us grow this site, as you grow your garden.  Your membership, and any donations, will be used for valuable additions to our film library and other content.

Bob Cervelli

 

Welcome to Transition Garden

Welcome to Transition Garden!  We’re glad you are here.

Join us for ongoing posts and discussions on gardening, as we work our way through the coming growing season.  We are discussing and filming not just any form of gardening, but serious vegetable and food production from the point of view of transitioning.

We live in a fragile time that is undergoing significant transitions of all types.  We may dive into some of the details in later posts, but we all see the reports coming out of an regular basis of environmental degradation, resource depletion, weather extremes, increased geopolitical tensions, and increasingly nasty societal rhetoric.

In the middle of all this, we still have to eat.  We still have to get food on the dinner table.

We should not take that for granted.

A curious thing happened to western cultures over the past 3-6 decades.  We have moved away from an immediate relationship to our food supplies, and allowed the convenience and choice of just-in-time chain grocers to take its place.  Less ‘developed’ countries around the world still maintain closer ties, economically and culturally, to domestic and village food production.  You can see this first hand with the way that immigrants from these regions relate to food and food production, with greater respect for their food sources and less waste.  And, many times, an itch to keep their hands in the soil.

Transition Garden brings you the how-to videos on food production from the home-gardeners or micro-farm perspective.  We hope to inspire the knowledge, ability and capacity for you to produce a significant percentage of your food.  I’ve heard the saying that the best food system is when you know who grew your food.  When you grow your own, you have full confidence in its quality, freshness and nutrition.  Make your back yard your grocery store!

Help us grow this site, as you grow your garden.  Your membership, and any donations, will be used for valuable additions to our film library and other content.

Happy growing and let’s keep in touch.

Bob Cervelli