Pedal to Plate 2011

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July 9th 2011

Locavore Learning Starts at the Local Market

By David Chernushenko

On Pedal to Plate’s tour of Ottawa-area farms and food producers, I thought my discoveries would all be made on the road, yet the first ones came in the city, mere blocks from my own house.

When our crew gathered at the Main Farmers Market in Old Ottawa East, we thought this was just a convenient rendez-vous point with an obvious connection to the theme of our tour. There was so much more to it.

As a kind of "get to know your teammates" activity, we divided into small groups and headed into the market with an assignment. A scavenger hunt involving some real scavenging. Our goals:

1.      Ask three strangers what they think sustainable food is, why they come to the market, and what they are looking for in their food.

2.      Seek donations from vendors to make that evening's salad. And while we are at it, ask them about their food, whether they come from a family farming background, and what they think Fair Trade means when it comes to food.

 So what did we (Team Arrrrrrugula!) learn?

·          Shoppers don't use words like sustainable; they are seeking fresh produce, grown as locally as possible and ideally organic, and they want to support local producers−  sounds sustainable to me!

·          Food producers at the Main Farmers Market may or may not have a long history in agriculture or come from a farming family, but that doesn't seem to matter. They are passionate about what they do, and thrive on the direct engagement with their customers at markets like this one.

·          Getting local help to work on the farm is a big challenge. One farmer explained why he brings in itinerant labourers from Jamaica. He explained that he thinks locals aren't interested, whereas Jamaican workers are. They are able to earn a good income in a short period of time in Ontario, and they are generally able to work in healthy and safe conditions (sounds like Fair Trade to me!). He added that very few local youth are interested, looking elsewhere for better pay and "cleaner" jobs.

What did we get for our salad? Fresh cucumbers, sprouts, strawberries and goat's cheese, with some hearty bread to go with it! Just what a cyclist needs to finish the day.


July 10th 2011

Our Ride begins with Confidence.

By Kira Burger

Picture this: thirteen strangers, aged 21-67, have assembled in Ottawa. We are conspicuous in our reflective vests and glowing with a warmth that tends to surround The Otesha Project. We are the Pedal to Plate Tour.

Over the next week, we will cycle the roads and paths of the Ottawa region, challenging ourselves to better understand what it means to live as a mobile community, to live in a sustainable manner that works in our own lives and to work as a team, diverse in abilities, age and walks of life.

On Sunday we awoke in a community centre in Blackburn Hamlet and made our way to Petrie Island. Quickly, we came to appreciate this place as more than a scenic retreat. It teems with life; from the turtles to the beavers to the 29 species of rare and medicinal plants that dot its trails. In a space with so much to offer, determining the best uses - and which uses are compatible with the goals of the space - presents a challenge. Do we prioritize human recreation and, say, the celebration of culture through festivals on the island, or do we prioritize the nesting needs of the fragile turtle species that inhabits the island?

What's more, while dedicated volunteers of the Petrie Island River Keepers can work to control what happens on the island, what happens upstream is harder to control. Chemicals and bacteria that make their way into the Ottawa River from, for example, agricultural runoff, are another kettle of fish. An afternoon at Petrie Island left us with a new appreciation of the river and the ecosystems with which it intrinsically connects.

Confident that our next destination, Tucker House Eco Wellness Centre, would arrive quickly under the power of our pedals, we hopped onto our bicycles. Many mechanically frustrating hours later, we arrived with bike chains that just refused to stay put, but also with big smiles (not to mention wearing smears of chain grease as badges of honour). A little jumpy chain was no match for our day-old-yet-already-highly-functional-and-supportive-team.


July 11th 2011

Inspired Feelings from the Farm

by Janet Scollard.

Feeling connected. Barefoot. Hands in the soil. Rain falling. Sharing experiences. Sharing information. Learning.

These were just some of the awe inducing feelings our group experienced at Covenant Farm. Our time spent weeding and harvesting with the local folks, as well as the internships we took part in were grounding and motivating. Discussing opinions and ideas about access to food and the sharing of knowledge left us inspired, and craving for more information about where our food comes, how it is grown and finally, how it gets to our plates.

The feeling of privilege is outstanding, to spend this time with farmers, and this group, and reflecting to rethink about our food choices.

This has been a day I’ll never forget, and it will most definitely not be the last on this thrill of a tour.


July 12th 2011

Time on the Road Together

By Bridgit Muldoon

Today started off like most days of the tour thus far - we woke up, ate some brekki, cleaned Tucker House as it was our last morning there and got our bikes and trailers road ready. 

After a few days on the road we realized that traveling in smaller bike groups was easier for the team so we decided to break up our group into 3 groups of 4 which definitively made the ride smoother...the things you learn after only a few days on the road together. 

We regrouped in the small country town of Bourget for a quick lunch and then we were "on the road again". Today I got to ride with Carrol, Frank and Andi - Andi and I spent most of the ride on the gravely country roads together. Cycling with a mixed group of people each day allows you to really connect and get to know your teammates in a fun way. Today was my first day cycling with a trailer attached to my bike - although a challenge at times on the rough roads - it was a lot of fun towing a trailer behind my bike - up hills and all :P

We arrived to the Belanger farm in the early afternoon, set up camp and then had some free time to re-energize ourselves however we saw fit. My tent buddy Mari and I decided that we were still in love with our bikes and that our S.I.T.S bones were still healthy enough so we set off on an unloaded ride to check out the small community of Vars in search of a cafe where we could grab a coffee and help out the local economy. 

To our surprise - our cycle into Vars taught us that the little community had only a small pizza restaurant and after stopping a few locals to confirm what our eyes had seen - we were directed to turn around, head over the highway and head into Embrun. We turned our bikes around and hit the road only after stopping to take a few pics of us, our donkey Gus and some farming signs along the way. Embrun here we come. After crossing the highway we stopped and I had a well deserved vanilla milkshake in an air conditioned diner. 

Making our way back to the Belanger property great conversation was had by me and my tent buddy Mari. When we got back, we had some more time to chill out and then we had a great group meal with our host family, followed by many group conversations. Topics covered were our groups food mandate, future ideas for the Belanger farm, how we were all feeling after being on the road for 4 days, to name a few. Before the night was over a lovely shower was had by a few of us which was followed a group reading of the new Otesha play. Wait till you see whats in store for future Oteshians.

Night Night – Sleep Tight – don’t let the mosquitoes bite

July 13, 2011

Awesome Randomness

By Mari Takeda

You know you’re potentially in for an interesting ride when one of the last questions before heading out is a question on the Otesha policy on lightning. The little bit of liquid sunshine falling from the sky couldn’t phase our group, as we headed off in our pack on a 35km trip from the Belanger farm in Vars. 

Now, imagine yourself, riding on your bike, going on a two-lane highway through farmers’ fields.  Looming in the sky are some slightly ominous-looking clouds.  You’re riding strong going 20km an hour.  Then, all of a sudden, a strong cross wind blows and it starts hailing sideways!  In the middle of summer!

Thank heavens we had stopped 10 minutes ago to pull out our rain jackets from the bottom of our panniers; otherwise we would’ve been drenched. 

But even better was Matt’s choice of shelter for waiting out the storm.  We pulled into the driveway of a farmhouse that advertised “Compost Manure” and were greeted by the amazingly friendly Hamilton family.  They welcomed us into their home, gave us a full tour of the barn where they board cows, let us climb up into the loft to play on the hay bales, and even offered us some delicious freshly picked strawberries!  Gavin, their son, also showed us the young turkeys he’s raising for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It’s his second year in this new venture and it sounds like he’s doing a great job.

The 4 of us couldn’t have asked for a more amazing place to hang out for 2 hours while the rain, hail, thunder, and lightning passed through.  Nothing makes me smile more than meeting people who just open their arms up to whoever may come their way and for awesome random adventures that just never could have been planned.

Oh yes.  And we made it safely to the day’s destination, Roots & Shoots Farm.  But with memories that became highlights of the trip for me.