Food Sovereignty

My Personal Food Sovereignty Project:

My aim is to have ‘Food Sovereignty’ for me and my family. What that means to me is that I will grow, gather, raise, fish, and hunt for all my own food needs. To accomplish this, I will have to learn to fish and hunt, learn how to make cheese and gather from the wild, and learn how to preserve food in a variety of ways–many of which I have never tried before. I will have to gain a bunch of skills that I don’t presently have in order to realize this goal.  Along the way, I will write up my experiences, describe some of the trials and tribulations I encounter while on this journey.

I fancy myself a farmer rather than a gardener. What I’m doing is more than gardening, I am provisioning for my family. In fact, that’s why I moved to Bella Coola: to grow vegetables and raise animals for as much of the year as possible. I moved here to feast.  After living in New Zealand for six years I became used to the year-round growing conditions and temperate climate and this is one of the few locations in Canada which approximate those Edenic conditions. A hundred years ago, the valley was a major producer of potatoes. Forestry, fishing and supermarkets disrupted that way of life, but like the Norwegian pioneers of the 1870s, I too, am establishing a market garden on these rich river flats. However, I won’t be in business as a market gardener.

Originally, I moved here because I had wanted develop a nice small CSA farm of mixed production to support the community’s needs. This has been my dream for years but because I did not grow up on a farm, I wasn’t sure where to start. I knew I liked chickens so I began there. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have picked a more difficult starting place as far as how much red tape one has to wade through in order to figure out how to legally sell a few dozen eggs per week to locals who want them. Between the Poultry Producers Quotas and the legal requirements for packaging and inspection and the number crunching to stay below the need for quota and the ridiculous hoop-jumping to be legal…by the time the dust settled I realized it would be far too much paperwork for far too little profit or joy. In fact, just wading through all the requirements and legalese took a lot of the joy out of the idea. In light of all this legislative craziness, I have decided not to bother with trying to become a legitimate or ‘legislated’ farmer and do my own thing.

So instead of developing capacity in this community, instead of building a farming business, instead of feeding people wholesome, ethically raised local foods, instead of helping our community to develop the food security that a CSA farm would bring, I sit here doing what I can to satisfy the ‘Farmer’ in me. It is one small way that I can extract myself from ‘The System’.  It is a way that I can live lighter on the earth and live less dependent upon an unsustainable, totally crazy, un-supportive system. My life has become an artistic expression of my politics: my garden, my palette.

22 responses to “Food Sovereignty

  1. I have a few questions about your project.

    Have you consulted with the Amish? I’m sure that they would be a big help to you.
    Are you bringing in any contraband dog food or are your making your own?
    What are you hoping to achieve here with all this? Are you trying to raise awareness and educate people? Please elaborate.

  2. howlingduckranch

    Hey Jasser,

    I would love to consult the Amish, but how would you suggest doing that?

    The dog eats ground beef with carrots and oats and olive oil and ‘crunchies’ vis-a-vis store bought dry dog food. But your question brings up a point I had to work through: where do I stop? Do I feed our animals–chickens, ducks, goats, and the dog–as well as our selves off the farm? What about the horse? Do I go so far as to make my own mustard? How about tea? Will we cut out everything we can’t grow ourselves, like coffee, olive oil, condiments, chocolate, Marmite? Which, by the way enlivened the discussion between my husband and me!

    In a nutshell, there simply isn’t time to do it all: I don’t have the land-base nor the growing conditions here for things like grain (though I am experimenting with wheat). The fact is we need community; communities of growers that grow some different things so we have a diversified local food stock.

    I don’t know if I could say I’m trying to raise awareness but I certainly wouldn’t mind if that is a spin-off effect. I am using this as an outlet for the project in general, bounce ideas off on others, and
    certainly deal with topical issues relating to small farming, eating locally, and the politics of food and agriculture. I also want to connect with other like-minded people along the way.

    Another big reason for the blog is that I am writing a book about the whole experience. This is a great outlet for some writing which will provide me with a diary-like record that I can later get back to and expound upon. I know that if I don’t get the experiences down when they happen then they are often lost: even when I think I will remember them!

  3. I admire your attempts at this and will read your blog with much interest to see how you fare!

    I don’t have enough land to be truely self sufficient BUT I *DO* have lots of local food suppliers ( Farmers Markets, Organic box schemes stc) who I cultivate instead! THAT way I get stuff I can’t or don’t want to raise or grow…and sometimes for barter!

  4. Madfarmer

    Well, of course, there are somethings you just can’t grow in some places. I’m on the Texas Gulf Coast. I can’t grow apples very well. But I do have orange trees. When you’re striving to lighten your foot-print, I don’t think you should be made to feel guilty for having a banana or a cup of coffee.

  5. Thanks Madfarmer, on that note, I’m going to go make a cup!

  6. Mo

    I love your ‘food sovereignty’ idea. In these uncertain times I’ve seen a big serge in interest at the farm supply store. Looks like your timing is right. Best of luck and will be following your blog with great interest.

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  8. Wow, found your blog looking for pictures of chicken innards so I’d know what to expect when butchering. I’m living at the foot of the Japan Alps (the opposite of The Texas Gulf Coast- plenty of apples, no oranges) and this is my dream, too. We grew wheat and rye this last season so my hens are eating that. I preserve a lot but not enough for food sovereignty. I guess I’m somewhere near food commonwealth? Just wanted to say I loved your blog and what you’re doing.

  9. Do you and Doug Fine read each other? I have you both in my Google Reader to stay abreast of what you’re up to. Though you are a half a continent apart, I relish the thought of cooking up a dinner and listening to the two of you.

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  11. Great Blog. To buy that mustard and Olive Oil, you could earn some extra income by having a few Adsense Ads on the right hand side…. Or place some Tex-Link-Ads … the extra $200 or so per month helps.

  12. Brian Whiting

    Please put me on your email list.

  13. bob stevens

    You must have noticed, the powers that rule us, all over the world, try to make any form of self-sufficiency as difficult as possible, the reason as far as I can tell, is that it is very difficult to control people who grow their own food. And control is always the name of the game.

  14. This might help. I run a CSA in California…a place with more restrictions than common sense. I raise mixed veges, fruits, eggs and do a heck-alotta canning and baking to use up what I grow and supply them to my families. I have an understanding with my families, they know I don’t have a commercial kitchen, the facilities to grade eggs, or the where-with-all to pay an agency to insure that I’m organic. Instead, we do what community always does, we trust each other. I call the eggs and canned goods in their weekly boxes…gifts.

    Today I’m making beef barley soup. The only thing that didn’t come from the farm is the beef and the barley, but both are from another organic farm.

    To get started, I posted a flier at a local shop that had an owner that wanted to try my veges. I’m up to 15 families during the main season and during the winter I do just 3 families. I’m not in any way getting rich, but I’m rich in satisfaction.

    Keep howling. Thanks for the recipes.

    Regards, Holly

  15. Great site and couldn’t agree more with your philosophy, I look forward to following your blog.

  16. Mario Diyia

    I too enjoy reading your post. I agree fully agree with the comment about food production vs the governmental desire for control. I desire to be food independent but it is not truly possible living in one location, and as such I do what I can to BE Independent. I live off grid and find it hard but so rewarding. I want to live “normally” and with modern comforts but at the same time provide for my own in terms of everyday needs. I started this adventure by getting in trouble with local ordinances and so moving away, as far as possible, to gain a bigger buffer with neighbors and cities in general. The biggest hurdle I have run into is financing an “out of the box dream”. I have had to forget financial institutions as they do not know what to do with situations that don’t conform to the mainstream standards and this has slowed progress greatly. I have almost finished my house, maybe a year shy, and have moved into the realm of independent food production for so many reasons, mainly to know what is in my food and truly where it came from. I have had so much help from others along the way and oh so much criticism from main streamers. It is good to find like minded individuals. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  17. To become a farmer to gain food independence is a great idea! Food security in general is very important for the country as a whole, and for every citizen individually, I believe. Wherein Farmers, farm women or farmers’ wives whoever they were can not do on his farm without metal galvanized buckets – products are widely used in household, construction and industry, products are more durable and less prone to corrosion. You will agree that in any case you need to use only high-quality stuff, isn’t it?

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