Archive for January, 2011

The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table (GWFRT) is a network for coordinated action for a socially just and environmentally sustainable community food system. This introduction to the round table is an excerpt from a community research assignment I completed in the fall in an introductory food security course at Ryerson University. You can find out more about the GWFRT here or about Ryerson’s online food security certificate here.  


The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table’s focus is on individuals experiencing food insecurity, food producers, and youth. It was established in April 2009 partly in response to pressures and issues facing the Guelph Food Bank and area food pantries as the most recent recession resulted in a large and growing population of low-income people who faced barriers to accessing healthy food in Guelph and Wellington County. The round table has six strategic directions and supports the development of a thriving food system through advocacy, action, planning, education, networking and coordination.

Food Policy

The food policy working group formed in October 2009 and its main achievement to date is the creation of the Guelph-Wellington Food Charter. The Charter is premised on six fundamental principles, or pillars – health, education, sustainable economic development, environment, culture, and social justice. The Charter was unveiled in June 2010 and introduced to the public in October at Food on the Table, a facilitated dialogue attended by approximately 20 electoral candidates and 75 community members.

Community Gardens

The community gardens working group formed in April 2009. It prepared and submitted a proposal and, as a result, four sites were approved for a two-year pilot project. Fundraising efforts covered the purchase of things such as fencing, tools, sheds, some seeds/plants, and straw. Straw and green manure were purchased via a buying group type of purchase.  Technology was also a factor and the community garden’s group list-serve was a resource for plant and seed sharing; it also played a role in education, problem-solving, meeting reminders, minutes, etc.

The gardens were used by adults, children and youth and enhanced participants food and nutrition knowledge and skill, as well as community cohesion. There were no more than 15 plots at any site and, not surprisingly, demand outstripped supply.

Food Accessibility

The food accessibility working group formed in October 2009 and its purpose is to increase food security for people of low income in Guelph and Wellington. The group recently developed a food access guide/directory, which it also hopes to publish online.

Another project  in the works is a collective kitchens manual. Collective kitchens are a way to address local food needs and provide access to nutritious and healthy food. Generally, people come together once or twice a month to prepare food in bulk. They are a way to reduce costs, learn cooking and nutrition skills and socialize.


The distribution group was formed in October 2009 to increase the availability and accessibility of local food and strengthen the connections within the local food system. It setup two neighbourhood markets in the summer of 2010.


Ultimately, both urban and rural interests need to be involved in a collaboration to build a sustainable food secure community and region where everyone has access to healthy nutritious food. The Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table network has close to 50 stakeholders. It’s early in the process; however, within the working groups, the overall round table, and the coordinating committee the five food security analysis factors outlined in Ryerson University’s introductory food security course – availability, accessibility, acceptability, appropriateness and agency – are being addressed.

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(April 2009)

I’m back in Buenos Aires for a few days before heading back to Canada. The city has a population of around 3 million and a metropolitan population of approximately 13 million. This time I’m staying in the microcentre and aside from doing a bit of shopping I want to take in some green spaces. The best place in the city to find green space is Palermo.

The Buenos Aires Zoo is an 18 hectare, 45 acre, park and holds 2,500+ animals. When you enter you see a number of free-ranging birds and animals on the grounds. Two common rodents, but the first time I had encountered either, are the mara or Patagonian hare and the semi-aquatic nutria, or coypu. My camera stopped working eight days before my return but you can see images of these animals here.

I saw a couple of condors again. I realize a zoo is a place of research and education but after seeing these large birds in Colca Canyon and the High Andes this struck me as too confined a space for them. Watching the baboons also seemed a little odd. They seemed quite intelligent, although could be rather aggressive. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a zoo.

The Buenos Aires Botanical Garden is located near the zoo. It was designed by landscape architect Charles Thays and is a lovely oasis in which to retreat from the concrete. It’s also home to many abandoned cats.

Buenos Aires has a great public transit system and I took a commuter train from Retiro station to Tigre. Tigre is a town on the Paraná Delta, about 30 km from BA, and is a popular tourist and weekend spot. I took a catamaran tour along the brown delta waters. There are hundreds of islands, some have cottages or resorts, there is even a hostel, but most are not populated. Due to flooding the cottages are on stilts. The town itself is also nice to stroll through.

I’ve come to the end of my excursion in Mexico and South America. I don’t quite feel ready to leave but having spent the final five weeks trying to get around with a hamstring injury has tired me. Travelling is physically demanding and it feels like I could use a vacation!

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Colonia del Sacramento is a small picturesque city with a population of approximately 22,000. The historic quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the layout feels less formal than many of the places I’ve been.  This former Portuguese smuggler’s port was founded in 1680.

There’s not a lot to do here but it’s a great place to relax. The people are very friendly. The historic quarter has a gate and drawbridge at what was the entrance to the old walled city. The cobblestone streets are extremely cobbled! Many of the old building facades along Calle de los Suspiros – Street of the Sighs – are colourfully withered. Other streets are also lovely. The trees and plants add a striking and vibrant contrast. As in Cuba, there are a lot of old cars.

Colonia is a popular getaway destination and, while some travellers just come for the day, I stayed a few days.  With each day you notice more, whether it is the direction you walk up or down a street in, or the time of day and how the light plays on the buildings. The sunsets seemed different each night and, until now, I hadn’t realized I missed waterfronts. I checked out the various small museums – being a former potter I enjoyed the tile museum. The Municipal Museum has a dinosaur bone collection and taxidermy room with many birds, butterflies and insects. I enjoyed the food and wine in the many restaurants and cafes, as well as passing around the yerba mate and an asado at the hostel, explored the shops, strolled the waterfront and checked out Plaza de Toros, a former bull ring, in nearby Real de San Carlos.

Photo courtesy of Richard Abernethy

To get here, I took the Buquebus, a large ferry, across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires. This was on my way back from Puerto Iguazu. Unfortunately, my camera died the first evening here.

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Tonight I presented my second speech in the Toastmaster’s Competent Communicator manual – Organize Your Speech. The target time was  5 to 7 minutes and my delivery, while longer than my rehearsal time, came in on time.

Car sharing

“The car has become … an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete.” “[T]he automobile has gone from object of desire to necessary evil.”

The first observation was made by Marshall McLuhan, back in 1964, and the second is from a 2009 column by Margaret Wente.

Madame chairperson, fellow members and most welcome guests tonight I want to tell you about a popular alternative to car ownership. This alternative is known as car sharing. It requires a slight cultural adjustment. However, it can save you money and it’s environmentally friendly, too.

Organized car sharing is a relatively new phenomenon and the concept continues to gain acceptance.

Car sharing, like any form of sharing, is the joint use of a resource. The movement started in Lucerne Switzerland in 1987 and, worldwide, car sharing programs now operate in over 1,000 cities.

In Canada the first car share operation started in 1993, in Quebec. These services now operate in about two dozen Canadian communities. It’s most popular in high density centres; however, it also exists in less dense areas, usually functioning as a co-operative. The sector has an impressive growth rate of 30%.

Did you know that Guelph has a car sharing program? The Guelph Community Car Co-operative has been operating since 2001. It has two vehicles and about 40 members. Every once in a while I need a car and I was thrilled to stumble upon this co-op when I relocated here. I quickly sent in a membership application. It’s a great service.

On an individual level the benefit of sharing a resource is that you save money.

The average cost of car ownership is $8,000 per year. That’s a hefty expense. If you drive less than 12,000 km per year and don’t need a car for your daily work commute, car sharing can result in significant savings.

It functions on a self-serve basis. You book a vehicle when you need one, pick it up, and then drop it off when you’re done. For this access, you pay a one-time refundable membership fee, $500, and a small monthly charge, $7.50. The cost of using a vehicle is $3.00 per hour and $0.30 per km. Insurance, maintenance and fuel are included!

I’ve owned a Pontiac Acadian, an AMC Spirit, and a Suzuki Sidekick. For years, I saw my vehicle as a necessary convenience and sometimes as a form of freedom. All the while, though, ownership was a constant drain on my finances. In the four years since I first joined a car-share my annual expenses have been under $1,000.

On a social level sharing a vehicle is an environmentally friendly transportation strategy.

The car sharing movement is environmental. It aims to reduce emissions from the use of private cars. By reducing the number of cars on the road, car sharing reduces traffic congestion and the demand for parking spaces.

33% of annual greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to the transportation sector. 59% of these emissions come from cars and light trucks. It’s estimated that each shared car takes up to 15 cars off the road.

People who car share are more likely to walk, cycle or use public transportation when a car isn’t really necessary. Car sharing reduces the number of average household drives by 40 to 60%, or more, per year. It’s a lifestyle change. Consequently, it’s also a health strategy.

To sum up, the car sharing paradigm has gripped popular consciousness. It’s a global movement and it’s available locally. It offers inexpensive access to a vehicle when you need one and the freedom of not having to look after a large piece of metal.  It helps you and the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and potentially increasing your health. Are you ready to join the movement? Contact the Guelph Community Car Co-operative. You can car share!

Postscript: The Guelph Community Car Co-operative can be reached at 519-241-2886, or, click here for their new website.

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(Late March 2009)

I can hear it long before I see it! The roar of the Devil’s Throat, “Garganta del Diablo”, pulls me towards it like a magnet. The sight and sound of the cascading water and the feel of its spray is euphoric! As the quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt goes, “Poor Niagara!”

Before actually hearing or seeing the falls I boarded the park’s Rainforest Ecological Train, which stops near the Devil’s Throat trail entrance and the Upper and Lower trails. With my hamstring injury walking is still slow and painful and I am very happy about the train.

I soon spot a coatimundi. The park is full of these large racoon-like animals but I don’t see another one. I do see hundreds of butterflies! Apparently, they are attracted to sweat and urine. I also encounter several Plush-crested Jays along the catwalk trail to Garganta del Diablo.

Devil’s Throat is a u-shaped cataract, 82m high, 150m wide, 700m long and it marks the border between Argentina and Brazil. It is the largest of the falls but the real magic comes from taking it all in. It is one of the world’s most spectacular waterfall systems.

There are actually 275 falls along 2.7 km of the Iguazú River. Iguazú Falls has an average annual flow of 1,746 cubic metres per second (m3/s) and a peak flow of about 40 ha. Situated amid the incredible beauty and vastness of the rainforest, Iguazú National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

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(Late March 2009)

San Ignacio Miní is one of the best preserved Jesuit Missions of the Guaranís and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. At its apex in the 18th century San Ignacio was home to about 4,000 Guaraní natives.

I had boarded a bus in Buenos Aires the previous night and now, around 8 am, the bus came to stop and one of the drivers informed me that this was San Ignacio. From the side of the bus I was sitting on I couldn`t see a town but once it pulled away I saw the tourist office directly on the other side of the highway. I stored my backpacks at the office, got directions and headed into town in the direction of the ruins.

There is a small and informative museum at the entrance to the site. I’m here before any tours arrive and it’s quiet. I can hear many birds and see a few walking amid the grounds. I have another of those breathtaking moments as I encounter the red sandstone of the primary settlement and I marvel at how nature is reclaiming the housing ruins.

In the early 17th century the Jesuits began establishing missions, or “reductions“, and ran them for the next 150 years. They built 30 missions in Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil. Each mission was run by at least two priests and included a church, hospital, school, craft workshops, housing and irrigated agricultural and pasture land. All the residents worked the communal land and children received educational training starting at the age of seven. A native language dictionary was created and the Guaraní became the first literate culture in South America. The Guaraní were trained in many crafts and became highly skilled musicians and artisans with a distinctive architectural and sculptural style referred to as Guaraní-Baroque. Art and music were used in their conversion; however, unlike other reductions, the Jesuits did not force the population to adopt European customs. The missions were autonomous, economically successful and provided protection from slave hunters. In 1767 the Jesuits were expelled and the missions fell into ruin. San Ignacio was rediscovered in 1897.

I’m glad I made this stop and by early afternoon I`m standing by the side of highway again waiting for a bus to continue my journey on to Puerto Iguazú.

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Don’t cry for me Argentina
The truth is I never left you
All through my wild days
My mad existence
I kept my promise
Don’t keep your distance

Chorus – Don’t Cry For Me Argentina (Evita) –  Andrew Lloyd Webber

I arrived in Buenos Aires on March 22nd, a Sunday morning.I’ve become accustomed to the smaller cities and BA is huge. After checking in at Hostal Sandanza in San Telmo I headed out into the streets to take in the music, tango dancers, street artists, tourists and locals at the famous Sunday Antique Market. It’s a perfect introduction to the city that I’ve wanted to see for so long!

I like San Telmo. The neighbourhood is an artsy blend of the trendy and the rundown. I feel less like a tourist here than any place I’ve been over the course of my travels. I’ve developed a deep appreciation for empanadas and enjoy sitting outside at Plaza Dorrego and taking in the evening entertainment.

La Boca district was home to the original poor Italian settlers and is a very colourful  tourist attraction. Caminito Street and the neighbourhood are full of restaurants, tango shows, artists and souvenir shops. It’s quite a contrast to upscale Recoleta.

La Recoleta Cemetery is home to the once rich and famous and their crypts are rather ostentatious, although, there are signs of forgotten neglect. The song Don’t Cry For Me Argentina from the stage play I had seen way back around 1980 was what had inspired my desire to be in this country and I thought I should look for Eva Perón’s tomb. The reality of pain induced by my hamstring injury dampened my enthusiasm for the search and I didn’t find it – ah, don’t cry for me Evita.

The hamstring injury also means I’m not learning the tango. Perhaps I’ll have another opportunity to embrace it some day.

The flags in the photos are from the National Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice. It’s a national holiday commemorating the victims of the former military dictatorship and is held on the anniversary of the 1976 coup d’etat. At first the streets were empty but later people were demonstrating all over the city, or at least the microcentre.

When I started this trip I thought I’d spend about a month in Buenos Aires but I arrived with just under three weeks left before heading back to Canada and a couple more places I want to see. Surprisingly, after six days in BA I’m ready to head back out into greener environments.

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