The tomatoes in the photo above are a variety called Sub-Arctic Plenty and were grown in $11 Home Depot bins and supported with string tied to a frame from an old tarp shed that was rescued from the garbage. They were as sweet as candy and were ready the first week of August 2020. They were pruned regularly, but not watered more than once a week for the whole summer. Growing food doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult.
Food security is a term that we might be familiar with, and it can be taken to simply mean that people have enough to eat. What about food sovereignty?
The simplest way to think about food sovereignty is to ask, do people have choice or control about the kind of food they eat? Having sovereignty means choosing to eat food from sources you want to support (like local farms), having access to nutrient dense food, having access to land if you want to grow your own food, and it means having food available that is culturally appropriate and honours our household food traditions.
Not all of us can respond in the same way to increasing food sovereignty, but we can all contribute in some way.
In the kitchen and at home
- Root and re-grow produce like green onions.
- Learn to cook five recipes this month (all with simple, local and affordable ingredients). Five recipes will go a long way in a week if you make larger portions for leftovers.
- Learn a simple bread recipe (round, dense loaves as quick and easy to start with). This recipe from Melissa K. Norris – Modern Homesteading channel on You Tube is a simple one to start with.
- Learn how to make one kind of soup well from scratch and you will never want to buy canned soup again!
- Learn about spices. Once you get the basics, you’ll be able to cook up odds and ends in the fridge without a recipe. Store-bought spices can be expensive. You can grow your own herbs or go in on spices with a friend. Buy a larger portion and divide them up. Middle Eastern and Asian Grocery stores can be good places to buy larger portions of spices.
- Learn to use equipment like immersion blenders, double-boilers, dutch-ovens, slow cookers, etc. Many people go their whole life without knowing how to use the tools we often already have in our kitchens.
- Learn knife skills. A lot of tools and machines can be replaced with one sharp and comfortable to use butcher knife. You don’t need a garlic press, onion chopper, etc., when you know have to cut safely and effectively.
- Meal plan to avoid food going into the garbage (which is like money going into the garbage, and it’s bad for the environment too).
- Cook meals in large batches and freeze them.
- Learn how to soak and cook beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc. This article from Nutrition Refined explains just about anything you might want to know about preparing dried legumes.
- Grow micro-greens and sprouts in your kitchen in the winter, or anytime really! This article from the Gardening Channel explains the difference between the two.
- Inventory your fridge and cupboards. How much of your food is packaged or condiments? Can that be replaced with fresher, higher quality food? Pick two simple items that you can cheaply and easily switch out right away and keep expanding over time, ex: powdered garlic for real garlic, Cool Whip for real whipped cream, pancake mix for whole, dry ingredients.
- Write down everything you spend money on for a month and do an analysis of current spending vs. life priorities. Where does quality food fall in?
- Eat foods that you like. If you don’t like quinoa and kale, then don’t eat them! There is nothing wrong with potatoes, carrots and lettuce. They might seem boring, but they grow well in our climate and are part of our traditional, local diet.
- Eat whole, local food as much as possible. Your food might be healthy, but if it is coming from the other side of the world, it isn’t secure.
- Slow down and sit down when you eat. Food is more than fuel; eating is a sensory experience that can really be enjoyed. The more we enjoy cooking and eating, the more we care about food sovereignty.
In the community
- Find or start a Community Kitchen Club where you can prepare large batch meals together and then divide them up at the end.
- Do a recipe swap party with friends (or on Facebook) and ask for cookbook/ website recommendations.
- Learn how to stock a pantry (just like your Grandparents and Great Grandparents did).
- Join friends in a bulk purchasing club. Speerville Flour Mill in Speerville, New Brunswick will deliver for free on large orders (which an easy way to build your pantry). They sell many items in addition to flour, like rice, beans, spices, cleaning products and baking mixes.
- Buy in bulk and in season to save money. September/October are the best time to buy apples at a great price. If you buy after the season is over, you are literally paying for someone else to store them for you. You can split orders with friends if you don’t have enough storage space for a large order.
- Learn about food storage (cold storage, dried goods, small and large batch canning, dehydrating).
- If you don’t have space to cold store food, consider collective community options like setting up shared freezers and cold storerooms.
- Join a Community Garden for growing space and education/ support.
- Save and share seeds.
- Find farmers in your area and buy food from them.
- Barter labour, products or skills for local produce.
- Join or start a gleaning group to get food for free that would have been wasted.
- Join gardening and ecological groups on Facebook. Make what you see every day positive and informative – nourishment for your mind!
- Advocate for preserving farmland in your community. If our best growing spaces get turned into sub-divisions, industrial sites or are soil mined, farming will only become more difficult and food more expensive.
- Take care of soil and advocate for this at a community level. Building healthy, living soil is one of the best ways to be food secure.
Skills and knowledge
- Build a solar dehydrator with scrap wood, old wheels and recycled glass. North Dakota State University is one of many sources for free design plans.
- Learn about seasonal, local cycle of produce, meat, eggs and dairy.
- Visit local farms on Open Farm Day which is organized through the Agricultural Alliance.
- Build some kind of garden, raised beds, pots, windowsill gardens, anything is better than nothing.
- Learn about seeds – hybrids vs. open-pollinated, heirloom, GMO etc. The Spruce website gives a quick overview.
- Take 10 minutes each day to read or watch You Tube videos about gardening, homesteading or global food issues.
- Learn about traditional Wabanaki foods. There are many perennial plants that were staple foods prior to colonization and can still be a great supplement to a modern diet. Many of these seeds can be found by asking around on Facebook or mail ordering. Try Jerusalem Artichoke, ground nuts (peanuts), and many traditional corn varieties. Learn more at the Seeds of Renewal Project in Abenaki Territories (Vermont).
- Understand enough about food to understand your own ethical position on production and consumption.
- Expose kids to a variety of whole food when they are very young and show them where food comes from, it will open up their world and affect their food choices for the rest of their lives!
If you have any thoughts to add or questions on finding resources they would be appreciated. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Floyd is a Food Security Policy Analyst with the Raven Project working on promoting local food production in the Upper Nashwaak Valley.