Summer in Cumberland County, All the gossip

We are having an unusually good growing season here in Cumberland County.  With above normal high temperatures and well-timed rains, my garden is doing the best I’ve ever seen it. Adding in a rich compost along with crab meal in the Spring didn’t hurt either.

Things are growing quickly enough to outgrow any insect damage, but if you still have some pests lingering in your garden, don’t reach for a chemical fix, take the time to hand-pick the little buggers. The squashing of bugs can be quite therapeutic actually. You have to be pretty vigilant about your bug picking – check your plants a few times a day, especially first thing in the morning and before nightfall.  The key to organic growing is spending time observing your garden.

The community gardens in Springhill and Amherst are also growing really well.  Both are experiencing more uptake this summer, meaning all of the available garden plots are full and an abundance of food is growing.  With the help of summer students from the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) (Clean Foundation of Nova Scotia – http://clean.ns.ca/programs/community-engagement/nova-scotia-youth-conservation-corps-2/), both gardens have been able to expand to include pollinator patches and the addition of blueberry and hascap bushes.  All of our plant material was sourced locally, from either Coastal Gardens (Pugwash), or McPhail Woods (http://macphailwoods.org/).

The YCC students are based out of the Joggins Fossil Institute (http://jogginsfossilcliffs.net/institute/), to among other things, establish a Chef’s Garden and to coordinate the Children’s Learning Garden. The Chef’s Garden is a new project that aims to see the Institute producing some seasonal food for its cafe. The Children’s Learning Garden, which is in its second year, provides hands-on gardening experience to children attending summer day camp. The kidz have planted rainbow carrots, sunflowers, and eight different varieties of heirloom beans. Some of the beans will be eaten, but most are being saved and will be used in local seed exchanges and to plant again next year. This is a unique partnership with Seeds of Diversity Canada (http://newsite.seeds.ca/), which helps preserve rare local varieties of seed. One such seed is the Saturday night baked bean, a white navy bean, and though this is a very common variety, this bean has been handed down from local 85 year old master gardener Hope Harrison of Lower Maccan.

While most gardeners are happy about the weather, some local farms experienced some wind damage from tropical storm Arthur.  I lost a few broccoli plants, and folks in Advocate Harbour lost tomatoes due to salt spray. GoodLake Farm (http://www.goodlakefarm.com/default.html), the driving force behind the Cumberland County Cost-Share CSA Pilot Project, also lost tomatoes – theirs were tied up in a small greenhouse tunnel which was picked up by the strong winds and blown away!  Despite this, the Cost-Share CSA is going very well, with close to 40 families subscribed. We are still looking to raise donations to help support the pilot project this year and into next. This project connects low-income families directly with local farms for a weekly fresh food box for half price. See this link for more info. or and to donate: (https://www.ecologyaction.ca/costshareCSA).

In other exciting news, the Cumberland Food Action Network (CFAN) is launching its website very soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, check out our temporary site at:(https://www.facebook.com/CumberlandFoodActionNetwork). A small but mighty group, CFAN’s mandate it to promote sustainable local food and community food security through action, education and events. Relatively new on the local food scene, CFAN has big plans, including sponsoring farm-to-school events, hosting a local community radio food show, seed swaps, food skills workshops, and much more. With the help of the Ecology Action Centre, the group has recently published a postcard which promotes all of the Farmers Markets in the County (attached below). If you are in our fair County over the summer, be sure to check out a few!

Blog written by Su Morin, The Ecology Action Centre’s Community Food Coordinator for Cumberland County, NS.

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