Home on the Bison Ranch
Helping to Keep Bison Genetics Strong

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
August 14, 2017

Ethical farming is helping to preserve bison on Vancouver Island.

Bison grazing on pasture amid stands of trees.

Today, it’s hard to envision the millions of bison that once thundered across the North American prairies. Continuous herds, hundreds of miles long, roamed the plains in a great migration from northern Mexico to Canada. These imposing animals grazed on native grasses, left droppings to enrich the soil, and disturbed the ground with their hooves, helping create a rich ecosystem that allowed prairie plants and animals to thrive.
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Canada’s Bees Will Have Their Day in Court
Lawsuit Says Failure to Enforce Regulations on Neonicotinoids Harms Bees

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
August 1, 2017

Canada’s bees have won a small victory: the right to have their day in court. In July, the Federal Court in Ottawa allowed a lawsuit to go forward against Canada’s Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) for failure to enforce Pest Control Products Act requirements.

A bee on clover flower. In Canada, bees will have their day in court to decide if failure to enforce regulations on neonicotinoids harms bees.

The pesticides in question are the neonicotinoids, clothianidin and thiamethoxam—chemicals widely believed to cause deadly harm to bee populations. The lawsuit, brought by four environmental organizations, asserts that the PMRA approved the use of neonicotinoids without fulfilling the Pest Control Products Act requirement that no pesticide significantly harm the environment.
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Tomato Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes
Make the Basics: Tomato Sauce from Scratch

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
July 2, 2017


This homemade tomato sauce has a sweet freshness you’ll never find by using canned tomatoes. Simmer fresh tomatoes into sauce when they are at their peak of ripeness. Choose a single kind of tomatoes or mix together many sizes and colours of heirloom tomatoes. Each combination has its own unique and delicious flavour.

This chunky tomato sauce goes well with pasta, meat, grilled vegetables, and is good on homemade pizza. You can double or triple the recipe to make extra sauce to freeze. Even after freezing, this sauce is like a bite of summer. So worth it!

Tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes.
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Who Are the 21st Century Farmers?
British Columbia’s Agricultural Future

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
June 10, 2017
Who Are the 21st Century Farmers? Candace Thompson of Eagle Paws Organics in Sooke is one of a growing number of women farmers in BC.

Candace Thompson of Eagle Paws Organics in Sooke is one of a growing number of women farmers in BC.

A new report from Statistics Canada provides a snapshot of farmers and farming in Canada. In a year that has seen baby boom generation farmers retire at a rapid rate, it comes as no surprise that the average age of farmers in Canada is 55-years-old. Nationwide in 2016, older farmers, 55 to over 75 years old, comprised the largest share of farm operators.

In British Columbia, where the local food movement is growing, Statistics Canada’s latest profile of BC agriculture provides a window into trends that are shaping 21st century farming.

Most notable, perhaps, is that of all the provinces in Canada, BC has the largest proportion of small farms—nearly 42 percent. Almost half of BC’s small farms sell directly to the public.

Also of interest is the increasing number of women farmers. BC has the highest proportion (37.5%) of female farmers in Canada, and is changing the face of what we think of when we picture North American farmers.
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Weeds that Indicate Soil Conditions
Four Season Garden: How Weeds Can Help Identify and Correct Soil Problems

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
May 16, 2017

Recognize these weeds? Weeds can tell you a lot about the condition of your soil. Not only that, weeds, when composted, help improve the soil by releasing into it the very minerals and elements it needs.
(Article and Weed Guide to Soil Conditions continue below slideshow.)

Cat’s Ear, also called False Dandelion, has tall yellow flowers similar to dandelion, and rounded, hairy leaves (unlike dandelion). Cat’s Ear typically indicates dry, free draining soil, but will also grow in moist areas.
Dandelion typically indicates heavy, compacted, acidic soil, but also grows in fertile well-drained areas. Dandelion's long taproots bring up calcium and other minerals from the subsoil. These can enrich the garden as dandelion decomposes.
Daisy (Bellis perennis) indicates dry, well-drained soil with low fertility. This low-growing plant with lobed leaves and small flowers is commonly found in lawns with worn-out neutral or acidic soils.
Plantain indicates acidic, compacted, low-fertility soil. Rich in calcium and magnesium, this wild plant also accumulates silicon, sulphur, manganese and iron. Decomposing plantain helps to alkalize the soil.
Buttercup indicates acidic, poorly-drained soil. Buttercup produces a toxin called protanemonin that may suppress growth of adjacent plants. Creeping buttercup draws potassium from the soil.
Horsetail indicates light, sandy, slightly acidic soil, and grows in moist conditions. Horsetail accumulates silicon, calcium, magnesium, and iron, which it releases back into the soil as it decomposes.
Chickweed grows in neutral, moist, sometimes heavy soils. Healthy chickweed indicates cultivated, fertile soil. Chickweed accumulates potassium and phosphorus which enhances the soil when it decomposes.
Purple Deadnettle, a member of the mint family, often indicates neutral, nutrient-rich soil. Deadnettle can grow in heavy clay areas, but prefers loamy soil. Purple Deadnettle is a valuable attractor of pollinators in early spring.
Sheep Sorrel indicates acidic, low fertility soil. Sheep sorrel accumulates calcium and phosphorus, minerals that de-acidify the garden. Composting sorrel helps to alkalize the soil.
Thistle indicates compacted, heavy, acidic soil. Its roots penetrate deeply and  help break up the subsoil. Thistle’s roots bring up iron and moisture for use by shallow-rooted plants. Thistle is often indicative of dry areas.
Bindweed indicates poorly drained, compacted, often crusty soil. Bindweed has a deep and extensive root system which stores nutrients for regrowth. Although it can grow in a range of conditions, bindweed prefers heavy clay soil.
Hairy Bittercress, a member of the mustard family with tiny white flowers, indicates poorly-drained, moist soil. Hairy Bittercress commonly grows in disturbed areas and is most prolific in early spring.
Dock indicates heavy, poorly-drained, waterlogged soils with increasing acidity. Dock has deep taproots that break up the subsoil. Dock draws up calcium, potassium, phosphorus and iron which is released into the soil when composted.
Quack Grass indicates heavy clay or crusty soil with poor drainage. Quack Grass has a net-like root system that helps control erosion on steep banks. Quack Grass accumulates potassium, silicon and other minerals.
Clover typically indicates moist, poor-fertility soil, that is low in nitrogen. It also indicates soil that is rich in potassium. Clover draws nitrogen from the air and fixes it into the soil when tilled under.
Vetch indicates poor fertility soil, low in nitrogen. A member of the pea family, vetch obtains nitrogen from the air and fixes it into the soil when tilled under. Vetch accumulates phosphorus, potassium, and other minerals, which can enrich the soil when composted.
Cat’s Ear, also called False Dandelion, has tall yellow flowers similar to dandelion, and rounded, hairy leaves (unlike dandelion). Cat’s Ear typically indicates dry, free draining soil, but will also grow in moist areas.

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Happy Birthday Agricultural Land Reserve
Next Steps for the ALR: Achieving Food Security for BC

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
April 18, 2017

The Agricultural Land Reserve gave British Columbia the potential for food security with two objectives: preserve farmland and encourage farming. Today, the second half of that goal remains unfulfilled. However, a study of the economics of small-scale farming points the way….

Agricultural Land Reserve view of farm fields and mountains bordering on city houses in the Blenkinsop Valley in Saanich, BC.

Agricultural Land Reserve farms in the Blenkinsop Valley, near Victoria, border on urban city lots.

The Birth of the Agricultural Land Reserve

Forty-four years ago, on April 18, 1973, the BC Land Commission Act came into effect, with a mandate to form the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) in British Columbia. Established by the newly-elected New Democratic Party government, and considered the most progressive legislation of its kind in North America, the Act created a provincial agriculture zone to protect BC’s limited cultivable lands from non-farming uses.
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What Exactly is Bone Broth?
Stocks, Broths and Super-Nutritious Bone Broth

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
March 28, 2017

Something unusual happened to stocks along the way as a base for soups, sauces, and stews. They evolved into a highly-prized health food and healthy-eating trend called bone broth.

What is the difference between stocks and broths? (Article continues below video.)

Video: How to Make Bone Broth (or Stock from Bones)

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Harvesting Sea Salt — The Canadian Way
Vancouver Island Artisan Sea Salt

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
January 20, 2017

Hand-harvested Canadian sea salt pours from the harvester's hands.
In waters off the coast of British Columbia, a small number of culinary-minded farmers are doing what people dwelling near the sea have done for thousands of years—harvesting sea salt.
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Sultans of Salt
Harvesting Sea Salt on Vancouver Island

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
January 20, 2017

Jeff Abel takes us on a tour of Saltwest Naturals Sea Salt Harvestry on Vancouver Island, where he and his partner, Jessica Abel, use steam evaporation to harvest flaked fleur de sel and fine grain sea salt. The tour includes a look into Saltwest’s unique solar greenhouses, which produce sun-dried sea salt—a rarity in Canada’s Pacific maritime climate.
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Rosemary Sea Salt Crackers
Make the Basics: Homemade Flatbread Crackers

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
January 4, 2017


Crisp rosemary sea salt crackers capture the delicious taste of the best artisan bakery flatbreads. With accents of lemon, rosemary and flaky sea salt (seriously addictive!), these homemade crackers will quickly become favourites for every day and special occasions.

Homemade crackers are surprisingly easy to make and cost only a fraction of the price of the crackers you buy at the store. Baking at home, you can use high-quality ingredients, make and freeze batches, and experiment with flavours of your choice. Fresh from the oven, I predict you’ll be eating these before they have a chance to cool.

Fresh homemade rosemary sea salt crackers
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Can Local Agriculture Drive Economic Development?
Surrey Study Shows What is Possible

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
December 6, 2016

fresh vegetables at a farmers marketBritish Columbians often give several reasons why local food is the best choice for everyone: Locally grown food tastes better, has greater nutritional value, protects the environment, strengthens genetic diversity, and develops the local economy. The last point raises an important question. How much can local agriculture do for a local economy?

A comprehensive study released in 2013 by the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University delivered a definitive answer—local agriculture can do a lot.
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