Rural Delivery and the Harrison Lewis Centre
There is a connection!
More than once this summer a faithful reader of Rural Delivery attending a workshop at the Harrison Lewis Centre expressed surprise upon realizing there was a connection between the two. There is. Me, and when she is on duty lining up programs, cooking a fine meal or generally looking after guests, my former wife Anne. The two of us launched the Harrison Lewis Centre several years ago, and the facilities are located a slingshot’s range from my house, barns, garden, played-out pastures, and blacksmith shop. It is a non-profit, board-directed, registered charity.
People sign up for workshops to learn how to use a chainsaw, for instance, or make sausage, write about nature, grow mushrooms, paint a picture – a wide variety of activities related to natural history and rural skills. Often these surprised workshop participants heard about programs through Rural Delivery, where we are able to run ads, cheap.
Other things happen at the Centre, such as retreats, or hosting Dalhousie University summer school field classes. We are reaching out to other universities that may be looking for a venue for summer programs. Our relatively remote location, surrounded by protected lands and on the Atlantic ocean, is perfect for studying natural history and the environment.
Of course I sprinkle a couple of magazines about the Centre as a subtle way of saying, “We’re one, you know, HLC and RD.” Perhaps too subtle, for nothing is said until, on rare occasion, someone steps forward to say, “You do Rural Delivery! Never knew.”
So far no one having made the connection has taken off, spinning gravel all the way to the highway. Luck, no doubt.
The Canada I knew and where I chose to live 45 years ago this coming October has been radically changed under the present administration in Ottawa. It is an administration someone in the Twitterverse, admitting he is a skeptic, went on to predict would not win re-election in 2054. That was bold.
I’m not going to get into politics, naming names and all that, but this guy, whose initials are Stephen Harper, has taken liberties with a generally liberal Canadian populace to the extent George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, J. Edgar Hoover (may his soul shovel coal forever) and even Donald Trump would now feel right at home. I single out J. Edgar for his FBI having kept a file on my grandfather who had the audacity to sponsor Jewish refugees from Europe before and during WWII.
The skeptic with his 2054 prediction could be proven right if opposition parties don’t put relatively insignificant differences aside and join the Heave Harper campaign.
But I don’t want to get political, so I’ll stay out of the debate.
Have agriculture and rural revival figured in campaign rhetoric? Aside from P.E.I.’s Green Party leader Dr. Peter Bevan-Baker calling on the Island government to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides (a report in the excellent bi-monthly Island Farmer newspaper, August 5), I’ve not read or heard much – and that call, I realize on second read, was not a party pitch or part of the federal campaign. So, what are candidates saying about Asian and European trade negotiations, risk management, neonicotinoids, the softwood lumber agreement, and, oh, things like fracking and farming fish in the open ocean?
In our last issue Rupert Jannasch, who raises sheep and vegetables on his farm in Hants County, talked about establishing vendor trust at farm markets. He raised several good points that were on my mind when I came across disappointing farm market offerings since reading his commentary. I’m thinking that pride has to be part of the equation; trust and pride.
The vendor has to take pride in what he or she is selling, how it was grown or gathered, processed, and marketed. Every step along the way has to be carefully looked after and if it is not, trust suffers – not only for that one vendor but for that farm market and for farm markets in general.
Two vendors failed the pride and trust test, one selling “free range” eggs, and the other chanterelle mushrooms. A dozen eggs sold at a premium were all sizes, some soiled, but worst of all had pale yolks telling of hens that perhaps had free range of a barn or chicken coop but never got outdoors. The other vendor without pride was offering chanterelles that had been picked whole, dirty feet and all, and tossed in a bag.
“You don’t clean them,” I said, to which the vendor replied, “The customers can do that.” Anyone who has collected chanterelles knows the difficulty of cleaning dirt from their gills and therefore makes sure to cut or snap off the base before tossing them into a basket or bag.
The casual manner in which these products were handled, marketed, and sold failed the pride test and with it went my trust in the vendors’ knowledge or integrity. That is a shame.
All the same, farm markets offering local produce are the preferred choice over supermarkets where pride seldom is reflected. It is a pleasure buying flavorful field-grown vegetables, clean, and artfully displayed – and they don’t even have stickers on them!
Happy harvesting, DvL