Permaculture movements growing out of Transformational Music Festival culture

Permaculture, food-forests, and a globally emerging paradigm-shift in agricultural design, inspired at Envision Festival 2016 Costa Rica

What is it about the experience of Transformational Music Festivals held in epic nature-centered spaces that puts us so much more in touch with that highest expression of the human spirit, of our soul, our dreams and indeed our physical body than almost any other music or festival experience? Perhaps it is rooted simply in how, in these settings, our bare feet are on the ground connecting us to the electrical impulses of mother earth, fully ‘grounded’ while our ears, eyes, nose and every sense in our body is fully alive and tuned into the sights, smells, vibrations and messages of trees, plants, birds, animals, the ground, the sky, the frequencies of musical artists creating soundscapes more in harmony with the natural environment and each other. This, in contrast to music concerts or even festivals held in the city in a building, outside on pavement, in parking lots or even in green spaces, but basically cut off from the full spectrum of mother earth’s full majesty and expression, fully oxygenated air and the sounds of a myriad of lifeforms resonating in cooperation, expression and joy, beautifully captured in this creative video by Ari Fararooy at Envision Festival held February 24-28, 2016 in Costa Rica.

What do so-called “Transformational Music Festivals” and permaculture have to do with each other? Rooted at the heart and purpose of these kinds of festivals is the urgent mission to inspire and birth a paradigm-shift in humanity’s relationship with nature, and with each other through diversity, resilience, artistic expression and permaculture principles. The widespread and urgent adoption of permaculture design, healthy local food, traditional plant medicines, expressive arts and transformational personal development experiences showcased at such events is an integral part of this paradigm-shift, I and many believe. This article chronicles my most recent personal journey to a tropical countries’ music festival and permaculture scene to further develop my sense of how festival culture is inspiring young people to embrace permaculture as a life path. It’s also a part of my own life-long love affair with great locally grown, organic food and the now global phenomenon that is the Transformational Music Festival!

I had been hearing great things about such a festival in Costa Rica for the last few years called Envision Festival. It had built a reputation for creating an experience rich in many ways with great live and electronic music, the best locally grown foods and drink, yoga and expressive arts & dance, fun experiences for kids of all ages, and, of course, permaculture teaching, projects and experiential workshops. Envision had grown a reputation for successfully weaving permaculture inspiration and teaching into their multi-day event. Envsion describes their festival, in part, as “Uniquely distinguished from any other festival on the planet, Envisionaries unite once a year to participate in the festival’s utopian permaculture community, which inspires self-expresson and holistic living through it’s regenerative infrastructure. Envision seeks to fulfill an inherent human desire to connect with like-minded individuals and feed the innate human need to be and live interconnected with nature”.

I had to go experience this festival called Envision and dig deeper into the fertile soil of the music festival and permaculture movement in their gorgeous tropical forest and beach setting that is classic “Pura Vida” Costa Rica!

According to one the fathers of permaculture, Bill Mollison, it is defined in his classic book, Permaculture, A Design Manual as “(permanent agriculture); the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order. The philosophy behind it is one of working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless actions; of looking at systems in all their functions, rather than asking only on e yield of them and of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.” He also said “we need to learn to do things in a way that maximizes hammock-time”.

Music festivals like Costa Rica’s Envision Festival and others have been, for the last number of years, creating intentional villages, autonomous zones where a growing community, or tribe, of global citizens live for the duration of the event. So naturally food, sanitation, shelter, and energy needs have to be met. But these are people who care deeply enough about our planet and each other that they have been putting their creativity, skills, resources to work collectively designing, building and living for a few days to a few weeks in the kind of village where the “new earth” paradigm so many want to usher into being… can be experienced, can be lived in and contributed to, by anyone! One where the basic needs of people and the natural environment and all of it’s inhabitants are met and honoured in a way that is demonstrable to everyone at the festival and to the outside world, so that a new way may overgrow the system and the current dominant paradigm we all know is not sustainable.

One of the four incredible stages at Envision in full musical swing!


But, my question was; are people attending these festivals then actually going home and putting these practices into action, getting further education, and then teaching their communities, families and work colleagues to join the revolution? I wanted to know. I wanted to hear personal stories and see it happening with my own eyes.

Stephen Brooks, co-founder of Envision Festival and Punta Mona Center for Regenerative Design & Botanical Studies, both in sunny Costa Rica, can be easily overheard, with his trademark boundless enthusiasm, sharing his passion for growing some of the world’s best foods in the most healthy and regenerative way possible and sharing this with a great many permaculture students from around the world. “I love plants! I love trees! I love to walk out my door, pick my own fruits and vegetables, and eat them, knowing where my food comes from and having that intimate relationship with my food. We are at an exciting crossroads in human history. People all over the world are starting to really care where their food comes from and how it was grown. They also want to know the people who grew their food, and if it’s organic. They want to be able to look their farmers in the eye and say ‘thank you for growing this food!”

“If you set it up right, all you do is reap!” his mentor, Paddy, used to say to Brooks, when the young man from Florida would stay with him at Punta Mona, on the south Caribbean coast of Costa Rica back in the early 90’s at his own ‘Garden of Eden’ permaculture inspired farm. Food was everywhere in his ‘food forest’, grown organic and delicious, diverse and resilient and with minimal effort or inputs; bread fruit, coconuts, heart of palm, bananas, pigeon-peas, jack fruit, durian, passion fruit, avocado, and so many others were plentiful plus happy healthy chickens and plenty of seafood from the ocean. This vision of living in such a way so as to design and steward the land one lives on, growing an abundant variety of fresh food, both for people and animals and in harmony with nature, in order to “maximize hammock time” was a dream and a reality that inspired Brooks and his friends in those early days. He wanted to show the world how and why to design life and food growing systems in this way. As the visionary designer, Buckminster Fuller said; a radical re-design of the world is the answer to most if not all of humanity’s problems; economic, cultural, environmental & societal.

One of the many jam-packed talks on health and nutrition at The Village Stage.


It was in that Caribbean province of Limon, Costa Rica where chemical-cocktail Chiquita banana and Dole pineapple plantations, as far as the eye can see, revealed another, more disturbing reality for Brooks than what he had hoped for, one that he became determined to change. I also went to this part of Costa Rica back in the early nineties but just hung out on the beach with my girlfriend without really seeing what he saw going on there, what was happening to the land, water and these ancient, mysterious and beautiful people, the local Bribri indigenous living there since time immemorial.

Brooks was  his rental car with his girlfriend one day exploring the area for the first time and was horrifyingly struck by the sight he has never forgotten; an airplane flying low over the Dole pineapple and Chiquita banana plantations spraying lung-choking and eye-burning pesticides, algicides and herbicides on all of it AND the Bribri children playing football on a nearby school field. How could this be allowed to happen, Brooks asked himself? Later on down the road his car was stopped by a banana conveyor-belt cable hauling huge bunches of the fruit across the road. Watching “perfect bananas” floating by for awhile he imagined how the world had come to operate in such a state of toxic disrespect. A regal, proud looking native man hovered by him, getting a ride on the same banana belt….covered in the sweat, chemicals and economic hardship that had left him and so many with no other option other than to go work those terrible plantations. Brooks decided right then and there to do something about it.  The idea that this toxic and disrespectful way of farming could continue to overtake & dominate this region of the world he loved so much, so that North American and European middle class could eat perfect looking and cheap fruit, was scary, tragic and unacceptable.

Twenty-some years later Stephen and his wife Sara and their team still live at Punta Mona, right beside Paddy’s house, who has since passed on, and it has become one of Latin America’s top tropical permaculture teaching centers, having taught and inspired thousands of people to design and grow food-growing systems using permaculture, or “common sense” approaches and thus live in a more harmonious way with their natural surroundings that regenerates our planet! Out of this dream Envision Festival also grew. This video from Envision Festival 2015 captures the richness, fun and diversity of this epic festival.

As I walked onto the Envision grounds at Rancho La Merced near the seaside town of Uvita and Playa Hermosa (beautiful beach) on the last day of this 4 day & night festival one of the first sights was one of my friends from Vancouver, the raw food innovator of Gorilla Food, Aaron Ash, and several dozen other people, adults and youth, excitedly planting banana plants, papaya and others that provide habitat and food for the local animals and birds and other ornamental flora to line pathways and provide natural fencing. I was later informed that this was but one of the many legacies left to that jungle community from the Envision community!

In the just one afternoon and evening and the next morning at Envision I witnessed a global tribe of people genuinely embodying Costa Rica’s national mantra; “Pura Vida” or “Pure Life” as about 6000 Envisionaries danced, played music, practiced yoga, painted, made art, planted new life, hugged and loved each other, created and ate food & drink, swam, surfed, and communed in a very deep way in this utopian permaculture-inspired global tribe, completely Immersed in so many of the things that give us not only joy, but also a feeling of divine purpose in life. I was far from my home in BC but I felt a deep sense of ‘home’ too!

I saw people celebrating and exploring an entirely new way of being in the world while sharing in body and soul stirring music from globally celebrated artists like Random Rab, The Human Experience, Beats Antique, tribal house leaders Bedouin, and Costa Rica’s stand out electro-fusion rock band (and surprise festival favorite) Santos y Zurdo, to name but a few. Globally known and sought-after yoga teachers like Sienna Sherman, 5Rhymths dance teacher, Amber Ryan, celebrated classical Hatha Yoga teacher Marcos Jassan from Mexico City, and many more gifted teachers of all things yoga and expressive movement, guided festival-goers through beautifully transformative and empowering experiences.

Envisionaries enjoy a yoga class under the shade of a beautiful tree. Photo Eric Allen Photography

In the heart of the festival grounds stood, The Village, a bustling caravan of educational workshops, inspirational speakers, and the fresh produce Vida Market complete with the live music Village Stage, Tea House Lounge, and a women’s only Red Tent Pavilion. Insightful talks were hosted at The Village stage including nutrition expert David Avocado Wolfe, prolific astrologer Kaypacha, and Envsion’s Stephen Brooks plus musical performances by Vir, Camillo and Incus. The Witches Healing Sanctuary provided a unique communal healing and ceremony space for herbalists, bodyworkers and educators to share therapeutic practices. Craft vendors boasted souvenirs with beautiful handcrafted jewelry, art and clothing from across the Americas while food vendors offered a selection of mouthwatering world cuisine made from unprocessed, fresh food sourced from local farms. Now that’s a village worth visiting for a few days!

On the permaculture side of things, and beyond the leave-behind planting of beneficial trees and plants, and the lessons learned by those participants, what I experienced at Envision was an eco-village festival experience without compare; no plastics for sale, only reusable dishes and cups, organic and ethically produced food and beverages, dry composting toilets and as efficient a public shower system I’ve ever seen for 6000 people, including hundreds of volunteers! This is “being the change we want to see in the world”! All of the stages, jungle-gyms, overhead walkways and structures were build using untreated bamboo, and re-used after, of course. One of the signature features of Envision Festival, for me, was the blue-grey locally sourced mud many people had artfully painted on their bodies, tribal-like, also acting as a sunblock that, when washed off, does not pollute the water and ocean. There were just too many beautiful and paradigm-shifting innovations showcased at Envision to possibly name. I can’t wait until next year to go back and take in the entire 4 day festival and spend a few weeks helping to build the village!

A ritual dance and ceremony is performed to honour indigenous traditions by a man with Envision’s signature blue mud costume


Envision Festival 2017 will host it’s 7th annual festival in Uvita, Costa Rica February 23 to 26th, 2017. Come and join this evolutionary global tribe of change makers! For an enhanced sense of what you can expect to experience please enjoy this video of highlights from the 2016 Envision Festival

I went to Envision with the idea to find millennials having deep permaculture-immersion experiences and to talk to them about it and to find out how it is or has informed and inspired their life path but I found them after Envision on my 40 day journey and culture-surf on the wave and outward flow of Envision. From a permaculture project called VerdEnergia, (Green Energy) where reforestation is happening in a bold, powerful, new way to Forestdance , a 3 night shamanic tribal circle dance in tikki torch light and under majestic Ceibo trees in harmony with a million strong insect orchestra, the music of Incus and some of the world’s best African drummers, all held in those emerald green energized tropical mountain-forests where Jaguars and people live in harmony. One such breathtaking cat bounced across the road in front of us and into the green dense forest as if to say “Yes, you’ve arrived in OUR home. Treat it well. Honour it. Learn how our home thrives. Keep it abundant and diverse and preserve & cherish our sacred waters and trees”.

Then a Conscious Connected Breathing retreat with Breath teacher and facilitator Robin Clements that opened and liberated my creative power more fully and through visits with my mom on her land and through her friends at EcoVilla, where Brooks and 42 other families live in a shared mountain community where a central garden and food-forest is a primary focus and their way of “being the change we want to see in the world”.

After a month in Costa Rica my trip was nearing it’s final week and I still had not managed to catch up with the very busy Stephen Brooks for an interview. Finally, he suggested rather than doing an interview I should come with him to Punta Mona and attend a 5 day event he was hosting called Jungle Camp, a 4 day yoga, culinary and permaculture learning experience. I jumped at the chance! A few days later I met with him and a group of yogis from Mexico City at a natural foods restaurant in San Jose called Mantra, appropriately. I was about to find out what his mantra is for re-designing a better world, especially when it comes to food. Within five minutes of arriving Stephen got a call from a 5th generation Columbian banana plantation owner asking for his help. The Columbian basically said “My family has been growing bananas for several generations using the status-quo practices of heavy chemicals; pesticides, herbicides, algicides and petroleum based fertilizers. I have more money than I could spend in several lifetimes but I’m not happy because I see the land, the animals, the water and the people being poisoned and I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to redesign how we grow bananas so that the land & water and everyone involved can be healthy, happy and respected. Will you help me?”

I knew I was talking to the right guy to learn about a better way to grow food!

The group of about 14 yoga students was led by their teacher, Marcos Jassan Mexico City’s Classic Hatha Yoga Master.

Hatha Yoga teacher Marcos Jassan shares wisdom and humour along with Juanpa and Brooks in the yoga temple space. I love yoga guided in both English and Spanish. Photo Adam Sealey
Hatha Yoga teacher Marcos Jassan shares wisdom and humour along with Juanpa and Brooks in the yoga temple space. I love yoga guided in both English and Spanish. Photo Adam Sealey

Co-facilitating the journey was Conscious Living School’s Juan Pablo Barahona, or “Juanpa”, as his friends call him, a Costa Rican and long-time friend of Brooks who teaches personal transformational globally though breath techniques, yoga, chi gong, shamanic practices, music and sun gazing among other modalities. I knew I was in for a treat and a powerful learning and transformative experience.

The next day we arrived at Punta Mona’s tropical paradise of all things permaculture, tropical and beautiful! Exotic fruit and vegetable bearing plants and trees of too many species to name are everywhere on this 84 acre property. As our boat neared the shore Brooks excitedly exclaimed; “look! That’s black gold all over our beach!” A new batch of black seaweed to fertilize and mulch the plants had washed up on the beach since his last visit. Here, nothing is wasted. All resources are valued and put to use. For example one sign says “Take a pee & water a tree”. Human urine is rich in nitrogen and potassium which plants need so why not put it to use and save buying and transporting in such fertilizers! More colorful and informative painted signs all over this gorgeous oasis of nourishment and learning educate and inspire guests about what they are looking at as well as explain how and why things are set up as they are. Smiling staff members and volunteers let us know without a doubt that this is a very special place to work and spend time.

We always circled up in the kitchen area before the incredible meals as a collective and shared our excitement and our gratitude for being in such a beautiful place, for each other’s gifts, and for the amazing fresh, organic and vibrant beyond-compare food we were about to enjoy. We knew we were very fortunate to be there!

Stephen tells us the story of Mame or Mame Zapote, and how he brought the tiny tree to Punta Mona in a fishing-rod case and grafted it with root stock suited to the area. 17 years later, a huge tree stands beside his kitchen delighting all with it's rich, buttery, custard taste. Photo Adam Sealey
Stephen tells us the story of Mame or Mame Zapote, and how he brought the tiny tree to Punta Mona in a fishing-rod case and grafted it with root stock suited to the area. 17 years later, a huge tree stands beside his kitchen delighting all with it’s rich, buttery, custard taste. Photo Adam Sealey

We enjoyed many of the foods in season at Punta Mona like buttery bananas, papaya, agua de manzana (water apples), heart of palm, katuk greens, cacao, passion fruit, ice-cream fruit, and one of my personal favorites, mame zapote an avocado-like fruit with dense orange flesh that tastes sweet, rich, and buttery, “que rica!” as the Costa Ricans say.

The yoga and breath classes with Marcos and Juanpa were excellent and the music we played together in the evenings was a joy to witness and be a part of. I was so grateful to have been invited!

During the several tours of Punta Mona’s bounty, with his trademark joyous animation, enthusiasm and good humor, Stephen taught us about the many species of plants and trees at Punta Mona as well as his wisdom as to why each tree and plant had been selected, both for the health of whoever eats it and for the planet. In this VIDEO Brooks shares a bold idea whose time has come; “Write this down, mark my words, it’s an idea that is going to take over the world. We need to transition the predominant diet of the world from annuals to perennials which don’t have to be replanted every season, they live on year after year. Annuals like corn, rice, basically all grains, squash, beans and so on have to be replanted every season and require huge inputs of labour and fertilizers and typically are less nutrient dense than perennials which are foods like nuts, avocados, cacao, pigeon-peas, all tree fruits and many more. They grow in a more symbiotic, evolutionary relationship with their surrounding plants and trees, and animals.

One of the many custard fruits with a "take a pee, water a tree" sign in background. Photo Adam Sealey
One of the many custard fruits with a “take a pee, water a tree” sign in background. Photo Adam Sealey

We need to not only think about our own health when selecting what to grow but also what is good for the planet, for the soil and water, animals and insects. It’s not all about us but those “super foods” we love are mostly perennials and by moving our diet over to being more perennials based we not only will be better nourished, but the planet will be also!” In this VIDEO he talks about the importance of diversity or species. And here in this VIDEO he share with us his not so secret alias name and obsession; Artocarpus which is breadfruit , bread nut, and other tropical deliciousness.

Brooks shared a story about one of his close friends who coined the term “grain damage” referring to how a fixation on grains and annuals, while feeding a lot of people, has not been the best thing for both the long-term health of those people and of the planet due to the reasons stated above. He showed us a real ‘food-forest’ which relies on diversity and cooperation among trees and plants. For example, a food forest does well with plenty of nitrogen fixing plants like beans or the local pigeon-peas supplying this the most in-demand nutrient for most plants. This, like in the Native American 3 Sisters garden which is corn to grow tall and create a structure for the nitrogen fixing beans to climb up, and squash which covers the ground with it’s large leaves preventing water evaporation. That’s cooperation through diversity!

Stephen Brooks of Punta Mona talks about perennial based foods and their advantages

Sometimes I feel like we are, collectively, like the stranded astronaut Matt Damon plays in his recent movie, The Martian, where his survival alone on Mars comes down to whether or not he can redesign his environment to grow potatoes in the otherwise cold, no oxygen and waterless environment of the red planet. He had to re-imagine and re-organize his resources to create the conditions for life to thrive. So do we, except, unlike on Mars it’s all provided by Mother Earth already if we’d just get centralized, private control and crony-capitalism corruption out of the way and put our attention on living and designing our lives; cities, towns, farms and the countryside using these permaculture principles. The question that Brooks always puts out there to others is; “How can we live like this all the time? How can we take all the best things about this experience and infuse it into our culture?” The answer: Envision-inspired communities, both in Costa Rica and abroad. Plans are in the works to launch these ethos-and permaculture-based ideals and community building practices in Central America and all of the Americas!

This journey has sparked major changes in my life and priorities. I’ve since taken steps to re-design of my own life! Now, just 4 months later I’ve moved out of the city to the farmland of the Fraser Valley committed to live more harmoniously with nature, grow as much of my own food as possible, and model and share with way of designing and living life with others. I’m very grateful to my friend, Amir Niroumand, who has taken stewardship of a beautiful piece of farmland in Canada’s corn growing capitol, or one of them, and invited me and others in the community to come live with him on his Hobby Farm, for a more grounded, simplified, and nourished life on the land, growing food in the healthiest way we can and imagining and building a farm-based community hub based on sharing resources instead of just seeking profit. His blog, Narratives of a Dancing Scientist, What’s our new Story? is a great read.

3 Sisters Garden with corn, beans and squash. Strength through diversity in this the UN "Year of the Pulses" which are beans, peas, legumes. Photo: Adam Sealey
3 Sisters Garden with corn, beans and squash. Strength through diversity in this the UN “Year of the Pulses” which are beans, peas, legumes. Photo: Adam Sealey

Our  first agricultural act was to plant a “3 Sisters Garden” the Native American original permaculture method; Corn, beans and squash. The nitrogen-fixing beans give the soil one of it’s most needed nutrients, the corn, in return provide structures for the beans to grow on, and the squash spread their large leaves out around the feet of the corn and beans providing ground cover, shade and thus preserving water for the beautiful trio of plants.

Since my experiences with Stephen down in Costa Rica Brooks has shared with me his excitement at being commissioned to design an 8,000 acre permaculture inspired food-forest community in the south west of Costa Rica near San Isidro called RISE Costa Rica! There, he and his partners are reforesting hillsides and valleys previously cleared to graze cattle or otherwise uncared for, by planting 8,000 fruit trees and 60,000 native trees and creating a massive food-forest where many people will share in this better way of living within the natural laws of our life-giving Mother Earth. With reforestation, food-forests and permaculture practices as it’s prime directives, the first phase will see 50 homes built as a ‘founders village’. Learn more at

Stephen and his friends at Punta Mona are welcoming people to their next 5 day Jungle Camp starting September 26th, 2016 for another deep dive into permaculture and transformational experiences. Find out more and register at

There are many organizations and events worldwide that those interested in permaculture can tap into to take courses, connect with teachers, find resources and sign up for volunteer experiences. Some of my favorite are: is a global online community that connects you with trusted and experienced permaculture teachers, centers and transformational permaculture-based experiences  in nearly every continent. based in BC, Canada, connects you with free learning resources, networking, courses, know-how and local people to help build your eduction in permaculture.

Vancouver Island’s Our EcoVillage offers Permaculture Design, Natural Building and EcoVillage Design courses, and lots more!

The Permaculture Research Institute in Australia has a wide range of information and connections to all things permaculture.

The North American Permaculture Convergence happens September 14-18 in Hopland, California

If you want to put your hands and feet, eyes and ears into these kinds of transformative music festival experiences where permaculture is a focus here are two that I recommend this summer.

BlessedCoast2Here in BC, Blessed Coast Festival is now holding it’s 2nd annual festival of music, yoga and art with a long-term permaculture focus also on July 22-24, at Cheekeye Ranch, near Squamish BC. Traditional Squamish First Nation ceremonies and wisdom teachings, facilitated by the elders, teachers and wisdom-keepers from the same land the festival is being held on, where the Cheekeye and the Cheakamus rivers form their confluence, will also be offered. This 3 day festival also features local Squamish Nation artist and activist of renown, Beau Dick, will make available his profound collection of cedar-carved native masks for a traditional mask dance, rarely seen by people outside of their community. Conscious connected breathing sessions, plus dance, acro-yoga and music workshops, plant walks, can be experienced. And, of course, it’s a festival designed from the ground up with the overall essence of what permaculture is; doing things in a way that works with the natural environment and regenerates and adds to the diversity of life-systems rather than negatively impacting them.

Renewable energy generation and a revolutionary battery system, all with zero emissions, will power the main stage where some of BC & Vancouver’s favourite local artists like adhamshaikh-happywithkeyboard The Boom Booms, Adham ShaikhBuckman Coe, Sacr3d, Prosad , DJ AppleCat AppleCat_Agassiz July 29Corrina Keeling Trevor Hall and a host of other amazing local and international music artists like Yaima, Chris Berry of Hawaii’s Flow Fest and a few dozen more amazing artists will move our bodies, hearts and souls with their transcendent & scintillating music next weekend! If you want to dance all weekend, full power, THIS is the lineup that will keep you on your feet with a huge smile on your face, guaranteed, by yours truly. Here’s a taste of one of my all-time favourite electronic artist’s sounds

Blessed Coast founder and recording artist & performer, KaLa Siddha, says of this community co-creation; “Blessed Coast is an answer to my prayer and so many in our community to come together for the purpose of honoring and celebrating the rich coastal cultures of the Salish Sea region, and the lands, waters and life-systems that support us all so richly. Bucky_HawaiiBlessed Coast is modeling the core aspects needed for a strong, united and resilient community where the traditions and laws of the original stewards of this place are deeply respected. Corrina_Keeling Railway+ClubAlmost all of the necessary components of a village 2.0 are represented at our gathering, from ceremony to celebration, from renewable energy systems to sustainable food production. Food will be supplied by a farm in richmond that our Blessed Coast chef owns collectively with other members of our community. As a legacy, festival organizers and friends of Blessed Coast envision the establishment of our own all-season eco-village and permaculture-based farm in the Squamish area. The goal is to build this community alongside the Squamish First Nations. We have leaders in that community who support the idea of modeling all that we can do to live in harmony with nature and traditional cultures, on this our Blessed Coast”

Find out more about Blessed Coast Festival at where you’ll find info on the full lineup of artists and activities, weekend or day passes, parking, meals and more. See you there!

For those of you near or who love to visit Northern California, Enchanted Forest Gathering takes root and returns July 22-24. Celebrated as NorCal’s premiere conscious living, music, and movement festival, Enchanted Forest Gathering creates close-knit community experiences within a fairytale setting of majestic Oak trees at Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville, CA. This gathering showcases over 70 internationally-acclaimed live and electronic musical acts, including headliners Shpongle, The Polish Ambassador, Ayla Nereo, Hamsa Lila, PantyRaid, Minnesota, Fanna Fi Allah, Autograf, Lila Rose, Thriftworks performing atop four stunningly-constructed stages. EFG also hosts a movement festival within a festival, with over 50 workshops in yoga, dance, movement, and flow arts instruction led by globally-renowned teachers including 2016 yoga headliner Suzanne Sterling, Conscious Living School’s Juan Pablo Barahona, and DJ FreQ Nasty (Darin McFadyen) and Claire Thompson’s Yoga of Bass. Rounding out the list of marvels to discover at the festival are over 60 educational workshops and forums covering subjects around relationships and sexuality, science and spirituality, permaculture and ancestral arts, as well as health, wellness, nutrition and nourishment. Tickets & Info at Enchanted Forest Gathering



Adam “Siddhartha” Sealey is a BC based foodie, environmental activist, budding farmer, and lover of the earth and all of  her beings. When not helping Common Ground Magazine publish it’s next epic issue he can be found hugging and loving up his amazing Vancouver family, making great food and super food creations, growing food, thinking about food 😉 learning about permaculture, enjoying community and transformative music & arts festivals, writing, spending time in nature, kayaking, travelling in Latin America & learning more Spanish. His favourite environmental conservation organizations are Pacific Wild and Salish Sea Bio-Regional Marine Sanctuary & Coastal Trail                  Contact: 










GE salmon not worth the risk to health and environment


Adam S. Sealey

Call of the River
“The Call of the River.” An original painting by Autumn Skye Morrison.

• The wild salmon that return to us every year, offering their nourishment, inspiration and beauty, are a miracle of creation. Autumn Skye Morrison’s “The Call of the River” inspired Salmon Wisdomon the back of 7”x9” versions and was shared with friends, family and colleagues. People were inspired by it!

It reads, in part, “Salmon are an important part of the wheel of life, a powerful reminder of our interconnectedness and a teacher of self-sacrifice. To indigenous cultures of the Northwest, salmon are highly respected and appreciated, symbolizing instinct, determination, prosperity and renewal. The Celts believe salmon to be one of the wisest and most ancient of all animals, representing wisdom, transformation and inspiration.”

In September, the US company AquaBounty, started by two Canadian men with the goal of developing and marketing genetically engineered salmon, stated in an FDA document that they would very soon apply to  Health Canada for market approval in Canada where they feel that “the key” to worldwide acceptance of genetically engineered salmon lies. According to the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, CBAN, “AquaBounty does not yet have permission from Environment Canada to commercially produce its GE salmon eggs at its PEI facility. Environment Canada refuses to disclose if the department is already assessing a request from AquaBounty.” Their plan is to ship these ‘Franken-salmon’ eggs to a facility high in the mountains of Panama to be grown to market size in tanks, harvested, packaged and shipped back to us to eat. Does this sound crazy? It gets worse.

In 2009, the DFO reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) virus had been found in the GE salmon in the supposedly secure AquaBounty research facility on PEI. What if these infected salmon were to escape their tanks in PEI or Panama through flooding or some other disaster? AquaBounty says that 95% of the salmon would be sterile females and the rest males. But they can’t guarantee ISA infected male salmon wouldn’t escape into the biosphere. It’s yet another pending environmental disaster and the entire process of assessing the environmental risk is being done in secret without public consultation. Canada has not even ratified the UN protocols on bio-safety for international transport of living modified organisms.

There are also the health implications of eating GE salmon to consider. Dr. Mercola already lists conventional farmed salmon as the worst in his top 10 foods to avoid. Add in transgenic engineering of Atlantic salmon with genes from an “eel-like creature” the “Ocean Pout” and a Chinook, and then feed it a diet of God only knows what GMO-derived feed, antibiotics and drugs and this plan is a health train-wreck right out of the gates.

Please write to the Minister of the Environment and Health Canada and express your concerns. For an easy to use form letter that will be sent to the right people, visit and click on “No GM Fish” and follow the links. Raise awareness in your community about GE salmon. It could be approved or rejected any day now in the US where there have been delays and considerable push-backfrom the public and lawmakers.

Rather than engineering Franken-Salmon to feed people we should be exploring ways to help wild salmon populations remain strong, sustainable and understood by the people. We should be having a conversation about how to take care of the environment in which they are born, the ocean in which they mature and the path they swim to reach their ocean feeding grounds. Instead of blaming climate change, ignoring the salmon farming which are spreading diseases and parasites into our oceans, and basically giving up on wild salmon, we should be looking to nature and ourselves for clues as to how to create the conditions for long term wild salmon health. This autumn, the Pink salmon returns from the Fraser River all the way up to the Skeena were massive. How did that happen and what clues does it give us to answer these questions?

On September 12, Mark Hume wrote in the Globe and Mail: “The massive return of one species – pinks – coming on the heels of a disastrous run of another –sockeye – may be linked to a dramatic shift in ocean conditions last year. And it has raised questions about the possible role of a controversial experiment that took place when the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. dumped iron materialin the ocean last summer, stimulating plankton growth just as the pink salmon were moving through the area.”

People in the know about this have told me that “dumping” is not what they did, but rather they strategically dispersed 100 tons of the iron-rich rock dust over a large area to find out if they could fertilize that part of the ocean for increased plankton growth, and thus nourish all marine life, many species being food for wild salmon among a myriad of other creatures.

What about the totally unexpected 2010 Sockeye return to the Fraser River – nearly 40 million? How did that occur? That’s a conversation that needs to happen and the reason why the Artists Response Team, with musicians Kevin Wright and Holly Arntzen, along with artist and ocean ecologist Russ George, are presenting a new musical show and tour called 40 Million Salmon Can’t Be Wrong, which hopes to inspire a national conversation about the phenomenon of those 40 million sockeye. Scientists were predicting only one million would return, but there was a 4,000% increase, after the Kasatochi volcano in the Aleutian slands erupted in 2008, dispersing mineral-rich volcanic ash over the North Pacific ocean. The plankton bloomed and ocean life exploded. That summer, the baby Sockeye that swam out to sea from the Fraser River, along with all other marine life, were treated to a feast of plankton nourished by the volcanic dust. They grew and grew and returned to our rivers, 40 million strong. Read theCBC article about the researchers at the University of Victoria who pieced the story together here

Find out when this show is coming to your community at

Let’s talk about how we can ensure wild salmon for generations to come not how we can genetically engineer them in such a way that we get to run away from our shared responsibility to take care of the life systems that naturally gift us with this precious food and source of cultural and personal inspiration for all, especially our indigenous cultures.

Whether it’s GMO corn, soy, canola, cotton, non-browning apples, alfalfa or salmon, people all over the world are finally coming to the understanding that taking care of our food system is each person’s responsibility. Government agencies have proven that they cannot be trusted with this sacred duty. People the world over have the ability and the survival imperative to create a better food system than big agribusiness interests can or ever will. More food is currently being grown by small to medium sized farm operations than big agri-corporations. We can build on this and we are!

We can clearly see genetically modified and engineered foods are only about the corporate monopoly of the food system through patents and selling lots of pesticides, etc. They are only about shareholder profits. GMO crops are damaging human, animal and environmental health to an extent we just don’t know, bankrupting farmers with patent infringement lawsuits and stealingfood sovereignty from all of humanity and nature. The promise of GMO crops producing an increased yield have been de-bunked. They don’t. They are a crime against all life on earth. People are finally dumping Monsanto stock as the world wakes up to the crimes against nature, people and common sense these big agribusiness corporations are committing.

People are standing up, finding their power and their voices and taking unprecedented actions to re-imagine and remake our food systems healthy again, with justice for farmers and truth for all.

On October 12, UN World Food Day, millions around the world will take to the streets again in the March Against Monsanto. In Vancouver’s March starting at 10AM at the Vancouver Art Gallery one of the highlights will be a live performance of Michael Jackson VS GMOs –– Don’t Eat It, an anti-GMOmockumusic video set to the music of Jackson’s Thriller and Beat It. Created and performed by our very own Raamayan Ananda (Swami G) and Tha Truth IS Media Alliance, this flash-mob performance and music video will engage andinspire generations of Michael Jackson fans to get involved in this cause, spread the message about stopping GMOs and perform the templated flash-mob dance in their community. Like Michael Jackson says in his song Man in the Mirror, “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.” Check out the preview video at Search Don’t Eat It and please support the production with a donation. The video is set to be released on Friday, October 11th as part of Vancouver’s march!

Common Ground salutes everyone doing such amazing work for a better world though art, science, activism and principled business.

We are the change we want to see in the world! Come and stand with us!


Phenomenal food garden

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

Seed selection: what to grow? Ask yourself what you most like to eat. There’s not much point planting a row of space-hogging cabbages if no one likes cabbage. It also makes sense to grow food that costs more, especially if space is limited in your garden. To select plants that will thrive in your garden’s microclimate, check the number of days to maturity.

Soil fertility: add “The Four Secrets of Successful Soil Building” – compost, manure, leaves and seaweed – to your soil every year and notice an incredible difference in productivity. Plants remove nutrients from the soil as they grow, which means soil quality degrades over time.

Lots of compost: make what I call “Super Duper Compost.” For layers, use leaves, weeds (no seeds), herbaceous clippings, manure, grass clippings, spoiled hay, sawdust, chicken litter, etc. To make it super-duper, add layers of comfrey leaves, nettles, seaweed and dried horsetail. Tip: Don’t add kitchen waste because it attracts rodents.

Companion planting: plant diversity is key to healthy gardening because communities of plants work together to keep bugs at bay, attract pollinators and improve plant growth. Grow a diversity of food crops together with hedgerows, flowers, grasses, herbs and berries and allow nature to control potential problems.

Crop rotation: if the same plants are grown in the same place year after year, problems arise. After seven years, club root develops in brassicas; after 10 years, white rot develops in garlic; bean-weevil populations explode where beans are continually grown. Moving plants around inhibits pests and diseases, as the lifecycle can be broken.

Pest control: in my experience, the only way to keep deer out is with eight-foot-high fencing. Raccoons and birds can cause a ripe corn or cherry crop to disappear overnight, so net plants as the crop ripens. Collecting slugs at dusk helps keep their populations down. To control whiteflies in the greenhouse, cover cardboard squares with bright yellow plastic and smear with sticky Tanglefoot.

Starting seeds early: instead of direct seeding, grow seedlings in the greenhouse whenever possible and transplant outdoors when conditions are settled. Improvise a greenhouse with cold frames and cloches, which can be made inexpensively from recycled glass windows and wooden frames.

Weed control: the best time to remove weeds from the garden is when the soil is moist. At the start of each season, go through the garden and do a major weeding to prevent weeds setting seed. At the end of the season, smother any new weed seeds with a thick layer of mulch.

Seed saving: grow open pollinated seeds and save your own seeds – those that have not had their genetic makeup tampered with through hybridization or genetic modification. Plants adapt to the conditions they grow in, which is why using organic seed is best if you are an organic gardener. Local seeds have an edge; seeds grown in different bioregions have adapted to the local climate conditions.

Winter gardening: there’s no need to leave beds empty from October to April when so many food plants can be harvested in winter. In cooler areas, a cold frame will be necessary, but growing some food is still possible.

September 23
Free talk and booksigning
The Zero-Mile Diet – with Carolyn Herriot
at Banyen Books, 3608 West 4th Ave.
604-737-8858. Sponsored by Word on the Street.
More info at

Will the real blueberries please stand up?

by  Mike Adams

The blueberries found in blueberry bagels, cereals, breads and muffins are real blueberries right? Wrong! Award-winning investigative journalist Mike Adams, the HealthRanger, exposes the deceptive chemical ingredients and dishonest marketing of “blueberry” products from big-name food and cereal companies. The blueberries, it turns out, are made from artificial colours, hydrogenated oils and liquid sugars. See

Pictures of blueberries are prominently displayed on the front of many food packages and on boxes of muffins, cereals and breads. But turn the packages around and suddenly the blueberries disappear. They’re gone, replaced in the ingredients list with sugars, oils and artificial colours derived from petrochemicals.

This bag of blueberry bagels [featured in the video at] sold at Target stores is made with blueberry bits. And while actual blueberries are found further down the ingredients list, the blueberry bits themselves don’t even contain bits of blueberries. They’re made entirely from sugar, corn cereal, modified food starch, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, artificial flavour, cellulose gum, salt and artificial colours like Blue #2, Red #40, Green #3 and Blue #1.

What’s missing from that list? Well, blueberries. Where did the blueberries go?

They certainly didn’t end up in Total Blueberry Pomegranate Cereal. This cereal, made by General Mills, contains neither blueberries nor pomegranates. They’re nowhere to be found. But the cereal is made with red #40, Blue #2 and other artificial colours. And it’s even sweetened with sucralose, a chemical sweetener. And that’s in addition to the sugar, corn syrup and brown sugar syrup that’s already on the label.

A lot of products that imply they’re made with blueberries contain no blueberries at all. And many that do contain a tiny amount of blueberries cut their recipes with artificial blueberry ingredients to make it look like their products contain more blueberries than they really do.

Kellogg’s Blueberry Pop Tarts shows a picture of plump blueberries right on the front of the box. But inside the box, there’s a lot more high fructose corn syrup than actual blueberries. And the corn syrup is given a blueberry colour with the addition of – guess what? – Red #40, Blue #1 and Blue #2 chemicals.

Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats also come in a Blueberry Muffin variety, with fresh blueberries prominently featured on the front of the package. But inside, there are no actual blueberries to be found. Instead, you get “blueberry flavoured crunchlets” – yes, crunchlets – made from sugars, soybean oil, Red #40 and Blue #2.

And, if you can believe it, the side panel of this box features the “Frosted Mini Wheats Bite Size” logo, followed by the words “blueberry muffin” with pictures of blueberries, finally followed by “The Whole Truth.” Except it really isn’t the whole truth at all. It’s more like a half-truth.

These marketing deceptions even continue on Kellogg’s website, where one page claims, “New Special K Blueberry Fruit Crisps are filled with blueberries and drizzled with vanilla icing.” Except they aren’t, really. What they’re really filled with is apple powder, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, fructose, sugar, artificial colours Red #40 and Blue #1, all enhanced with a dash of blueberry puree concentrate.

Even seemingly “healthy” blueberry products can be deceptive. Betty Crocker’s Fiber One Blueberry muffin mix enhances its small amount of actual blueberries with petrochemical colours, too: Red #40, Blue #1 and Blue #2.

At least Betty Crocker’s Blueberry Muffin Mix admits it contains no real blueberries. Well, if you read the fine print, that is. Its ingredients reveal “Artificial blueberry flavor bits” which are made from dextrose, Corn Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Sugar, Citric Acid, Artificial Flavour, and of course the obligatory Blue #1 and Red #40.

When consumers buy blueberry cereals, muffins and mixes, they’re under the impression that they’re buying real blueberries. No ordinary consumer realizes they’re actually buying blue colouring chemicals mixed with hydrogenated oils and liquid sugars. That’s why this common industry practice of faking the blueberries is so deceptive.

Why can’t food companies just be more honest about it? Nature’s Path Organic Optimum Blueberry-Cinnamon Breakfast Cereal contains – get this – both blueberries and cinnamon.

Better yet, you won’t find any red #40, Blue #2 or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in Nature’s Path products. They even use organic blueberries and organic cinnamon.

Health Valley Low-Fat Blueberry Tarts are also made with real blueberries. You won’t find any artificial colouring chemicals in this box.

So why can’t Kellogg, Betty Crocker, General Mills and Target stores use real blueberries in their products instead of deceptively formulating them with artificial petrochemical colours that mimic the purple colour of blueberries?

It’s probably because real blueberries are expensive. And artificial blueberry bits, made with sugar, partially hydrogenated oils and artificial colours, are dirt-cheap. If these companies can fool consumers into thinking they’re buying real blueberries in their products, they can command a price premium that translates into increased profits.

Once again, in the food industry, deception pays off. And it pays big.

So what can you do to make sure you don’t get scammed by a food company trying to sell you red #40 and Blue #2 as if they were real blueberries? Read the ingredients. If you see artificial colours on the list – and they’re usually found at the very bottom of the ingredients list – just don’t buy that product.

Put it back on the shelf and choose something else that’s not deceptively marketed. And that’s how you solve “the case of the missing blueberries.”

Mike Adams, also known as the HealthRanger, is the co-creator of NaturalNews.TV, an online resource that shares videos on health, green living, happiness, fitness and self-improvement. It also features Adams’ mini-documentary series Food Investigations where he reveals shocking truths about foods. Adams is also the editor of and the co-founder of the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center (

photo © Olivier Le Queinec

On becoming a vegetarian

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

I did not want the energy of suffering and inhumanity that pervades concentrated animal feedlot (CAFO) operations to become a part of me.

I became a vegetarian in 1975 when I landed in Vancouver from London, UK and found myself sharing a cooperative house with five other people who were all vegetarians. The deal was we each took turns making dinner and because I loved cooking, instead of being daunted, I dashed out to buy a vegetarian cookbook that would teach me to cook something other than egg and cheese dishes.

I happen to believe ‘You are what you eat’ so after swallowing John Robbins’Diet for a New America, I was clear I did not want the energy of suffering and inhumanity that pervades concentrated animal feedlot (CAFO) operations to become a part of me. It was at 23 Dunbar Street in Vancouver that I understood why I needed to become a vegetarian. I shed 30 pounds, felt my energy lighten and I had a much greater sense of well-being. There was no going back and I have been a healthy vegetarian ever since.


It seemed to me from conversations at dinner parties that people were anxious about getting enough protein in a vegetarian diet, but I assured them this was not a problem. Our bodies are composed of 20 percent protein by weight and adequate protein is important for tissue growth and repair, metabolic functioning and the formation of disease-fighting antibodies. Protein molecules are composed of building blocks called amino acids. There are 22 known amino acids, most of which are synthesized in the body. However, there are eight that cannot be synthesized and they are referred to as essential amino acids.

All eight essential amino acids must be present at the same time and in the right proportions for protein synthesis to occur. Grains, beans, nuts, seeds and dairy are valuable sources of these essential amino acids and when combined ensure an adequate intake of amino acids for complete protein synthesis. One of the three combinations below – along with fresh vegetables from the garden – means you can quit worrying about getting enough protein in your diet.

  1. Grains combined with beans.
  2. Grains combined with dairy products.
  3. Beans combined with seeds.

If everyone in the US went vegetarian just for one day, the nation would save:

  • 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months.
  • 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year.
  • 70 million gallons of gas, enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare.
  • 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware.
  • 33 tons of antibiotics.

(Source: Kathy Freston, Huffington Post,

Then there’s the global politics of making meat the centre of the meal. I find it hard to stomach that we grow corn and grains to feed to animals when so many of us are going hungry. Imagine how easily we could feed the world if members of the meat-eating society cut back to eating meat once a week. And imagine how much suffering to animals we could alleviate if we banned concentrated animal feedlot operations.

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path, a 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide and The Zero Mile Diet: A Year-round Guide to Growing Organic Food (Harbour Publishing). She grows ‘Seeds of Victory’ at the Garden Path Centre in Victoria, BC. The Garden Path Centre is open to visitors every Friday, 10AM-6PM until September 25, 2011.

cattle photo © Amanda Geyer

Tribal teachings restore food independence

by Dawn Morrison


There is much to be learned from Elders and previous generations who share the wisdom of ways to overcome the stress and uncertainty associated with not knowing where your next meal is coming from. Secwepemc (aka Shuswap) Elder speaks of her experiences in the Great Depression years: “We (the Secwepemc) were not hungry because we knew how to grow, gather, hunt and fish to put food on the table and we knew how to work together as a community to make it happen. It was only the people who lacked the knowledge and skills necessary to feed themselves by living on the land that went hungry.”

The ability to put healthy, culturally appropriate food on the table for ourselves, our families and our communities is being rapidly eroded by changes happening outside the historical range of variability. Some major changes to our environment and culture include climate chaos, lack of inter-generational transmission of food-related knowledge and lack of access to land. We owe it to our children and seven generations into the future to do our best to ensure we pass on the knowledge, skills, wisdom and values necessary for overcoming the stress and uncertainty associated with our reliance on the globalized food system.

As social creatures capable of functioning with a high level of intelligence, love, and creativity, humans respond well to tribal teachings that place us back in the circle of life in close connection to one another and the land, plants and animals that provide us with our food. To many of the most persistent Elders and cultural teachers, social networking is just another fancy term that speaks to the ancient tribal values of being in relationship with our extended families and communities. As our most basic and profound physical need, food provides the perfect framework for linking social networks and re-focusing time and energy on sharing knowledge, insights and experiences.

The BC Food Systems Network plays an active role in bringing people together to advocate for a food policy that places community food security as the highest priority. The Network emphasizes the way in which food issues cross cultures, sectors and age groups. ( The all-inclusive approach to building relationships across cultures has resulted in a richness of cross-cultural learning between early settler communities, new immigrants and the 27 nations of Indigenous peoples that inhabit what is now known as the province of BC.

BCFSN 13th Annual Gathering

The 13th annual Gathering of the BC Food Systems Network takes place July 7-10, in 100 Mile House in the Cariboo region of BC. In the spirit of resiliency, diversity, giving and sharing, the history of the venue carries stories of a “standing policy in the depression years to feed anyone who needed a meal if they were willing to do some of the work in exchange.” The Gathering offers workshops, panel presentations, roundtable discussions, poster displays, demonstration tables and hands-on activities. The forum and the gathering are relevant to anyone who eats and/or is concerned about the future of food.

Special Public Forum $25. Gathering $295. Call or email Dawn Morrison for more info:, 250.679.1116 or register online

November is National Health Food Month

Celebrate your health – naturally

Consumer interest in learning how to promote and maintain health naturally is at an all-time high. At the same time, scientific research in the area of the benefits of using natural health and organic products has also grown exponentially.

National Health Food Month is an annual initiative of the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) that shines a spotlight on natural health and organic products with the intention of broadening consumer awareness of the products and their benefits. It’s also an opportunity for dedicated manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors, growers and importers of natural and organic products to showcase the industry’s high-quality products.

Recognized each November, National Health Food Month serves as a reminder for Canadians that natural health and organic products are:

  • federally regulated
  • safe and effective with health claims supported by research
  • an integral part of promoting and maintaining health

To assist in promoting National Health Food Month, CHFA will highlight the latest research that focuses on the long-term value of natural health and organic products for health and well being.

The research comes from the scientific abstracts contained in the newest issue of Research & Your Health, an educational resource produced by the CHFA, in collaboration with InspireHealth, and exclusively for CHFA members. Canada’s foremost integrative cancer care centre, InspireHealth, is a not-for-profit charitable organization located in Vancouver.

Here’s a line-up of topics and a quick summary of the conclusions from the research:

Vitamin D

There’s been a lot of information about the benefits of vitamin D lately. A growing body of evidence about the link between vitamin D and reducing risk for colorectal, breast and prostate cancers led the Canadian Cancer Society to recommend a specific amount of vitamin D supplementation in 2007.

A study published in the July 12, 2010 issue of Archives of Internal Medicineexamined whether an association between low serum levels of vitamin D and cognitive decline or dementia can be demonstrated. The researchers concluded that low levels of vitamin D were associated with substantial cognitive decline in the elderly population they studied over a six-year period and suggest new possibilities for treatment and prevention.

Whole foods

Whole foods are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible. Turns out they’re great for human health. Take the example of nuts. Researchers looked at nuts and the effects of consumption on blood lipid levels. What they found was that the benefits of eating nuts were greatest among subjects with high baseline LDL-concentration (low-density lipoprotein also known as the bad cholesterol) and with low body mass index and among those consuming Western diets. They published these results in the May 10, 2010 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Fish oil

Use of non-vitamin, non-mineral “specialty” supplements has increased substantially over recent decades. Fish oil is one example. Researchers found the use of fish oil was associated with a 32 percent reduced risk of a type of breast cancer (ductal). Fish oil is known to have anti-inflammatory or anticancer properties. The findings are published in July 2010 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.


Canada celebrated its first-ever Organic Week October 9-16. The event recognized the growing interest in all things organic and attracted unique events and activities in many communities across the country. CHFA was proud to be a Championship Sponsor of this inaugural event. The organic sector has been growing 20 to 35 percent per year, according to the Canada Organic Trade Association. The retail value of organic food products in Canada in 2008 was estimated at $2 billion, according to a 2008 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada study, approximately double that of 2006. Clearly, Canadians are interested in organics and with a new, regulatory regime for organic food in force since July 1, 2009, it’s easier than ever to identify food that is certified organic.

More evidence has come to the forefront about the demonstrated benefits of natural health and organic products. We encourage Canadians to recognize and support National Health Food Month. Visit your local natural health retailer today. Your health will thank you.

Canadian Cancer Society Announces Vitamin D Recommendation

Learn more at

photograph by Peter Sircom Bromley

Grizzlies – Human behaviour to bear in mind

by Howard Pattinson

There is something magical in observing bears in the wild, but the question is how should we behave in bear country? Ideally, we want to be able to enjoy the wilderness and allow the bears to thrive in their habitat. If you come across a coastal grizzly bear, be aware that its evolution will have an affect on how it reacts to you.

Grizzly bears evolved on the open steppes of the northern plains where hiding was not an option so their defence is usually to go on the offensive. A female grizzly will charge you to chase you away from her cubs or food source. Most of the time, it’s only a bluff charge and she will turn away once she thinks you are no longer a threat. Do not shout or wave your arms the way you would if you had an interaction with a coastal black bear. Coastal black bears evolved in forested areas so they tend to run, climb a tree or hide. Most coastal black bears are black with little white bow ties. Coastal grizzly bears are brown, blond, dark brown or black and they’re bigger, with a large hump of muscle between the shoulders.

A grizzly bear may walk towards you with a grizzly swagger to assert dominance or simply because it is curious. If possible, back up. If you are in a boat, move your vessel away. Be aware that your lunch can be just as enticing to a bear as it is to you. I have opened a sockeye sandwich about a mile from a grizzly bear and with its nose turned into the wind, it immediately started walking towards us, at which point we started the boat motor, put the food back in the cooler and quickly got out of there. You also have to be careful to keep garbage aboard the boat. Bears foraging along the beach at low tide for natural seafood will come across human garbage and learn to like it; they’ll then seek out other sources of human food from logging camps and summer homes. Human food-conditioned bears are put down by the BC Conservation Service. Black bears conditioned to human food are also attracted to bird feeders in people’s yards; you might ask yourself if it is really necessary to feed birds in the summer when there is a lot of wild food available.

On the move

Grizzly bears hibernate high in the mountains above the tree line. As the sun strengthens and the snow begins to melt, a female grizzly bear breaks through the protective layer of snow to greet the spring. She is not alone this year; three small cubs peek out into a bright strange world. Born in the dark den to a sleeping mother, these cubs – the size of a pound of butter – begin to nurse on their mother’s rich milk, gaining weight and growing bigger every day. Emergence from the den signals the beginning of the cub’s lessons in survival. Female grizzly bears have many lessons to teach their young and the mother will keep them close for three winters before they are ready to go off on their own.

Initially, the young family stays close to the winter den until the cubs learn to scramble over logs, along rocky, steep slopes and through the dense underbrush. Slowly, the mother leads her cubs down to the low tide beaches of Knight Inlet. On these rocky beaches, she finds protein that will provide the calories required to replace the almost 40 percent loss of body weight that occurred over the winter. She will teach her young to roll rocks to find tasty blennies, eels, crabs and isopods that have been stranded as the tide recedes. By the middle of summer, the cubs will be rolling their own rocks, which are about half their size, just like mom does.

Spring is not a safe time for young grizzly bears as male grizzlies are roaming the beaches and estuaries in search of food and a mate. Males will kill the cubs to force the females back into heat. This mom and cubs stay away from the highly productive estuaries and remain hidden near an old avalanche chute where she gets by on skunk cabbage and low tide beach seafood. She will only move into the estuary when she is certain the males have finished mating and moved into the high country to gorge on alpine berries. As the salmon berries ripen in mid June, she spends more time in the berry patches. On a lucky day, when a sharp eyed bald eagle snatches an early salmon out of the creek and rips at the wriggling fish, mother’s nose goes up and she trots along the beach. Coming suddenly over a rock bluff, she startles the eagle into flight. This grizzly family enjoys its first salmon meal of the season.

People have lived with bears on the BC coast for thousands of years. They are an important part of our wilderness and a symbol of strength, power and intelligence. When we remember a few simple rules, we may not only enjoy bears in the wild, but we can also help them stay wild.

Howard Pattinson is the owner of Tide Rip Grizzly Tours in Telegraph Cove, BC. As a grizzly tour guide, he is very familiar with bear behaviour in the wild.

Sumptuous sandwiches

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

Someone I know took a peanut butter sandwich in his lunch bag every day – for seven years. Then what happened? He didn’t give up peanut butter, but when he finished school and got a job as a computer whiz, once in a while he ate a warm meal in the company cafeteria, to add a little variety.

Sandwiches are named after John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), who enjoyed eating while he worked and played. To avoid dribbling meat drippings onto the work on his desk and his cribbage board, he had his valet contain the meat between two slices of bread. This Earl wasn’t the inventor of the sandwich, though he seemed adept at getting things named after him. In his position as First Lord of the Admiralty, he supported Captain Cook’s Pacific exploration and Cook subsequently named the Sandwich Islands in the Earl’s honour. Just think, we might easily have been named Sandwichtown instead of Vancouver.

Variations of the hand-held lunch exist around the world. Asian versions include nori rolls, in which the wrap is a dried sheet of seaweed and rice paper wraps, which may contain rice, veggies and peanut sauce. In Mexican cuisine, we encounter corn or wheat tortillas as wraps for tasty fillings.

If you are facing months of bag lunches for yourself or your family members, check out the sidebar for some healthy ideas to make lunchtime more interesting. This is just a start. There are plenty of flavourful veggie “meats.” Combine slices to make a ‘Hero’ and fill a fresh roll with guacamole. Spread rice cakes with a variety of nut butters, with or without jam.

Check out the vegetarian sandwich fillings at natural foods stores and mainstream supermarkets. On New Westminster’s Columbia Street, a cute little market called Karmavore (, 604.527.4212) offers a fascinating range of products from veggie meats and patés to the outstanding new Daiya cheese, which tastes good, melts and is soy and wheat-free. A favourite sandwich is the raw Tapenade Roll in a collard leaf at Gorilla Food on Vancouver’s Richards Street.

An easy meal to take when flying out of YVR is a package of vegetarian nori rolls, complete with pickled ginger. You can find these at airport concessions across North America These rice rolls also work well in lunch bags for those with wheat and gluten sensitivities. Oh, and we forgot to list peanut butter in the sidebar!

Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and co-author of Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, Raising Vegetarian Children, the Food Allergy Survival Guide, Becoming Raw and the Raw Food Revolution Diet. For personal consultations, phone 604-882-6782 or visit

Tempting sandwich fillings



Seed savvy

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

Farmers and agriculturists have been growing food and selecting seeds for future harvests for 10,000 years. Fewer than six generations ago, our ancestors lived rural lifestyles, growing food and saving their own seeds or acquiring them locally. Today, the majority of farmers don’t save seeds and most of the rest of us have forgotten how. As passive consumers in a global economy, despite all the amazing technology at our fingertips, we have forgotten how to feed ourselves.

Modern seed production is geared towards agribusiness, which is geared towards making food production as cheap as possible. Plant breeders hybridize seeds for identical plants for uniformity in harvesting and processing. In this biotech age, seeds are genetically modified for resistance to the ever-increasing amounts of pesticides that are needed for ‘farming’ with unnatural monocultures. Today’s consumers have become addicted to an abundance of cheap food from around the world, made possible by an era of plentiful fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the reality of cheap food is that it harms the Earth and it’s killing us through poor nutrition in the process.


Row of silverbeet going to seed.
Row of five-colour silverbeet going to seed

As we transition towards a sustainable future, agriculture will once again be based on small-scale, regional food production and we will need naturally pollinated seeds, which we can keep saving. Seeds that have been hybridized and tampered with genetically do not provide the solution to feeding ourselves.

Seed selection: As a seed saver, you participate in selection, encouraging the qualities you most value in a plant. Select seeds from the healthiest, best-performing plants in the garden, displaying the most typical characteristics of the variety. If selection is not carefully maintained, it’s easy to lose the favourable traits of a certain strain.

‘Off types’: Inspect the plants frequently to identify any ‘off types,’ plants that show different traits from the other plants. These should be ‘rogued’ out by removing them before they flower.

Seed collection: Timing for seed collection is critical and observation is the key to success. Wait until seeds are ripe enough for collection, but don’t wait until they have dispersed into the garden or the finches have eaten them. Be aware of weeds that hide among plants and remove them before inadvertently collecting their seeds.

I collect most seeds in brown paper bags, upon which I write the name and date of collection and any other pertinent information. If there’s a large volume of seeds to collect, I line large, plastic tubs with bags, which then stay in the greenhouse for two weeks so the seeds can dry. They are then moved to the dry garage, which is cooler, until they are cleaned in October.

Labelling: For everything you collect, identify the name and record the date of collection and any special features.

Drying: Thorough drying is critical before storing seeds in sealed containers or envelopes. The larger the seed, the longer it needs to dry. If possible, leave seeds to mature on the plant, but it is sometimes necessary to harvest seeds before they are quite ripe.

Cleaning: Remove the chaff and other debris by sieving seeds through screens of different sized mesh. Winnow seeds in a light breeze to remove any tiny particles or dust. I use a hairdryer on a cold setting to do this.

Storing: The ideal temperature for storage is 5°C, in a dark, cool, humid area. Avoid fluctuations in temperature. Paper bags, envelopes or airtight containers (yoghurt tubs) work well. Seeds retain longer viability when refrigerated or frozen. Place dried seeds in small, zip-lock, plastic bags; pack these into a sealed, glass jar and place in the fridge.

Carolyn’s new book The Zero Mile Diet – A Year-round Guide to Growing Great Organic Food is now available (Harbour Publishing)