Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blueberry Daze – Continued

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a story to invite other Londoners to a morning of Blueberry picking at a nearby farm. This is one of the promotional posters that I created for my blog and Facebook event…

The purpose of this event was to provide a free ride - for people who don’t have access to transportation – to a local Blueberry farm. I wanted to inspire people to realize the value of picking and preserving locally grown fruits. By connecting consumers with local farmers a new relationship will be formed that will benefit our community and our environment.

My boss, at Murphy Bus Lines, thought that this was a great idea and he donated a bus to this cause. On top of volunteering many hours to make this event possible, I also donated my services as a driver.

With the help of the Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre, we were able to get the word out to the community so that people could sign up for this event. Many people who use this Centre have low incomes and transportation is often difficult, so this event was a great way to provide an opportunity to stock up on healthy berries for the coming winter.

I began planning this event in May. It took a few phone calls and meetings with community organizations until I found a group that wanted to be a part of this. By the time the GCCRC had ‘hopped on board’ it was nearing the end of July. This left us only a week and a half to advertise and register berry pickers. I heard that only seven or eight people had registered, so I was absolutely thrilled when I had counted a total of eighteen passengers on the bus that morning. Almost half of them were children under the age of twelve!!!

I had chosen Kustermans Blueberry Farm for several reasons. 1) They were one of the closest Blueberry farms to London. 2) They were a family run business – now into its second generation. 3) I liked that they had a vision for the future.

The owner welcomed us to the farm and gave us a short tour. The children just loved the petting zoo, filled with colourful birds, Chinese chickens, rabbits and miniature goats.

Steve Kusterman told us that he wanted to create a farming experience that an entire family could enjoy for a whole day. Instead of simply having people come, pick berries and then leave, Steve wants families to think about coming to his farm for a whole day.

He has created this petting zoo – with plans to expand, there’s a children’s playground with swings and slides and inside one of the buildings he is displaying and selling some local artwork as well as many freshly baked treats. The farm also grows Raspberries and Steve is planning on adding other vegetables that people will be able to come out to pick.

Soon, we were in the fields filling our buckets with the tastiest Blueberries in the world!

The children had a great time and, I feel, that this will give them an experience to realize that the food that we eat actually comes from somewhere – not just a grocery store. Many people are disconnected from this simple realization, so little thought is put into the food selections that are bought at the giant superstores that dominate our cities.

By buying and picking locally grown, in season fruits and vegetables we are supporting local economies and decreasing our needs for fossil fuels, as large trucks are not needed to transport these items across the continent. Imported fruits are also picked while the fruits are still unripe, so that they will ripen during transportation… and we all know that these fruits just don’t taste as wholesome and fresh.

The money saved by picking our own berries is another great benefit. I made a few calculations – based just on volumes of berries – and found that a $10.00 pail of fresh Blueberries would cost close to $30.00 if purchased at a grocery store. The stores also package their berries in plastic containers and these will often end up in landfills, contaminating our soils for thousands of years. This packaging is eliminated when you pick your own fruits.

This is my friend Liz! The evening before, Liz and I had attended a group dinner and I told her about this berry picking event. She wanted to learn where this farm was, and she wanted to stock up on Blueberries, so I told her where I would be stopping to pick up passengers. See – a little ‘word of mouth’ advertising goes a long way! Thanks for coming out, Liz!!

My favourite part about any kind of berry picking that I do is eating them while I’m in the fields – there’s nothing fresher or tastier. When I return home, I’ll be freezing most of the berries but I always leave a bowl full in my fridge to enjoy over the coming week. These will taste great but not as great as they do when eaten right off the berry bush.

Everyone agreed with me on this point. “There’s nothing tastier that a berry going from the bush to the hand to the mouth,” Liz said to me as she pushed a handful into her mouth.

I said, “Liz, you’re wrong about that. Actually, the tastiest berries go from the bush directly into my mouth!!!!” We all had a good chuckle over that one!

“Blueberry Daze” was a great success and soon I’ll be planning another events along this line of positive community action, so keep your eyes open for future event promotions.

Until then, be local, be in season and be healthy and happy!!!!


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