Farming in Canada’s North


This week on Terra Informa we discuss sustainable agriculture and what its like farming in the north. How much sun do they get?!

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Photo by: Le Refuge Farms

Growing together: fish and plants


Happy holidays and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it! This week, we’re bringing you an archive piece.

Have you ever wondered what the heck aquaponics is? Is it the same as hydroponics and isn’t that just some kind of high tech way to grow pot? As it turns out, while there is definitely a relation to hydroponics, but it’s nothing to do with Mary Jane, although aquaponic systems do seem like a smoking good idea.

A unique form of agriculture with aquatic growing systems that combine fish and plants into one symbiotic environment, aquaculture technology is sustainable, incredibly water efficient, and super cool. Stay tuned to learn all about it with us, as Charly Blais and Andrea Gallivan chat with Edmonton-based designer and entrepreneur Jonathan Luckhurst of Sea to Sky Aquaponics whos main focus has been bringing aquaponics to students across Canada.

Download Episode Here

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Photo by: Bryghtknyght in Brooks, Alberta

Growing super plants with fish!


Have you ever wondered what the heck aquaponics is? Is it the same as hydroponics and isn’t that just some kind of high tech way to grow pot? As it turns out, while there is definitely a relation to hydroponics, but it’s nothing to do with Mary Jane, although aquaponic systems do seem like a smoking good idea.

A unique form of agriculture with aquatic growing systems that combine fish and plants into one symbiotic environment, aquaculture technology is sustainable, incredibly water efficient, and super cool. Stay tuned to learn all about it with us, as Charly Blais and Andrea Gallivan chat with Edmonton-based designer and entrepreneur Jonathan Luckhurst of Sea to Sky Aquaponics whos main focus has been bringing aquaponics to students across Canada.

Download Episode Here

Download Program Log Here

Photo by: Bryghtknyght in Brooks, Alberta

New Faces in Farming

Man in t-shirt pauses from work to smile for the camera. Standing amid field of green maize.

With many farmers pushing past retirement, a new generation of 20-somethings and 30-somethings is leaving college behind and jumping into farming. They’re bringing liberal arts degrees, live-tweeting, dance music and brunch-cravings with them—alongside a fresh enthusiasm for alternative farming models. We’re learning what the next generation of hipster-farmers is up to on this week’s Terra Informa.

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Stories of Oil and Organics

Man with scarf gestures with his hands emphatically. Book cover inset.

Mika Minio-Paluello works his magic at the University of Alberta. Photo credit: Trevor Chow-Fraser

On Terra Informa this week, we will dive into a raw milk story following Richard Griebel and Kathy Charpentier in Castor, Alberta. Next, we will transfer to Bloomfield to listen to Michelle Lutz’s story of her organic farming with a hospital in Michigan! Finally, we will travel with Mika Minio-Paluello to explore a special oil road, along with stories of repressive governments, secret police, Canadian attack helicopters, and more.

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Farm Workers’ Rights, Hurricane Sandy and Community Solar Power

This week, Terra Informa is all about power: Hear from Canadian and Latin American migrant agricultural workers trying to raise their power on Canada’s farms, Terra Informa veteran David Kaczan on Hurricane Sandy’s power, and a community solar power co-op starting up in Ontario.

Waves break on the shore behind a house.

Hurricane Sandy washes up on the shore at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina [Photo credit: County of Dare]

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Food Secure Canada panel on migrant workers’ rights

For the last two weeks, community organizers from Latin America and Canada have been on a speaking tour to raise awareness of the struggles for migrant workers’ rights. Terra Informa correspondent Annie Banks recorded the tour’s concluding panel at the Food Secure Canada conference in Edmonton, Alberta, on Treaty 6 Territories. It was called “Breaking the Silent Harvest: Experiences of Agricultural Migrant Workers in Canada.” Annie spoke with Jose Sicajau and Juan Luis Carbajal.

Listen to the full-length story:

More information: Students Against Migrant ExploitationJust work? A special Inter Pares campaign in solidarity for migrant workers’ rights, Project Counselling ServiceEntrenching Exploitation: Second Rept of AFL Temporary Foreign Worker Advocate (Alberta Federation of Labour)

Hurricane Sandy Report from North Carolina

Long-time listeners may have missed the gentle rumble of David Kaczan’s voice. He was a correspondent on our show for a long time, but he’s since moved on to pursue a PhD in environmental economics in Durham, North Carolina. When Hurricane Sandy just pummelled the East Coast, we couldn’t resist calling him up to get his take on the response in the US.

More information: Businessweek, Charlotte Observer, ChapelBoro

Northumberland Power Co-op

Using the power of community to power communities. A group of residents in Northumberland County, Ontario has come together to found a community power co-operative that will own and manage solar panels on area rooftops. They hope their initiative will increase the supply of renewable energy in the power grid and bring investment to the local economy. We reached the cooperative’s secretary, Rich Tyssen, in Cobourg, ON.

More information: APPrO Magazine, Financial PostGuelph MercuryGrist Magazine, Northumberland Today

What’s Happening

Film Screening: The Carbon Rush
On November 6, the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto is featuring The Carbon Rush—a gripping documentary that takes a hard look at the business of carbon trading through the eyes of those directly affected by it. This event is brought to you by Cinema Politica at The Bloor and the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. The film’s director, Amy Miller will be attending. The show starts at 6:45 PM.
More information: Cinema Politica

Seed and Food Events
The Unitarian Service Committee of Canada is teaming up with event organizers across the across the country to bring you for hands-on seed and food events:

2012 ECOSGN Seed Symposium
On November 9-11, the Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers Network will host a symposium at Montreal’s Centennial Center. Enjoy courses and workshops on seed growing and cleaning, a talk on seed security, and a field trip to an organic farm.
More information: Seeds of Diversity

BC Seeds Gathering
Also on November 9-11, BC Seeds is hosting a conference at Kwantlen University in Richmond. Join seed growers, savers, and activists in deciding how to improve the quality and quantity of locally grown seed. You can even bring you seeds to clean and test different cleaning equipment.
More information: BC Seeds

Harvest and Hunger: Who Controls Our Food?
The Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation is hosting the Harvest and Hunger conference on November 9th and 10th. Learn about Saskatchewan’s connection to the global food system, and what’s being done to create fairer, more sustainable food systems. This event will take place at the Mayfair United Church.
More information: Eventbrite, SCIC

Edmonton’s Agricultural Lands, Weeds, and Talking to Canadians

On this week’s show, Terra Informa takes you outside. First, we’ll take you along for a tour of Edmonton’s urban farmlands. Then we’ll find out the answer to the age old question: what is a weed? Finally we take to the streets to test the environmental knowledge of the common Canadian.

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Farming in the City Tours

We all know that potatoes have eyes and corn have ears, but did you know that some of Alberta’s most fertile farmland falls within Edmonton city limits? On a Sunday in late August, we boarded a school-bus for the Farming in the City Tour. The tour of local farms was organized by Live Local and the Greater Edmonton Alliance. Terra Informa’s Kathryn Lennon meets producers, samples produce, and finds out what will be lost if this land is not preserved. Sit back as we take you along for the ride!

More on this story: Edmonton Journal, Mastermaq, Greater Edmonton Alliance, Live Local, Friends of Famers, City of Edmonton

Ecobabble – Weeds
Since we’re talking about farming today, on this week’s Ecobabble, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips asks: what is a weed? He spoke to former University of Alberta Plant Sciences professor Dr. William Vanden Born to find out.
Featured music: Another Girl (instrumental) by duckett

Creative Commons License Another Girl (instrumental) by duckett is licensed under a Attribution Noncommercial (3.0).

Man on the Street

Hey hey, common Canadian! How Terra Informed are you? How keen is your green vocabulary? Are you up-to-date on your green buzz words and eco facts? We wanted to find out. So, two of our intrepid Terra Informers hit the streets to see what you know. From the Strathcona Farmers Market in Edmonton, Alberta, here’s Hamdi Iaaswi and Mel Skrypnyk.


Experts Call for Mackenzie River Management Plan

Climate change is threatening the Mackenzie River Basin, an area that’s been dubbed the “Amazon of the North.”The basin, which stretches across BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, as well as the Northwest and Yukon Territories, plays a vital role in maintaining climate stability by storing greenhouse gas in the ice and plant life. On September 5th-7th, the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy was held in Vancouver to advise the federal, as well as the provincial and territorial governments in the region, to create a transjurisdictional agreement that will manage resources, wildlife, and pollution for the basin as a whole.

More on this story: Reuters, Metro, Gordon Foundation

Government Releases New Coal Emission Rules

On September 5th the Canadian Federal Government finalized regulations for greenhouse gas emissions from the coal-fired electricity sector. Effective July 1st, 2015, the new regulations will cap CO2 emissions of coal plants at 420 tonnes per gigawatt hour instead of the the 375 tonne limit proposed in August 2011. Also affected is the lifespan of coal plants, which has been bumped up from 45 to 50 years. Units commissioned before 1975 must be shutdown by that time or 2019, which ever comes first. Those commissioned between 1975-1986 are allowed until 2029.

More on this story: Reuters, CBC

Investigation Concludes Small Earthquakes Caused by Fracking

An energy regulator from the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission has reported that numerous small earthquakes in Northeastern British Columbia have been caused by hydraulic fracking, a process used to extract natural gas from shale rock. The report stated that “The investigation has concluded that the events observed within remote and isolated areas of the Horn River Basin between 2009 and 2011 were caused by fluid injection during hydraulic fracturing in proximity to pre-existing faults.”

More on this story: Winnipeg Free Press, Globe and Mail, CBC News

Tar Sands Blockade Protests Texas Keystone Pipeline

In the Northeast Texas town Saltillo, a group of concerned landowners and climate justice organizers blocked equipment being used to construct TransCanada’s Gulf Coast Extension, formerly the Keystone XL pipelines. The action is part of ongoing actions by members of the Tar Sands Blockade, a group using peaceful and sustained civil disobedience to protest the construction of the Keystone XL pipelines.

More on this story: CBS19 TV, Beaumont Enterprise, The People’s Record

Japanese River Otter Declared Extinct

The Japanese river otter has been declared extinct in a report by the Japanese Environment Ministry, the first mammal to be declared extinct since the ministry started collecting data in 1991. Over-hunting and habitat pollution and destruction are named as causes of the river otter’s extinction.

More on this story: Japan Times, Mongabay News, News on Japan

What’s Happening

Terra Nova Sharing Farm Vegetable Harvest

On Saturday, September 15, The Lower Mainland Green Team invites volunteers to help harvest the Terra Nova sharing farm located in Northwest corner of Richmond, BC. Volunteers are asked to bring gardening gloves, as well as waterproof jackets and footwear; tools and instructions will be provided. The vegetables harvested from this event will be donated to the Richmond Food Bank.

More information: Meetup, The Sharing Farm Society

McIntyre Creek Clean-Up and the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-Up

The McIntyre Creek Clean-Up is a part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-Up and will take place on Sept 16th, from 10 am to 2 pm, at McIntyre Creek on Kwanlin Dun First Nation’s traditional territories, near Whitehorse in the Yukon Territories. A BBQ lunch will be provided by Yukon Electrical and anyone interested in participating is encouraged to bring their own gloves, garbage bags will be provided.

For more information, contact Friends of McIntyre Creek: 668-5678 or or visit Yukon Conservation

Community Gardens & Disease from Fish Farms

In the coming weeks lawyers at the Cohen Commission will be cross-examining witnesses on the themes of aquaculture and disease. Ian Mackenzie spoke to one witness — Catherine Stewart of the Living Oceans Society — to learn more about the issues that her organization hopes to address at the inquiry and some of the underlying concerns that salmon farms may be linked to wild salmon declines.

All across the country people are getting their hands dirty. Vacant lots, old rail right-of-ways, and unused corners of city land are getting a make over as community gardens reclaim the lost space. These days just about every major city in the country has a garden, and they’re so popular that many are struggling just to find room for all their new members. What’s all the fuss about? Tune in today to find out.

Download this week’s show.

Photo by PlaceMatters.

“Reel Waste” Film Fest, Transition Towns, and Anti-quarry Campaign

Download this week’s show.

This week on Terra Informa

1) Reel Waste Film Festival

Steve Andersen spoke with Garry Spotowski, better known to Terra Informa Listeners as Garry the Garbage Guy, about an upcoming film festival that focuses and camera lens on films about waste from around the world.  From the serious to the absurd, they’ve got it all.  For more info on the Festival and to see trailers for the films, click here.  If you’ll be in Edmonton between May 8th and May 11th, you can get tix to the festival here. For more information about the associated conference “Waste – the Social Context” check here.

Doris, the Transition Town Teacher

2) Transition Town Initiative

In the age of peak oil and global climate change one thing has become abundantly clear. We will invariably undergo some form of agrarian reform. Whether this change is self directed or imposed upon us by the limits of the natural world, local food production is going to play an increasingly important role. One strategy in preparing for the coming changes is the Transition Town Initiatives springing up across the country. Terra Informa correspondent Jason Evans caught up with local teacher and transition town participant Kelsey Armstrong to learn about the Transition Town Initiative in the Edmonton Community of Grovenor.  Find a Transition Town Initiative near you!

3)  Stop the Quarry!

The Highland Companies have proposed to build a limestone quarry in Dufferin County, Ontario. But this isn’t just any mine, it would be the largest quarry in Canada, and local farmers are crying foul. They say they were misled and that the company claimed it was establishing a potato farm when it began buying up land. Area residents have responded by forming the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce to oppose the project, which they say will not only destroy huge swaths of prime agricultural farm land, but also threaten much of southern Ontario’s water supply.

Rapid fire news attack

1) In light of recent events at Fukushima in Japan, The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission asked Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to review its nuclear reactors. Even though Ontarian’s don’t expect a magnitude-nine earthquake followed by a 15 m tsunami, there are still safety lessons to be learned. OPG issued a report which said that no significant issues have been found so far. However, Greenpeace Canada is accusing OPG of withholding information on the potential health and environmental impacts of a radiation release to the scale of Fukushima. Greenpeace says it is unacceptable to claim that these reactors are safe, and then not provide access to key information regarding the potential impacts of a radiation release. OPG has agreed to provide another update on its safety review by May 28.

Additional info on OPG and nuclear safety can be found here and here.

2) The mountain pine beetle, which devastated forests in British Columbia, is moving eastward. Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan are joining forces in an effort to combat the spread after a recent study confirmed that the beetle has jumped species from lodgepole pine to jack pine trees – the most common type of pine in the Boreal Forest.  Evidence confirms that the mountain pine beetle could arrive in Ontario in 20-30 years, and much sooner in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Currently, funding is going toward the development of a national forestry pest strategy.  Alberta alone has spent up to $300-million fighting this pest.   In B.C., the insect is expected to kill 1/3 of the  trees and lead to the loss of as many as 20,000 jobs. This is the scenario that other provinces are desperate to avoid. It had until recently been hoped that the spread of the beetle would be stopped by northern Alberta’s cold winters. However, researchers now say that the spread is continuing.

More info on the pine beetles’ spread can be found here and here.

3) In B.C. it’s Drinking Water Week: put on by the B.C. Water & Waste Association and the Province of British Columbia, this week aims to create awareness of water resources including where it comes from, where it goes, and how to protect and preserve it. British Columbians use, on average, 490 litres of water each day. The national average is 329 litres per day, which is approximately double the European average. Daisy Foster, CEO of the 4,400-member BC Water & Waste Association notes that, “increases in our population, the growth of industry and agriculture, and the effects of climate change all place enormous pressure on our water supply.” The Vancouver Sun newspaper, meanwhile, reported that there is a considerable lack of community awareness on water issues. For instance, 25% of Canadians are alleged to have no idea where the water that flows out of their taps comes from. They report that 44% of Canadians admit to knowingly engaging in water wasting activities such as leaving the tap running while washing dishes, and 19% admit to hosing down their driveways.  And whilst only 10 percent of Canadians don’t know what they pay on their electricity bill, almost 30 percent don’t know what they pay on their water bill.

More info on water use and Water Week in B.C. is available here and here.

4)  Environmental groups in Alberta are raising concerns over a recent oil spill in the northwest of the province. The leak was too small to be immediately detected by pressure changes by the pipeline’s operator, Kinder Morgan, a Texas based company. The leak was instead found by landowners in the area. An unknown amount of oil was leaked to the surface and into a nearby creek. Environmentalists claim that this latest spill demonstrates inherent dangers in large-scale oil projects such as the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. However, the damage from this spill is expected to be minimal.

You can find more info about the Alberta oil spill here and here.

5) Finally to New Brunswick now, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is calling for more support from the provincial government to increase investment in wind power. Robert Hornung, CanWEA president, last week publicly petitioned the New Brunswick Energy Commission to consider greatly expanding the role of wind in providing for future energy needs. The commission’s mandate, as of last fall, is to create a long term energy plan for the province. Whilst the government’s electricity utility, NB Power, has a goal of 400 megawatts of wind power capacity by 2010, the Canadian Wind Energy Association claims that this number can at least be doubled. Furthermore, they claim that there is considerable export potential to the north eastern United States.

However, commission co-chairman Jeannot Volpé argued that wind power is just one option that the commission is looking at. He argued that a dramatic rise in wind power production doesn’t make economic sense given its that it is more expensive than current sources of electricity.

More info on wind power in N.B. can be found here and here.