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Seeds of resistance
Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 11:11
The definition of a farmer is one who farms, or a person who operates a farm or cultivates land. This definition seems unfitting in the society we live in, where owning property has decreased, especially rural land, and living in urban areas has become the norm. The definition of farmer has evolved into anyone who grows their own food, which doesn't necessarily involve a farm.
Perhaps the definition of a farmer does not seem fitting for someone who may not own a farm because of the inability to generate large profits. For some, farming, gardening, permaculture or whatever you wish to call it, means something more than profit. It means sustainable living and the ability to educate oneself.
Elva Tammemagi is someone who illustrates this rogue farmer persona. Tammemagi is an active member of the St. Catharines community who has been working passionately to achieve what she now calls, "Rhizome Farms".
"Rhizome Farms is all about sustainable agriculture, using as little fuel as possible for weeding, delivery, using no chemical fertilizers, and donating a percentage of produce to those who may not otherwise have access to it, seed-saving, etc," said Tammemagi. "I believe in seeing farming and producing food from a holistic point of view, and attempting to understand how different parts of bio-diversity fit together."
Her project title is derived from the Rhizome Café in Vancouver, as Rhizome is defined as a root system that some plants use to spread themselves.
Rhizome Farms has spread, and continues to spread through Tammemagi's involvement. She is currently working on setting up a market garden. A market garden is the relatively small-scale production of diverse crops grown on a small area of land. Because production is relatively low-volume, sales are often through local fresh produce outlets, such as on-farm stands, farmers markets, community-supported argiculture subscriptions, restaurants and independent produce stores.
Tammemagi is also looking into setting up a Community Shared and Supported Agriculture [CSA] network in which members can purchase weekly shares of produce.
"I like the CSA model because there is a deeper connection between the farmer and the community, rather than just a monetary transaction between producer and consumer," said Tammemagi. "I'd also like to continue to sell regularly at local farmers' markets and continue to support local organization such as Food Not Bombs and Resource Association For Teens (R.A.F.T.)."
After graduating from the University of Ottawa in 2008 with a Honours BA in International Development and Globalization, Tammemagi decided to go backpacking across Western Canada after she worked in a coffee shop and waitressed. She ended up "WWOOFing," [World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms] in Saltspring Island, British Columbia where she began to grasp holistic agriculture.
"In 2010, I went on another back-packing trip to Nova Scotia, and WWOOFed for a month at a farm called ‘Wild Roots.' Here I had a really great experience learning, farming, selling at farmers markets, sharing with fellow WWOFers and developing personally," she said. "After returning from my trip out East, I had the opportunity to move to St. Catharines to cultivate the dream of creating a market garden."
Throughout her learning experiences, Tammemagi has come to share her passions of growing with her father, and looks up to her friend and mentor who runs an organic fruit farm close to Jordan, ON.
Tammemagi also looks up to Vandana Shiva, an activist who speaks out against terminator seeds and the right to food security.
"Food democracy is the new agenda for ecological sustainability and social justice," says Dr. Shiva in the book Stolen Harvest.
Dr. Shiva founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in the name of participatory, public interest research.
"When I found global corporations wanted to patent seeds, crops or life forms, I started Navdanya to protect biodiversity, defend farmers' rights and promote organic farming," said Dr. Shiva on her official Web site, Navdanya International.
Tammemagi will be busy this upcoming spring continuing to work with community organizations, vending at the Brock University's Farmers Market and other surrounding markets, and expanding the variety of vegetables and herbs she grows. Future goals include hosting workshops on planting, harvesting and seed saving, as well as actively teaching children where their food comes from.
"Do what you feel is right, but at the same time, think about the positive or negative impacts that your eco-friendly actions may have on your local and international community," said Tammemagi.
For more information about Rhizome Farms check out rhizomefarms.blogspot.com. or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org