See you at Seedy Saturday on March 8!

seed_savers_logo_largeHey there Skookies-

Powell River’s ninth annual Seedy Saturday is coming up this Saturday (March 8, 2014). Please note the new earlier hours: doors open at 9:30 AM and the event goes until 2:30 PM.  Admission is $2 and the Farmers’ Institute is happy to accept Powell River Dollars. Kids 12 and under get in for free, so bring the whole family! This is the annual event that kicks off the growing season in the region, and anyone who’s been there in the past knows that it’s both fun and educational. Inside, approximately six seed vendors and 20 community groups are participating.

Skookum will be there with an info table and Tattler BPA-free, indefinitely reusable home canning lids for sale:

Price List ( remember that your purchase also supports Skookum… for more info on the lids visit http://www.reusablecanninglids.com/ )

Our prices cannot be beaten– do some research and see for yourself.

  • 50 wide lids and rings ….. $40 each
  • 50 regular lids and rings ….. $35 each
  • 24 regular lids and rings …. $17 each
  • 24 wide mouth lids and rings.. $20 each
  • Regular lid+ring sampler pack.. (6 lids+rings) $4 each
  • Wide mouth lid+ring sampler.. pack (6 lids+rings) $5 each
  • Regular rings (8 per pack) ….. $2 each
  • Wide mouth rings (8 per pack). $2 each

More on the Seedy Saturday event this weekend… there will be lots to do for kids as well!

Workshop schedule:

10:00 AM to 10:45 AM

  • Kevin Wilson:Three ways to start seeds
  • Margaret Cooper & Jo-Ann Canning: Surviving the invasion of the Spotted-Wing Drosophila (you will recall we had a blog post on this here)

11:00 AM to 11:45 PM

  • Julia Adam & Rob Hughes: Soil Health: The foundation for thriving plants
  • Leonie Croy: Saving seeds that sustain us

12:00 PM to 12:45 PM

  • Rosie Fleury: Gardening with poultry
  • Doug Brown: Should or shouldn’t I keep bees?

1:00 PM to 2:30 PM (BIG EVENT!!)

  • Carolyn Herriot (Evergreen Theatre): At 1 p.m. best-selling author Carolyn Herriot will be presenting on “How to Save Seeds to Grow Local Food” in the Evergreen Theatre at the Recreation Complex. Her talk is to help energize everyone into growing more food, saving seed and getting involved in the Farmers’ Institute Seed Bank . For more information about the event, please contact Wendy Devlin at (604) 483-9268 or visit http://prfarmers.ca/pr-seedysat/.

 

 

 

Skookum Co-op Week Event

We had around 50 people come out on a foggy night in Powell River BC’s Cranberry neighbourhood for our guest speaker Tom Shandel’s film screening and discussion. We were very lucky to have Tom’s experience and insights into the co-op/credit union world.

We thank First Credit Union and their representative Tara Chernoff for their support on what was Credit Union Day (Oct 17), and all our participating members, especially Aaron Mazurek and family for hosting Tom Shandel and his partner, as well as to Jacqueline Huddleston for putting out an appie extravaganza and for her general tireless work for our cooperative.

Many thanks also to Jan Burnikell who is also always there as a constant support. Kudos also to our Skookum guest speakers/co-organizers David Parkinson (Secretary, Past-President), Laura Berezan (Treasurer), and to all those who showed up with equipment and assistance in setting up/tearing down, and driving us around to get this event happening.

We do have an audio recording of the event, that needs to be edited. Skookum has a copy of the film we viewed, plus 2 other versions that relate directly to Social Co-ops (elder care, drug rehab co-ops, especially), and to the Emilia-Romagna, Italy model. This DVD and another title by Tom Shandel will be made available to members through our Skookum Bookshelf (our lending library that you should really check out and even contribute to…) at Kingfisher Books on Marine Ave., shortly.

If you missed it… here is the dynamic slideshow that preceded the event, click here.

Tara Chernoff ‘s very relevant and timely reference to a Tyee article on 5 Things we Don’t Know About Co-ops, and you can read it right here.

And here is a version of the film (but not exactly the one that played last night) here in two parts:

Part 1: http://youtu.be/0UtRO24C_IA

Part 2: http://youtu.be/ThmIy0aqRBQ

Cooperatives on the bean

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThis third instalment on cooperatives will take a more personal approach to the topic: namely, why I became a member way back when (3 years ago or so) and what my personal motivations are in seeing Skookum develop and increasingly become a big part of our community, and a draw for the like-minded out there looking for a great place to live.

Other points of view are encouraged on this blog as well, so if you want to share, please contact us with your story or simply comment on this one, at the bottom of the blog post.

In 2009, while our trusty economy was taking its latest major dip, a small group of us got to talking about how to increase our community’s confidence in being able to feed ourselves. The  ‘food insecurity’ was and still is, caused by various factors like volatile food prices and the constant low-level awareness that as a remote community producing probably no more than 4% of our food, we could be in big trouble and fast. Other areas of concern are the effects and costs in both today-dollars and future costs to the environment and our health inherent to fossil fuel use in food production/transportation. Coupled with the growing local interest in food self-sufficiency in terms of growing, raising, catching, preparing, preserving and sharing the best food possible, made it seem like a good time to try something new.

Underlying this was the need to great create stronger community links between people with resources and skills and those who could gain from these, for the benefit of all. We saw the newly developed non-profit Community Service Cooperative designation as providing a great model for democratic ownership. Even before we had the Skookum name, we had the feeling that the group would grow to include many different types of activities that would support local food and also create links between people with a concern for related progressive society-building activities like affordable housing, collective ownership of land, materials, vehicles, structures and resources. Any profits raised from our group’s activities goes back into the cooperative, and with  no membership fees (except for the initial one-time purchase of an actual share at $20 that is also redeemable), the cooperative was meant to provide open access to jointly-owned resources.

cabbages at the EGTSo what do you do? Who do you benefit? What can I get out of this?

The one-line ‘elevator speech’ describing Skookum is a pesky critter: the fact is that the cooperative was designed to be what the membership wants it to be, provided that our core goals of  helping our members “acquire and share the knowledge, skills, and resources they need in order to  grow, gather, raise, and catch healthful food as locally as possible and to preserve, store, prepare, and share the bounty”. That’s a mouthful. I like to say we’re here to help make local food happen, however we can. If a member wants to run a lending library of books (we have this at Kingfisher Books) or tools, run workshops on growing rabbits, catching fish, canning tomatoes, growing or picking mushrooms, baking bread, or run a bulk buying project that will help members get the best possible food or food-related product (seeds, plants, trees, growing or preserving supplies) at reasonable prices, they should be able to do so and get payment from those members or non-members who want to participate.

These activities help the membership gain the skills, materials and products at reasonable cost, while having a door open to non-members also opens the cooperative up to the wider community, since our goals include “building a strong community and a diverse local food economy based on mutual support, fair prices, living wages, and respect for the natural systems which sustain life”.

If you went on the local Edible Garden Tour this year (kicking off the  Annual 50-Mile Eat Local Challenge), you visited several Skookum members’ gardens, saw our Skookum cider press (the morning part of the tour) and probably talked with many Skookum members too! We have 137 memberships comprising 186 members at this point and we’re always looking for active members to increase the scope and to work on existing projects that need support. Tell your friends!

 

A Cooperative Primer

cooperation
Better Together.

Time for a primer on cooperatives, because apart from knowing you’re a valued member of Skookum and that you gain value from our cooperative, it’s important to know what we are creating together. This little review includes the different types of cooperatives out there, how Skookum bridges several types (while primarily being classified as a Non-profit Community Service Co-op, primarily engaged in the Consumer Co-op model; see below) and what your role is in the whole thing. Consider this part one of a multi-part series on cooperatives. Cooperatives are becoming much more popular, and in future posts, we will discuss why that is.

The information below was culled from the British Columbia Cooperative Association website (we maintain membership in the BCCA) and from the Canadian Cooperative Association.
 

Types of Co-ops 

Co-operatives are unified by their democratic structure, but different co-ops may be set up for different purposes.

Consumer co-operatives: These are co-operatives whose members are their customers; the majority of consumer co-operatives are retail stores. Mountain Equipment Co-op, UFA and the local retail co-ops that are part of Federated Co-operatives Limited, Co-op Atlantic and Arctic Co-operatives Limited are examples of consumer co-operatives. Housing co-ops, carshare co-ops, funeral co-ops and other types of service co-ops are also consumer co-operatives. At Skookum we have ‘Consumer co-operative’ as one of our models for The Abundant Pantry Bulk Buying Club (TAP) and for bulk purchases of seed, trees, Tattler canning lids, and food dehydrators ( interested in heading a project? Click here).

Other models we dip into have to do with community education, with the potential to engage in cooperatively purchased land, tools, and a host of other things that would grow out of our mission, values/principles and purpose statements.

Financial co-operatives: Credit unions and caisses populaires are examples of financial co-operatives. Like consumer co-operatives, the members of financial co-operatives are the individuals or business owners who use their services. Another type of financial co-operative is The Co-operators, an insurance company which is owned by Canadian co-operatives, credit union centrals and like-minded organizations.

Producer co-operatives: These are groups of producers who band together to process and/or market their products. Agricultural co-ops like Gay Lea Foods, Agropur, La Coop fédérée, Organic Meadow, Scotsburn Dairy, Farmer’s Dairy, Northumberland Dairy, Citadelle, Granny’s Poultry and Organic Meadow are examples of producer co-operatives.

Worker co-operatives: These are businesses owned and controlled by their employees. La Siembra (Camino chocolate products), Just Us! Coffee Roasters, The Big Carrot and the Vancouver Renewable Energy Co-op are examples of worker co-operatives.

Multi-stakeholder co-operatives: These co-operatives include different categories of members who share a common interest in the organization: for example, clients, employees, investors and community organizations. Multi-stakeholder co-operatives in Canada include Common Ground Co-operative, which provides employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities; the West End Food Co-op, a Toronto co-op owned by consumers, producers and employees, and the Aylmer Health Co-op, formed by citizens, doctors and health professionals to improve community health services in Gatineau, QC.

Mutuals and co-operatives: Mutuals, which in Canada exist primarily in the insurance sector, are governed by different legislation than co-operatives but operate under a similar business model. Both mutuals and co-operatives are independent associations of individuals who have voluntarily come together to fulfill their economic or social needs through co-ownership in a democratically-run organizations. Source: http://www.canada2012.coop/en/what_is_a_cooperative/Types-of-co-operatives

coopstuff
Click above for a list of some popular Canadian cooperatives.

 Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative is a Community Service Co-op

Since April 2007, an amendment the BC Co-op Act means that “non-profit” co-ops can now be incorporated as Community Service Co-ops and have similar status to non-profit societies. The change made community service co-ops eligible for charitable status via CCRA. Skookum has this designation, but at this time we are not seeking charitable status, but this is certainly a possibility for the future.

The Community Service Co-op designation ended the confusion arising from uncertainty surrounding the legal status of non-profit co-ops, while affirming the democratic structure of member ownership and control that is unique to the co-op model.

As a Community Service Co-op, Skookum’s Memorandum of Association includes all of the following non-alterable provisions:

  1. That the co-op is a community service co-operative,
  2. That the co-op will not issue investment shares,
  3. That the co-op’s purposes are charitable or to provide health, social, educational or other community services,
  4. That upon dissolution, the co-op’s property must be transferred to another community service co-op or a charitable organization,
  5. That no part of the property of the co-op is to be distributed to members while it is in operation.

Want to start your own cooperative? Here’s a guide: placeholder

Guide for “Cultivating Co-ops” http://farmfolkcityfolk.ca/PDFs_&_Docs/Cultivating_Co-ops.pdf

 

 

Survey Results

surveyTop 5 Interests indicated by our members from our Skookum Members’ Skills Survey held in late 2012/early 2013

5. (TIE!) Seed-Saving and Cider/Wine-Making
4. (TIE!) Bulk Food Buying and Public Outreach + Facilitation
3. Food Preparation (cooking/baking)
2. Food Preserving (canning, smoking, dehydrating, pickling, lacto-fermentation, cheese-making, salting/ packing in sugar)
1. Gardening!

32 members responded to our recent survey (feel free to respond anytime as well), and we already have some positive action from several members, including:

  • A generous offer to fix and maintain our cider press, along with a backup option
  • An offer to host a summertime Skookum picnic on a member’s seaside property (more on this soon!)
  • And several members said they would keep an eye out for the materials we need to complete the Skookum Cider Press kit (see here for what we need; you can also donate money to the project via PayPal (accepting credit and debit card donations as well, and cheques too– click the PayPal link for more info).

Remember that a big ongoing Skookum project, The Abundant Pantry Bulk Food Buying Club (TAP), is taking orders until Sunday, May 12 at 11 pm. Make sure you get your orders in before this. The next order after this will be in July. For more information, contact the coordinator Wendy Pelton at bulkbuying@skokoumfood.ca.

Thank you. And here are the winners…

Thank you members, for taking the quick-n-easy Skookum Members’ Skills survey by the deadline of February 14th! The Survey has since been Re-opened, and we’d like the rest of the membership to also consider filling it out too (click here), as we feel it’s important to gauge our collective capacity.

More Than Honey plays at the Patricia Theatre on Saturday, February 10:30am. $8/$6 students/seniors.
More Than Honey plays at the Patricia Theatre on Saturday, February 10:30am. $8/$6 students/seniors.

The winners of 2 pairs of tickets each to the Powell River Film Festival (Feb 19-24, 2013), including tickets to More Than Honey and to the opening gala reception/film A Royal Affair….

<insert drum roll>

Skookum members Eva Van Loon and Karen Munro!

Thanks for playing and happy viewing!

The results (with no names attached) of the survey will  be revealed shortly, so please take the survey as soon as you can  (click here)!

 

Food Issues at the Powell River 2013 Film Festival

Many thanks to you who helped make our winter get-together potluck happen last Wednesday, especially chef Jacqueline Huddleston. It sounded like a smashing good time to those of us who were too under-the-weather to attend.

Well, that’s winter for ya. On to spring!

With the Powell River Film Festival coming up Feb. 19-24 at The Patricia Theatre (with Arts Mosaic and community tables at Dwight Hall), here are two films, both screening on Saturday, Feb 23, that have food as a central concern. Do keep in mind that there are several other films that deal with topics like climate change (the spectacular Chasing Ice), social change (Occupy Love), and the intersection of environmental protection, stewardship, and art (Reflections:Art For An Oil-Free Coast and local filmmaker Jeremy Williams’ St’at’imckalh), all with local and international implications on the food system as well. See all the 20+ film selections at this year’s festival here. Note that these will be showing at The Patricia Theatre this year; buy tickets early to avoid disappointment (at Breakwater Books, at Patricia Theatre, Armitage Men’s Wear, and online).

More Than Honey plays at the Patricia Theatre on Saturday, February 10:30am. $8/$6 students/seniors.
More Than Honey plays at the Patricia Theatre on Saturday, February 10:30am. $8/$6 students/seniors. Click for more information, the trailer and to buy tickets.

MORE THAN HONEY
Over the last decade, millions of bees have disappeared worldwide. Is this a one-time anomaly or are we facing total system collapse?  Looking for answers, director Markus Imhoof, grandson of a  professional beekeeper, travels to interview experts ranging from beekeepers to scientists. Employing the latest in film-making technology to observe phenomena inside the hive, in blossoms and during flight, Imhoof leaves us with a sense of wonder and awe mixed with urgency
over the fate of the world’s bees.

More Than Honey is distinguished for its international perspective as Imhoof charts how the bee crisis is being experienced in different parts of the world. Imhoof highlights the pressure caused by the continually growing pyramid of the global economy, at the base of which we can find, and must not forget, the insects. Bees have become chain workers, a machine expected to function upon the simple push of a button. Certainly a lot more than honey is at stake. Without bees, modern society will be radically different and some question whether it can survive at all. What separates this work from earlier films on the
subject is that Imhoof proposes a possible solution.


Bitter Seeds
Bitter Seeds plays at the Patricia Theatre on Saturday, Feb 23 at 1:30pm. $8/$6 students/seniors. Click above for more info, the film trailer and to buy tickets

BITTER SEEDS
This deeply affecting, character-driven film exposes the issues surrounding a rash of farmer suicides in India. Bitter Seeds masterfully weaves a rich tapestry of compelling human stories and subplots, allowing you to enter a world that is both personal and profound.
With industrial agriculture seemingly thriving in India, why have a staggering 250,000 farmers committed suicide in the past 16 years?  Touching down in Telung Takli, intrepid documentarian Micha X. Peled traces the roots of this epidemic to an all-too-familiar villain: biotech giant Monsanto. Also seeking answers, and hopefully solutions, is aspiring journalist Manjusha Amberwar. After her father took his own life, she wants to stop other farmers, including her distraught uncle, from meeting an identical fate. Her quest not only requires her to knock on doors, but also to break through India’s glass ceiling for women. Skilfully weaving together an economic, agricultural and sociological narrative, while above all telling a number of different human stories, we engage not only with the struggle, but also in a possible way of escape.


It’s on! Members’ Skills Survey

As a cooperative, we encourage each member to commit to initiating or participating in projects, joining a committee, serving on the board of directors, and helping with events and tasks as they arise. Take the short ‘n snappy survey now (2 minutes of your time) click here.

Consider Cover Crops

co-vercrops

Cover crops — also unglamorously called ‘green manure’ (although the technical definition is different) — are well-known to larger-scale gardeners and farmers, but also worth considering even for the home gardener.

Cover crops are grasses (oats, wheat, clovers, buckwheat, barley, rye, alfalfa) and legumes (peas, hairy vetch, fava beans) that are planted to cover the soil surface. They help to reduce erosion and weed growth in unplanted and overwintering garden beds. Green manure crops (especially the legumes) have the added benefit of enriching the soil.

Skookum Food Provisioners’ Cooperative will have more information and sample packets of cover crop seeds for sale at Seedy Saturday, so drop by our table on March 9, 2013 at the Powell River Recreation Complex.

There are at least eight reasons why you should make cover crops part of your year-round  garden plan, including:

  1. To protect good topsoil from being washed or blown away;
  2. To keep the nutrients in topsoil from being washed out of your soil;
  3. To loosen the soil deeper than you can or would want to dig (thus avoiding the hard work and microbial damage caused by extensive soil disturbance);
  4. To increase organic matter, improve soil structure, drainage, and aeration;
  5. To control weeds (cover crops typically outperform weeds);
  6. To help beneficial insects, birds and micro-organisms overwinter (the plants provide protection and food);
  7. To increase yields and break pest/disease cycles;
  8. To grow your own mulch and compost material (when the plants are tilled into the soil and left to rot for at least 3 weeks).

It would seem that merely letting a garden go fallow would relax it, but the right cover crops provide the aeration and nutrients required when they are cut and tilled in before the seed heads mature (this is important as cover crops will self-seed and become unruly weeds if not managed). If you till in the whole plants, allow at least 3 weeks for them to decompose, as raw biomass ties up soil nutrients to the detriment of newly planted seedlings. Depending on the cover crop used, you can be planting any time between the late winter to late fall, so as you remove spent plants, you can plant cover crops and never miss a beat.

Cover crops provide the primary benefit of preparing your soil for further vegetable cropping. If you choose to allow your cover crops to go to seed so you can harvest the grain, be aware that their root mass can be extensive and difficult to turn over. That said, your own oats, rye or buckwheat straight from your own garden are really a treat and can aid the determined 50-Mile dieter.

The choice of cover crop seeds and when to plant them depends somewhat on what you will be planting once the cover crop is turned under, but the most popular cover crops for our Maritime Pacific Northwest region are:

Maritime Pacific Northwest cover crops: From http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0302hsted/covercropsbook.pdf

Maritime Pacific Northwest cover crops: From http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0302hsted/covercropsbook.pdf

Also, for more info, check this link to  Oregon State University’s article

“Plant cover crops to protect and nourish soil”.

The Oregon State University Master Gardener handbook “Sustainable Gardening” recommends planting the following cover crops in the late summer and fall after harvesting your summer vegetables. Mixtures of legumes and non-legumes are especially effective. Here is an excellent guide to when to plant/turn under different types of cover crops,

And below is a handy guide on how much seed is required per square foot:

from West Coast seeds- see their list of cover crops here: http://www.westcoastseeds.com/product/Vegetable-Seeds/Cover-Crops/
from West Coast seeds- see their list of cover crops here: http://www.westcoastseeds.com/product/Vegetable-Seeds/Cover-Crops/

Catching (and Wrapping) Up

Happy Holidays and thank you for helping to make local food happen.

It’s been a very busy Fall for Skookum so far this year; and as we head into 2013 it’s ‘whiplash time’ as we look back to see what we accomplished, and forward on how we can do more and better. 2012 was the UN-designated Year of the Cooperative and we are working on airing a 5-program series on cooperatives on CJMP 90.1 FM Community Radio before year end. Keep your ears (and eyes, as we will be promoting it) peeled.

You may remember seeing some pictures on our Facebook page  from our last event of 2012, as several of us helped press apple cider for James Thomson Elementary School’s Farm to School program. We had another successful Abundant Pantry order (next order will be mid-January 2013, check the site in January to order), and we’re just about ready to distribute over 500 lbs of dried fruit/nuts/confectionery from our second Rancho Vignola order that just came in.

Skookum is more than bulk buying, though, and we’d like to increase our workshops and other hands-on projects in 2013. That said, one great reason to have a cooperative is to be able to generate some buying power as a group, and in doing so, also help the community and the cooperative grow and increase self-sufficiency.

Buying seed together.

Last year just after Christmas, I started thinking about and then planning a bulk seed order. A dozen or so members got together and I coordinated an order from our local Eternal Seeds company, who gave us a 20% discount overall if we collectively bought 10 packets of any of their seeds (about 5% was allocated to Skookum and the coordinator). This year, the feedback indicates that we need to order earlier than the February 14th deadline we had last year, by at least a month.

If anyone out there would like to manage the seed order (and the project can be as different as you like), please drop us a line or fill out a short proposal here. Deadline for a proposal or indication of interest in managing this project is EXTENDED to Dec. 30, 2012. The deadline to order should be by Jan 14, 2013.

Below we have a list of our completed projects for 2012, and in addition to these, we have an on-going Abundant Pantry bulk food order every two months. All our past projects are listed on our past projects webpage.

January 2012:

  • Skookum held a potluck members’ social event to celebrate 2012, the UN International Year of the Co-op. Read the story here.

March 2012:

  • Bulk seed order from Eternal Seeds

June/July 2012:

  • Skookum held 2 home tanning workshops

August 2012:

  • Bulk purchase of fruit/vegetables and dehydrating work party at the Community Resource Centre

September 2012

  • Skookum’s second Tattler lid bulk order
  • Bulk purchase of Sausagemaker dehydrators
  • Skookum was at the Fall Fair, pressing cider and raising funds

October 2012

  • Second Rancho Vignola Fruit and Nut Bulk Order

November 2012

  • Skookum helps the local Farm to School project press apples for James Thomson Elementary School for a second year.

The What, Where and Why of Dry

Dried local peaches, nothing added.

As you may have noticed in our recent Facebook posts, Skookum members are drying up a storm this year, preserving the local (and local-ish) harvest of peaches, plums, squash, tomatoes, peppers, apples, pears, berries and more.

David and Brownie cutting up apples to make applesauce that was then dried into fruit leather.

A crack team of 6 members have been buying, picking and sharing in-season produce from Bernie’s Fruit Truck (a.k.a Vitamin Express), and attending dehydrating work parties at the Community Resource Centre (CRC), which houses two food dehydrators. Part of the bounty is always put aside for CRC client use, thus fulfilling our community share. Additionally, Skookum’s newest project is a bulk order of dehydrators, where members of our cooperative got together and saved on shipping/ brokerage fees to have five Excalibur dehydrators delivered, making at least five local families more food secure.

Black Diamond plums, dehydrated and delicious.

What is the buzz on drying food?

      • What can you dehydrate?
      • Does it replace canning, pickling, or freezing?
      • What are the advantages and drawbacks of drying?
      • What can you dehydrate and what do you do with the dried food anyhow?
      • How long does it take to preparea and dry stuff?
      • How much does it cost?
      • How do I get started?

 

Despite being an ancient form of food preservation, dating back to biblical times,  dehydrating is coming into its own in our less-than-arid climate, through simple technology: a dehydrator. At its most basic level, this is a vented box with heat elements, fans and porous shelves upon which to place sliced, diced, shredded or even select whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, meat, fish, etc. The ‘devil is in the details’ though, as uniformity of dehydration and the ability to set accurate drying temperatures and lengths of time are attributes that only the better machines offer.

Why dry?

            • Dehydrating foods provides “living ” or uncooked foods. If done properly, only the water content is extracted, leaving much of the flavour and nutrients behind
            • They are easy to digest, rich in vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, and are highly nutritious
            • Many modern methods of preserving foods through refrigeration, freezing, canning, pasteurizing, and chemical or even natural additives like sugar, salt, pectin, Sodium Bisulfite, etc. reduce the nutrient content in food, or provide unwanted extra calories/sodium
            • Easily stored in air and light-proof containers, dehydrated foods weigh considerably less than fresh or food preserved any other way (useful in camping and backpacking: easy to carry!) and can sit on your shelf for up to 20 years making them excellent for disasters and hard times (think food security here!)
            • It’s cheaper than freezing, in the end: a few hours of drying at a few cents per hour, and you’re done. This frees up freezer/pantry space for other goodies that must be preseved in other ways.
            • See some seasonal food on sale or have a glut of local food? Pick it or buy it and dry it during any season. Dried pineapples and mangoes make great (if non-local) snacks; autumn is a great time to ponder dried chanterelles…
            • And you can mix and match your foods to create dried culinary delights like pear-apricot leather with embedded walnut pieces, a mixed dried vegetable soup mix (with a different vegetable on each tray of your dehydrator), an entire dehydrated spaghetti dinner, stews and chile, even jerkies of all kinds (salmon, chicken, turkey, beef); think of it as gentle ‘cooking’, in slow motion
            • Using dried food is a dream: either use it as is (as in fruit leathers) or mix it with wetter foods or soak to rehydrate dried food in water or broth to create flavourful concoctions with super-concentrated flavour
            • Dehydrators can be used to raise yeasted bread doughs, make yogurt, teas (out of leafy herbs or bits of  fruit), cheese, seeds for planting, and even dry flowers and leaves for crafts – anything that can benefit from a low, sustained, dry heat (this includes me—Swedish sauna, anyone?)

Drawbacks?

        • As in freezing or canning food, there are some upfront costs, namely for the dehydrator (here is a review of  some of the more popular types; they range from about $80 to $2,000+) and for containers in which to store the food (plastic bags, and even glass jars preferably with the air sucked out via a vacuum sealer); add to this the electricity use in the actual dehydration process
        • Time is of the essence: you need to be able to collect or buy food at the peak of freshness and ripeness to get the best results, and it does take some time to peel, pit, check (drop briefly in boiling water to remove some of the waxy coating on things like blueberries or grapes) and slice certain items like pears, peaches or cherries to prepare them for dehydrating. Also, getting the dried food off the racks and in air-tight containers is best done sooner rather than later because the dried food will act as a sponge and collect ambient moisture!
        • Certain foods just don’t dehydrate that well, such as:
          1. whole items (be it fruits, vegetables, etc.); this reduces access to the moister parts; sliced or shredded food works best and fastest
          2. fibrous food like sliced artichokes or carrots (unless they are sliced really thinly)
          3. high-moisture foods like watermelon and cucumber that take a long time (but they are interesting just the same!)
          4. foods with lots of fat/oil in them that can go rancid without other preservatives like salt/sugar, etc.
        • You need to make sure that foods are dried and stored properly, to avoid mold and spoilage, so home-made dehydrators are not recommended in our climate
        • You need to pay attention and respond to your dehydrating foods as needed; factors such as the type and variety of fruit/vegetable you are dehydrating, its ripeness and sugar level (both increase drying time), and ambient humidity, all factor in the final drying times. While you cannot really over-dry things at the recommended low temperatures, you don’t want to be wasting energy either or producing food that is overly dry for no reason; some moisture content is okay, depending on what you are drying.

Want to get started? Contact us (just comment below or use our contact page)  and we’ll see what we can do to get you drying at least some food this year!