The Season in Review

Ahh… December 1.  With the gardens put to bed, the cupboards full of preserves and the root cellar stocked, the food action committee has finally had some time to reflect on the growing season.  Here’s a short slide show of some of our favourite photos from the season:

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For details from any of our workshops, search this blog and our sister blog at the Halifax Garden Network.

Yours in food,


November 2011 ACORN Conference Top 10 List

The Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (ACORN) conference was held in Dartmouth, NS on November 11-13.  It’s always both practical and inspiring.  Given its location this time, there was an increased focus on new farmers and urban agriculture.  The location also meant that a lot more of our Food Action Committee members were able to attend than in past years.

At our meeting on Monday, several people shared their favourite moments from the conference.  They ranged from feeling inspired they stories of community support for new farmers to a new-found fascination with farm equipment to reflections on the importance of seed saving.  Others felt inspired by the urban bee keeping and urban chicken sessions

As I’ve done for past conferences, like Food Secure Canada and the March 2011 ACORN conference, I’d like to share some of the top things I learned, felt inspired by or just generally enjoyed: Continue reading

Root Cellar Tour: Nov 26

You’re going to be hearing a lot about root cellars here at “Adventures in Local Food” over the next while. Root cellars are the next big adventure. I feel like I have a good handle on cooking and canning, but root cellars are still relatively new to me.

Fortunately, we have a wonderful community of root cellar enthusiasts to draw on. And some of those wonderful people are opening up their homes and cellars to us on Saturday, November 26.

Yes, it’s root cellar tour time again! If you missed last year’s tour, or even if you didn’t, now’s your chance to check out some root cellars in the Halifax area.

On November 26, starting at 3 pm sharp, we’ll be visiting 3 different root cellars – two in private homes, and the newly built root cellar at the Ecology Action Centre. At the end of the tour, we’ll gather at the Ecology Action Centre for a potluck. (Bring your favourite root vegetable dish!)

The event is free, but pre-registration is required as space is limited. To register, visit our website. We’ll be carpooling from site to site, so please indicate on your registration form if you have a car and are able to take some passengers.

Community Root Cellar Funding – 2nd Round Open

With growing interest in eating locally, many are now looking for ways to store food throughout the winter months. One simple way to enjoy the harvest in the coldest months of the year is to build a root cellar.

The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) is looking to support community root cellars throughout Nova Scotia. A second round of root cellar funding has just been announced. We will be awarding two to five $400 grants to help communities purchase materials and/or hire a builder to construct a community root cellar.

Potential root cellars must be located in community owned spaces. Private homes and businesses are not eligible for root cellar funding. Root cellars must also be located in Nova Scotia.

In the first round of funding, the EAC awarded the Deanery Project, of Ship Harbour, NS, a $400 grant to build a community root cellar.

The Deanery Project is a recently formed not-for-profit cooperative located in Ship Harbour, NS.  The Project is based out of a 25 acre property of tree-lined fields, forests and beautiful shoreline. Their mandate encompasses education around rural resiliency, permaculture and natural-building, art, outdoor leadership and community strengthening activities.

“A lot of people don’t know what the Deanery is all about, but building a root cellar reflects our mandate. Building a space for new air to circulate, treasuring the fruits of our labor while still staying down to earth. Most importantly though, giving the community some peace of mind in its own resiliency. This simple gift will open up so many more minds to concepts behind permaculture, transition towns and natural building,” explains Gregory Hughes, Deanery Volunteer.

To apply for a community root cellar grant, please visit the EAC website for an application and submit the form by December 12, 2011. Applications will be reviewed by a committee of staff and volunteers and decisions will be made by December 22.

Show us your root cellar

Join the Underground Movement! Be a part of the Root Cellar Tour!

The Food Action Committee at the Ecology Action Centre is planning a root cellar tour. We will be visiting a number of community and private root cellars throughout Nova Scotia. We are looking for interested people to host a short tour of their root cellar as well as share their experiences and tips. The tour will be happening on a Saturday or Sunday in mid to late November. If you are interested in showing off your hard work or for more information, please contact Marla MacLeod at foodaction@ecologyaction or 442-1077.

You can check out photos from last year’s tour here.

Root Cellars: Building materials and using what you have

Our first bucket of kraut in our completed root cellar!

This spring we embarked on transforming part of our office basement into a root cellar and now that  September’s here, it’s time to start thinking about filling it up with produce.  It’s nice to see a project through to the very end and be able to start using it for its intended purpose, even though it was a very handy space this summer to store and organize our empty mason jars for our preserving workshops!  We thought it would be a good idea to do a follow-up post on our own root cellar construction project this spring with a bit of a breakdown of the costs of materials and labour.  There still is some time to build your own cellar, or at least convert a corner of your own unfinished basement into the perfect space for no-energy food storage this winter.  We hope this will give you some encouragement to see your own root cellar project through!

Fastening old ceiling tiles to the new wall frame

One of the lessons we took away from the root cellar construction workshop was how to use what you have and adapt plans to the space.  We happened to have a north-facing, uninsulated corner with a window in our basement that was relatively easy to close off with one wall.  This allowed us to take advantage of the naturally cool space and to easily add a simple ventilation system that should help us regulate the temperature in the room once the mercury dips below zero.

Covering the new wall with natural plaster

We were also lucky to have a lot of clay and a builder who had experience in natural building methods so we chose to make a natural clay plaster walls which should also help to insulate the room from the warmer space of the basement.  If you were looking to build a root cellar in your own home or organization, you could also build the walls out of cinder blocks or use drywall (get the kind used for bathrooms).

Here’s a list of materials we bought new for the workshop:

–  Lumber (14 pieces of 8 foot 2×6):  this was used to frame our wall

–  Wood screws

–  PVC 1 ½ inch pipe for our ventilation system

–  3 PVC connector elbows for the pipe

– Digital Thermometer and Hygrometer

– Supplies for a ceiling light and light switch

Here’s a list of things we bought used:

–   Old acoustical tiles & drywall: These formed the base for the natural plaster wall.  We picked up the acoustical tiles for $2 each from Maritime Demolition.  The drywall came from various people’s basements.

–   Door: Reused door purchased from Maritime Demolition for about $80

And here’s what we already had on hand:

–   Old shelving: While I had received advice to build shelves that could easily be removed, we happened to have an old shelf in that that will stay.  We’ll keep it until it’s no longer functional.

–    Clay from the floor:  We reconstituted this to make a natural plaster for the walls.

–    Rigid Styrofoam insulation: Leftover from insulating the building.

–    Wire mesh (for keeping the critters out): A volunteer had some in her basement.

Cost of Purchased Materials: about $400

Cost of labour for professional builder for two 8-hour work days, including design advice: $400

Cost of labour from wonderful and dedicated volunteers who helped us build and mud the clay walls: priceless!

To see the posts from our root cellar workparty weekend, click here: Day 1 & Day 2.

There are many other plans for root cellars out there – this is just our own example that worked in our particular space.  Again, we want to emphasize that you should take advantage of what you already have.  Cold storage can be as simple as an insulated garbage can buried in the ground or an unheated front porch.  It can also be as elaborate as a subterranean room dug out of a north facing hillside.  Start planning for your own cold storage according to your needs!

For more advice on root cellaring and construction, we’d recommend getting a copy of Nancy and Mike Bubel’s book Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruit and Vegetable by Storey Publishing.

Here are a few more links with interesting models for root cellaring”

Hopefully we'll have a bin of carrots like these in our own root cellar soon!