Getting Back to Basics in Cumberland

I recently had the pleasure of attending some food skills programming at Maggie’s Place Family Resource Centre in Amherst. Starting in early October, Maggie’s Place has been running a series of weekly food skills workshops focusing on cooking fundamentals. Everything … Continue reading

Food Mentoring at the Amherst Food Bank

I recently had the pleasure of joining one of our partner organizations with some food programming at the Amherst Food Bank. Once a month or so, staff from Maggie’s Place Family Resource Centre (, show up at the food bank … Continue reading

Growing Farmers Markets in Cumberland County

For the third year in a row now, the Ecology Action Centre’s Our Food Project has partnered with the Cumberland Food Action Network (CFAN), to produce a handy reference for locating local farmers markets in Cumberland County, NS. The Farmers … Continue reading

A Living Library in Margaree



Imagine the Possibilities? – Kimberly’s Dream

The Coady & Tompkins Memorial Library sneaks up on you as your eyes are pulled in all directions by the stunning vistas of the Margarees: rolling mountains, pastoral valleys, rushing rivers, and winding roads. There is a reason why those who can make a go of it here on Cape Breton Island are fiercely proud to call this place home. As families new and old to this landscape can attest, it takes more than a nice view to make a place home. With such a rural population, access to community resources is an ongoing challenge; a challenge that the library in Margaree Forks has met with open arms.

When you walk in the door, it is immediately apparent that this is more than a place to source books. Besides the comfy couch, the inviting play area, and the curiosity piquing displays of books, there is an over arching theme. Food.

Kim Tilsley is the Library Assistant in Charge. She is also a farmer, and her passion for food permeates her work at the library. The wall behind the front desk is adorned with a stunning, tear-jerking story quilt made by Kim’s mother, Bea Tilsley-Cummingham. It is titled Imagine the Possibilities – Kimberly’s Dream. The quilt’s blocks depict a vision of a library oasis, complete with a rainbow of vegetables, garden creatures, a cob oven, and of course, books.

Margaree Cooks! project

Margaree Cooks! project

Near the entrance, there is a large display board, depicting the progress of their Margaree Cooks! Project. The plan is to build a community run cob oven on the library land (owned and managed by the Margaree Area Development Association). Kim and Library Assistant, Susie Paddon, have been attending workshops on a rebuild project of the Park Avenue Community Oven in Dartmouth. “There is nothing like hands-on learning to really understand something. And we certainly got our hands dirty during the oven workshops!” said Kim. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer. Donations to support the oven project are being gratefully accepted at the library.

Chick Hatching at the library

Chick Hatching at the library

As you make your way back through the library, there is a newly hatched batch of chicks in a brooder box, along with information displays on chick development, and chick care. The children that visit the library cannot tear themselves away! At the back of the library there is an area set up with grow lights, where a table full of seedlings have been started for the library garden outside.

The Living Library

The Living Library

The library’s community garden is called Paul’s Garden, in honour of local gardener Paul Chiasson. His memorial fund allowed for the start-up of the garden. This was the pilot garden for the Living Library Project, an initiative of the Eastern County Regional Library. There are now six ECRL branch libraries with gardens on site, including Petit de Grat, Mulgrave, Canso, Guysborough, Sherbrooke, and of course, Margaree Forks. Others without the land base are doing some container gardening. Activities in the garden were linked to their children’s summer learning programming through their “How Does Your Garden Grow?” curriculum.

Tunnel of Pole Beans in Paul's Garden

Tunnel of Pole Beans in Paul’s Garden


Last year, the gardening season wrapped up with a harvest potluck. Offerings cooked up from the library garden included a cornbread made from Painted Mountain Milling Corn (seed purchased through Hope Seed). They dried and milled it themselves, before baking up the recipe below.

Besides vegetables, Kim is working on gradually incorporating fruit bushes into the garden plots, as well as the landscaped beds at the entrance. As we say our good-byes, Kim points out some little cherry bushes tucked in amidst the tulips. They are just starting to bud. This is indeed a living library, and it is a true gift to the Margaree community.

Cherries amidst the tulips

Cherries amidst the tulips

1 c. cornmeal
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
3 T. oil
¼ c. honey
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg

  • Preheat oven to 425⁰F.
  • In a large bowl combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • In a large measuring cup combine oil, honey, buttermilk and egg.
  • Add wet ingredients to dry, stir until just combined. Pour batter into a greased 8” square pan.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes or until top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.


Cob Oven and veggies in "Kimberly's Dream

Cob Oven and veggies in “Kimberly’s Dream

Jody Nelson is the Community Food Coordinator for Cape Breton with the Our Food Project of the Ecology Action Centre.

Adventures in Local Food is your source for food news in Nova Scotia, from pickles to policy. It is a project organized by the Ecology Action Centre
Learn more about our program at ourfood
Or follow us on Twitter: @OurFoodProject
Facebook: The Ecology Action Centre

Local Food Workshop with Community Food Mentors

From April 16th to 18th this year the Town of Riverview New Brunswick hosted “Sustaina-palooza” – a three-day action-packed event to share community success stories, generate a dialogue about sustainability and ignite ideas for building resilient and prosperous communities. Our Food Southeast New Brunswick … Continue reading

The Winter Bounty

Well, the second class in the winter series was certainly decadent – smoked mackerel pate, golden beet salad, parsnip and apple slaw, lamb risotto, lobster risotto and cranberry steam pudding with a butterscotch sauce. It was… delicious. Christine, class participant, foodie and photographer extraordinaire (check out, snapped a few photos during the course of the evening. Being that a photo is worth a thousand words, I’ll let Christine’s beautiful images do most of the talking. Be warned – these photos will make your stomach rumble.

As the sun went down, we each made our way to Local Source Market. By six o’clock we were gathered and exchanging hellos. Our teacher for the week, Sheila, introduced herself and her menu. Within minutes we were busy at work.

There was pate to be made (using Willy Krauch smoked mackerel).

There were golden beets and chioggia beets to grate.

There was lamb to prepare.

There was risotto to stir.

And steamed cranberry pudding …

with warm butterscotch sauce to eat.

These are recipes you should really try at home.

Smoked Mackerel Pate – serves 4
½ lb smoked mackerel  
1-2 tbsps olive oil
1 ½ tbsps lemon juice
4 tbsps double cream
Freshly-ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne
Remove skin, bones and fat from the fish. Combine with butter if using in the processor until smooth. Stop the machine and add the pepper and cayenne. Start the machine and add the oil and lemon juice through the feed tube and process til light and creamy.  Finally add the cream, process til just mixed, check seasoning and pile into a serving dish. Serve with hot toast and garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.  

Shannon, who joined us for dinner and to talk about sustainable seafood options in Nova Scotia and Off the Hook Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) (, particularily enjoyed the smoked mackerel pate. Mackerel is a very sustainable seafood choice!

Raw Beet Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese -serves 3 as an appetizer or 2 for lunch-
3 smallish raw golden and chioggia beets, trimmed and peeled
1/2 small red onion, peeled
1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 shallot, minced
1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 Tablespoons good-quality extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Two good pinches of salt
A few good grinds of black pepper
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
Cut the beets and onion on the julienne blade of a mandoline, or grate them largely. Combine the beets, onion, walnuts, orange zest and shallots in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine. Divide the salad onto serving plates and top with crumbled goat cheese.

Parsnip and Apple Slaw – serves 8 to 12 people –
1 lb parsnips, peeled and grated
2 lbs tart apples, peeled, cored, and rubbed with a cut lemon, then grated
1 cup yogurt mixed with 2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp fresh ginger of 1.5 tsp powdered ginger
2 tbsp shredded cocomut, toasted lightly
In a large bowl combine apple and parsnip.
In a small bowl combine ginger and vinegar. Let stand 10 minutes. Add yogurt and mix. Pour over parsnips and apple. Toss to coat. Top with coconut.

There are so many options when it comes to apples in Nova Scotia – even in January! The day before the class, I picked up supplies at the Farmer’s Market. On the advice of a local apple expert (a Valley farmer that is), I chose crispin apples  – also known as mutsu. The Mutsu apple is a cross between the Golden Delicious and the Indo apple varieties first grown in Japan, and named after the Mutsu Province of Japan, where it was presumably first grown.

The Lobster Risotto and Lamb with Egg and Lemon Sauce Risotto recipes came from the cookbook, “Risotto: More Than 100 Recipes for the Classic Rice Dish of Northen Italy” . The recipes are terrific  and quite detailed.
Steamed Cranberry Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce
(from Edith Davis, Sheila Stevenson’s Tombstone, Arizona grandmother)

1 cup flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp soda
½ cup molasses
½ cup hot water
2 cups cranberries
½ cup flour

Use the ½ cup flour to mix with the cranberries. Sift 1 c. flour with salt and soda. Mix molasses and water; add to flour. Add whole floured cranberries. Mix well. Pour into greased double boiler and steam over low heat for 3 hours.
Mix over low heat and stir til dissolved:
½ cup butter + ½ cup brown sugar
Add ½ cup cream + 1 tsp vanilla. Heat slowly
Serve over pudding

Yours in food, Keltie

Special thanks to Christine of for the beautiful photos!