Individuals from across Canada spent three days in communities throughout Manitoba learning about the food we eat. They were sent to one of five food-producing communities to address justice issues surrounding the food we eat. The group was part of the Food Justice Camp initiated by the Anglican Church of Canada.
Forty individuals gathered in Winnipeg to discuss food issues. The goal of Food Justice Camp (FJC) was to help integrate faith into everyday life and explore the role faith has in today’s social issues.
Food Justice Camp was a joint initiative started by the Anglican Church of Canada with the help from the United Church, Mennonite Central Committee and the Canadian Food Grains Bank. The camp was an outreach program aimed particularly at young people, but brought together people from 18 to 88 years of age.
The camp was also offered as an accredited course through the University of Winnipeg’s faculty of theology and through the Canadian Mennonite University. Approximately 12 students participated in the camp as a credit course.
Week for Justice
The camp was a week long in mid-August 2005. On Monday all 40 individuals gathered in Winnipeg at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church. During this day the group framed the issues of food justice. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were spent at one of the five immersion sites. The group then gathered again in Winnipeg, where for the next two days they share their experiences from the immersion sites. Using what they had learn the group worked toward finding common ground, and direction in their own lives. Sunday was a day of prayers and worship.
Food Justice Camp took individuals to one of five immersion sites in communities across Manitoba.
The village of Clearwater offered eight participants a view of mixed family farms on the prairies.
Riverton and Matheson Island offered another group of students a view of Lake Winnipeg fisheries and the state of the lake’s health. This group spent time on the lake in a commercial fishing boat using the nets to catch pickerel for the evening’s meal.
Another eight participants visited Portage la Prairie, where they looked at large scale farming, touring intensive operations, a Hutterite colony, Simplot plant and the Food Development Center.
A fourth group stayed in the inner city of Winnipeg. This group visited some of the cities soup kitchens, food warehouses, local grocery stores and a local food cooperative.
The last group spent the field day at the Weins Family Shared Farm, a market garden in St. Adolph. The farm is cooperatively run by Dan Wiens, education coordinator for the Food Grains Bank.
Bringing the Issues to the Farm
Jan McIntyre became involved with the program because she is passionate in working to bridge the gap between the urban and rural. Jan believes we can accomplish this by creating spaces where people from various backgrounds can meet and learn from one another, places where urban and rural livelihoods are appreciated. Jan had suggested to one of the organizers, a good friend of hers, that the group come to her small town of Clearwater.
On the Farm: The Clearwater Experience
On Tuesday, the group toured several farms including a Holistic Management ranch and a more intensive cattle operation. The group also picked vegetables in a household garden. That evening they prepared supper using beef from the two ranches and the vegetables they had picked. It was hoped that the group would see the connection between the food they ate and the land from which it comes. “We literally took whatever was available in the garden that day and made a meal out of it,” recalls Jan.
In the evening a panel of three young farming couples discussed the hope in farming. The couples had very diverse approaches to farming. One couple both hold degrees in agriculture. The second family took a very natural approach to farming, and the third family has a more intensive livestock operation. Members from the community were invited to attend the panel discussion.
Mornings in Clearwater were spent on the farm with billets. It was requested that billets be actively farming so that the participants of the camp would gain a better understanding of what it means to farm in Manitoba. The students helped with chores mending fences, and moving cattle.
On Wednesday afternoon the group visited the McIntyre’s mixed grain and sheep farm. The group then ventured to a neighboring organic farm.
The evening was intended to be a campfire cookout at Rock Lake but rain force the group to barbeque in town. Community members joined the group latter for a musical evening.
Once again the morning was spent on the farm helping with chores. The group then gathered in town for lunch and conversation with the Clearwater Senate. The Senate is a group of local women who meet once a week at the town restaurant to discuss community events and the issues. The Senate is a huge source of support for families and community projects. Women of the Senate shared the stories of their live in Clearwater and gave the group the perspectives of elders. Then it was on to a chicken farm in Manitou, and a tour of the wind turbines in St. Leon.
The field days concluded with supper at the Sperling Gallery, where the group shared their own experiences, thoughts and feelings about the past three days. Laura Rance from the Farmers Independent Weekly joined the group for supper providing additional insight into agriculture and from a faith perspective. It was then back to Winnipeg to rejoin the larger group.
Sharing Knowledge and Experiences
The Food Justice Camp took place at the end of August to accommodate the schedule of students wishing to partake in the camp as a credited course. However this time was also harvest season for most farms. Don McIntyre was in the midst of a bad harvest when the 8 students were scheduled to stop in for a farm tour. Don was extremely discouraged; a wet summer had taken a toll on the peas, barley, and oat yields.
Though it was likely the last thing Don wanted to do that day, he took the students on a tour of his land. Jan McIntyre noticed that as her husband spent more time with the students and saw their interest in his work, a smile grew on his face. She says, “we have video of the day and when you look back at it you can just see in his face his spirits rise as they showed interest.”
Both students of the camp and billets at the immersion sites learned a great deal from one another. “I think it is important for people to realize that you may host somebody and you may have them come to your community but if you take the time to get know them you learn from them too, and I think that is phenomenal.” says Jan.
The camp was co-funded by the Anglican Church of Canada, United Church of Canada, Mennonite Central Committee and the Canadian Food Grains Bank. Students paid a $300.00 fee, and cost was slightly higher for those taking the course through the University of Winnipeg or CMU. The fees covered meals, lodging in Winnipeg and transportation to and from the immersion sites. Funding was available for those to whom cost was a factor.
From the success of the camp the organising group has decided to compile a DVD of a collection of photos, and video clips from the immersion sites. The DVD will correspond to the themes in the workbook developed for the camp. Workbooks and DVDs will be available to groups interested in studying food justice issues from a faith perspective.
A local independent film company worked with the group on the video. Dada World Data films in Winnipeg has work with other members of the Clearwater community as well.
Participants have reported that after camp they began to make changes in their everyday lives, by thinking about the food they eat and where they shop. Some have decided to grow more of their own food. Most changes are personal which do not always seem significant to one person but combined they make a huge difference, with a ripple effect on friends and family.