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Animating the way we grow our food

Written Sept 19, 2013

So I did a little reflection blog post and this is what it turned out like. This was a piece of the journey…

To get the full effect you should probably check out the link below. Neil set it up gooood. Reposting from:

In 2012, Paul Wartman participated in the IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training in Guelph and has since received a grant from The Co-operators IMPACT! Fund to support his newly launched enterprise around sustainable farming. Congratulations Paul!


Have you ever ended a really long day by going home and scooping the biggest scoop of peanut butter into your mouth and just letting it take you? I have—a couple times actually. I would do this after walking home through the backfields after a fulfilling day on the farm. Sitting there, soothing my desire for creamy goodness, I would reflect on how awesome it is to grow food; getting down in the cool soil with your bare knuckles, breathing in all those scents, and, seeing all the birds and flowers. Growing food is a full body experience, kind of like a really great cuddle, ya know?

I wasn’t always this gung-ho for planting seeds and tending the fields. The excitement for food began when I left my hometown Mississauga and came to Guelph, Ontario, for university. The passionate, creative community was really welcoming and in no time I was participating in campus initiatives, such as the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming, and community-based organizations like Transition Guelph. Through these groups I learned about Permaculture and over the years of pursuing a degree in local food systems I saw the potential that Permaculture—a way to design based on naturally occuring patterns—had to not only change the way that we produced food but to heal the world. Exciting, eh? In the summer of 2010 I took a Permaculture Design Course and my mind was blown. “Kabooomf!” I saw the world through new eyes—kind of like new glasses that fix astigmatism but better. In my final year of university I dedicated any time I could to Permaculture projects, workshops, and food initiatives in the community. I was putting out my feelers to see where I could best apply my efforts.

Once I graduated I decided to test my love for food and joined the Ignatius Farm & CSA (community shared agriculture) team for the 2012 season. This is when the cuddle-esque experiences and peanut butter began to happen more frequently. It felt pretty dang good to fill my days with the responsibility of growing plants using practices that nourish the land and our community, knowing that theses plants would one day nourish 250 families. I knew that this—growing food and community—is what I wanted to do.

The same day that I finished on the farm I jumped on board with The Natural Step and The Co-operators to take part in the IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Program ( The two-day, in-person workshop that was packed with environmental youth leaders from across Guelph and the GTA helped me to begin forming my initiative, Many Rivers Permaculture. IMPACT! facilitated sessions that guided me to holistically understand the environmental problems of today; to focus my efforts and bring direction to my project; to create measurable goals; and, to get connected with other community organizations.

Now, Many Rivers Permaculture has three beautiful sites where we are practicing and researching Edible Forest Gardening—integrating forest ecosystem principles into agriculture to design more self-sustaining food systems. Two sites are in Guelph, one at the Ignatius Farm & CSA and the other at the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming. The third site is in Mississauga at the Iceland Teaching Garden, a wonderful project of Ecosource. All three sites are food hubs that engage their community in education, organic food production, and local, healthy food advocacy. To date, Many Rivers Permaculture has engaged more than 200 community members in workshops covering aspects of Edible Forest Garden design, such as planting cooperative guilds, field research on soil microbes, and eating yummy food! All of this has been possible with the support from our collaborators mentioned above and the community groups Guelph Community Orchard Project and the Centre for Social Innovation, as well as the Ontario Agricultural College.

To get a grip on just what an Edible Forest Garden is, make sure to check out our great outreach animation, which can be seen on our website at along with many ways to get involved. Watch it with your family, they’ll love it, and then share it with your friends, they’ll love it too.

We’re having a blast, like that one guy dancing as if no one is watching him. Beyond just having fun, we’re exploring the potential that Edible Forest Gardening has to create a healthy, environmentally-protective, politically-engaged, food-loving, “I-wanna-grow-that-in-my-backyard” kind of community. Ya dig?

Written by Paul Wartman from Many Rivers Permaculture

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