The New Vancouver Tool Library

The gardening season is upon us! If you’re new to gardening, or find yourself without a shovel and other gardening essentials, be sure to check out the Vancouver Tool Library (VTL) before you head to the hardware store to purchase new tools. Located at 3448 Commercial Street, the VTL is a cooperative tool lending library that offers an affordable, community based alternative to personal tool ownership or tool rental. They carry power and hand tools for gardening, bike repair, home renovation, and other projects, all of which are loaned to members free of charge. Their garden tool inventory includes shovels, rakes, mowers, ladders, pruning equipment, seeders, cultivators, and more! Check their hours of operation or find out about memberships at, or browse the complete tool inventory at

Robin Will Be Missed

It is with sadness that we are now learning of Robin Wheeler’s passing this past Monday. Robin was a leader in the food security movement. After learning about permaculture, Robin moved to the Sunshine Coast to create her own permaculture learning centre called the Sustainable Arts Living Centre where she offered many courses on sustainable food growing.

I first heard of Robin following the publication of her book Food Security for the Faint of Heart. We invited her to speak at the Stone Soup Festival a few years back and her talk was well attended. Her book is a practical adventure in relearning the basics of growing one’s own food, of preserving food, and a whole host of strategies to eating and living a healthy lifestyle.

Robin did not have a lot of money and she made a point that building food security had to be an affordable venture, which she set out to prove. Robin worked to make a living growing her own food, teaching permaculture, preserving and selling herbs and seeds and all. I heard from others that it was a bit of a struggle for Robin. Building a permaculture school and farm is a lot of hard work and like all farming not particularly profitable. In the end she created a beautiful garden, and taught many people about permaculture. She welcomed friends and others to stay on her farm, to help in exchange for free learning. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to visit her farm, though I would have liked too.

Robin’s passing from cancer once again affirms the vital importance for us to take care of ourselves, to care for each other and our planet earth. Thanks for all you gave us Robin.


Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership – SOYL

The Grandview Woodland Food Connection is pleased to partner with the Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership (SOYL) Summer Internship to cultivate environmental leadership skills in adolescents, promote a sustainable local food system, and advance sustainable food production through gardening at schools.

SOYL was piloted by the UBC Faculty of Education’s Intergenerational Landed Learning Project (ILLP) in 2010.

During the summer months, eight secondary students from four secondary schools including Britannia Secondary have built raised garden beds and planted, transplanted, harvested, sold, donated, cooked and ate produce from their school gardens. During summer 2011, SOYL interns also constructed a large compost bin as well as maintained and advanced their school gardens promoting local food security and taking food production to the next level at their schools.

Read the full SOYL 2011 Year End Report here
Check out some photos here

Bulk Buying – Eating can be Cheap

Our food bill has been noticeably higher lately and has got me thinking more and more about the merits of bulk buying. I think it is the way to go.

Last year I bought a 50lb case of cabbage for around $15 (non-organic) to make sauerkraut. More recently I found out that green cabbage is going for $17.50 a 50lb case. Still pretty cheap for a whole lot of cabbage. I reckon 50 lbs of cabbage will make about 40 – 500 ml jars of sauerkraut at a cost of .43 cents each jar. On top of this, sauerkraut is extremely healthy, loaded with lots of vitamins and beneficial digestive bacteria. Assuming organic is twice the price, it may be possible to make pesticide free sauerkraut for about a $1 a jar.

Knowing that bulk buying is cheaper than retail, the Britannia Bulk Buying Project was started and is now serving 26 lower income households. The cost is $13 a month ($.50 for gas to pick up), which gets each household two shopping bags near full of fruits and veggies (non-organic). Recently we conducted a cost comparison with the cheapest grocers on Commercial Drive – Santa Barbara and Triple A. The cheaper of the two was Triple A, however the identical products were 32% higher than our wholesale purchased produce. Our $12.50 worth of food would have cost $16.75.

I was wondering too if buying organic bulk could even be affordable for lower income households. I think it can be, but not for everything. If you really want to save money on organic bulk, you will need to do a little research for sure. Some bulk can be considerable less than retail, but not all.

Here are two highly nutritious organic foods that I have found in bulk that I think are pretty affordable when broken down per serving. The first food is Quinoa, a protein rich seed cooked like rice. It is possible to buy this food for $4.49/lb from a bulk distributor as compared to $5.49 at a local organic retailer. This is about 24% cheaper. An 11lb bag is $49.40, which sounds like a lot to lay out but the bonus is in the cost per serving, which I have estimated to be about .70 cents per serving.

Another highly nutritious protein seed is Chia, which can be found for almost 40% less than retail. Chia is the richest non-marine whole food source of Omega-3 and dietary fiber currently known. A single serving contains 27+ vitamins and minerals, fatty acids and amino acids. I sprinkle one or two tablespoons of Chia seed into oatmeal, smoothies, or granola at a cost of .17 cents a tablespoon. It may sound like a lot, but the nutritional benefits make this an affordable option.

Keep in mind that not all bulk food distributers are cheaper than retail stores. Prices can be competitive. In the short term it can feel expensive, but I am beginning to see that when averaged our food bill over many months is decreasing. The added bonus is that we are much more conscious of what we are buying getting the most nutritional bang for our buck.

For bulk seeds, check out Mumm’s Seeds on-line for some very good prices. Shipping is free.