The Frugal Gardener (debrief)!

So The Frugal Gardener took place this past Saturday, and it was such a fascinating experience that I thought I would share another short reflection about the process.

frugalgardener1The workshop was, overall, a great success. The feedback I received from the participants was positive, and the energy and discussion that arose from the group was really the highlight of the experience for me. We had a wonderful conversation about the challenges and opportunities that are possible when exploring non-monetary exchange and building an informal economy.

Offering a workshop without exchanging cash was a huge learning experience for me. I learned that the clearer I can become about what non-monetary exchanges would be truly relevant to my life, the more likely I’ll be to incorporate bartering into my business in a meaningful way.

There is no doubt that the experiment of offering The Frugal Gardener was worthwhile from the perspective of learning and community building! The degree to which non-monetary exchange could become a meaningful part of my livelihood remains to be seen, and I look forward to future opportunities for exploration and experimentation. Thanks to everyone who participated for creating such a rich learning environment!

For fun, here is an inventory of what was exchanged for The Frugal Gardener:

What I offered:
The design and delivery of a three-hour workshop on the subject of Frugal Gardening for 20 participants (including approximately 10-12 hours of preparation and 5 hours on the workshop day).

frugalgardener7My hard costs included:
Venue rental (unfortunately my attempt to negotiate a non-monetary exchange failed): $75
Poster printing: $25
Parking ticket: $10

What was offered in exchange (Please note that no single item necessarily represents the entirety of one person’s trade. In other cases, one item might have been exchanged for more than one person’s participation.):

  • frugalgardener8Assistance (before and after workshop) (2 hours)
  • Assistance (before and during workshop) (2 hours)
  • Assistance (before, during, and after upcoming workshop) (4-5 hours)
  • Apples, frozen (home preserved) (1 bag)
  • Beans, Heinz baked (commercial) (1 tin)
  • Beef (grass fed, ground) (2 lb)
  • Beverages for workshop participants (coffee, tea, cream, sugar)
  • Book (The Urban Gardener, by Elspeth Thomson)
  • Bran muffin mix & recipe (homemade) (1 container)
  • Bread, sourdough (home baked) (1 loaf)
  • Brownies, black bean (home baked) (1 pan)
  • Candle, beeswax  (artisanal)
  • Card, Thank you
  • Cash ($70)
  • CD, The Lonesome Weekends (2 CDs)
  • Cinnamon buns for workshop participants (homemade) (4 dozen)
  • Clothing (homemade) (1-2 pieces)
  • frugalgardener4Coconut milk, Thai Kitchen (commercial) (3 tins)
  • Container, ornamental (ornamental)
  • Gloves, work (2 pair)
  • Honey, raw (500 grams)
  • Lentils, sprouted (2 cups)
  • Muffins for workshop participants (homemade) (2 dozen)
  • Pasta elbows (commercial) (1 bag)
  • Pasta sauce, Hunt’s (commercial) (1 tin)
  • Painting (original) (future trade)
  • Pears, No Name (commercial) (1 tin)
  • frugalgardener2Pickles, cucumber (home preserved) (1 quart)
  • Pickles, cauliflower (home fermented) (1 quart)
  • Pussy Willow (2 pieces)
  • Rhubarb (home preserved) (1 quart)
  • Sauerkraut (organic, homemade) (6-8 ounces)
  • Salve, Gardener’s (hand lotion, commercial) (1 tube)
  • Seeds, garden, Salt Spring Seeds (6 packs)
  • Seeds, garden, Brother Nature (2 packs)
  • frugalgardener3Seeds, ornamental grass, Pure Prairie (3 packs)
  • Sidekicks, Lipton (commercial, expired) (3 packages)
  • Stones, garden (hand painted) (2 stones)
  • Tea (1 customer card good for 50g of tea)
  • Tincture, “Spring Cleanse” (home prepared) (1 bottle)
  • Tuna, No Name (commercial) (1 tin)
  • Water kefir drink (homemade) (8 ounces)
  • Water kefir drink (homemade) (1 quart)
  • Water kefir starter (homemade) (1 pint)
  • Website work (2-3 hours) (future trade)

And the stats:

  • 21 people pre-registered. Of those, 3 canceled in advance and 2 more didn’t come and didn’t give notice (none of the cancelations had completed their portion of the exchanges)
  • 3 people turned up without pre-registering. One left halfway through without making a contribution. The other two didn’t feel prepared to make a non-monetary exchange and so were adamant about paying cash (which I gratefully accepted to help cover the cost of the space rental and printing).
  • 19 people participated

On non-monetary exchange & doing business without cash

As I gear up for this Saturday’s The Frugal Gardener: Growing food for (next to) nothing, I find myself fascinated by the experiment of attempting to operate a portion of my business without relying on cash in exchange for my services.

Ever since I started Root & Branch at the beginning of 2012, I’ve offered non-monetary exchange as an option to people who want to access my services but who can’t afford (or choose not) to pay in cash. I was surprised that virtually no one took me up on the offer through my whole first year. Apart from one great trade of a garden consultation for a haircut, and a couple of people who assisted me at workshops in exchange for their attendance, everyone seemed content to pay cash for my services.

I have to admit that I felt some disappointment about how things were evolving for my business in its first year. Quite simply, I don’t want to serve only the privileged people in my community. Everyone benefits from learning to take control of their own food supply and participate in a sustainable local food economy where food is treated as so much more than a commodity—not only those who can afford the luxury of healthy, safe, sustainable food.

My interest in cultivating an informal economy in my life and business persisted, despite the apparent lack of interest from anyone else. So this year I decided to try something quite different: as part of my series of spring gardening workshops I decided to develop one focused on gardening without spending a lot of money. In that spirit, I also wanted to make the workshop available only through non-monetary exchange.

TheFrugalGardenerFeb2013FBOOKWhat’s ensued over the past few weeks has been by turns fascinating, frustrating, mystifying, and inspiring. In fact, I don’t believe there’s been an experience that’s taught me more (about myself, my values, and my business) than attempting to conduct business without cash. It’s brought me face to face with my own limitations and those of my community and the larger society. It’s also created opportunities I never imagined existed.

The first thing of note was that right off the bat I realized that regardless of what happened, I would be taking a financial loss on The Frugal Gardener. Try though I did, there was no way around the hard costs of renting the venue and printing posters. I had decided at the outset that taking a loss was OK—I hoped to turn a profit on my workshop series as a whole, so losing money on The Frugal Gardener hopefully wouldn’t break the bank!

At the same time I realized that in this case, functioning as part of an informal, non-cash economy was a privilege I could afford. It was safe—an experiment that I wasn’t relying on to contribute any meaningful resources or stability to my life and business.

Unfortunately, that felt in some ways like a lost opportunity, since what I dream of is a world where non-cash exchanges are just as or more meaningful than cash purchases. Dealing outside of the cash economy forces us to consider the potential for a different kind of equality between people. Instead of a person’s value being determined by how much money they have (or don’t have) to buy things, non-cash exchange challenges us to define a person’s value by the content of their lives: their time, toil, talents, and skills. Though perhaps less tangible than the value of cold, hard cash, identifying and understanding the value of a person feels much more profound.

Curiously, although I had identified the service I was offering (a three hour workshop), I’d failed to consider what I actually needed or wanted to receive in exchange for it. In an effort to be open-minded to any possibility, my response to anyone who inquired about the non-monetary exchange was to simply throw it back into their court. “It’s an experiment, so I’m open to anything,” I’d say. “Pitch me something creative and then we can negotiate something that feels fair.”

In retrospect, my approach wasn’t all that effective, nor was it very fair. Non-monetary exchanges already place people outside of their comfort zones, and providing minimal guidance didn’t help them. Not surprisingly, in several cases people who contacted me with interest never followed up after I sent them away with only vague direction.

strawI realized that my vagueness was actually something of a cop out on my part. I hadn’t taken the time to consider things that I could actually use, and instead left people to make the best guess they could, in most cases without knowing me at all. By not taking the time to identify what I really wanted and needed from the situation, I missed out on a huge opportunity to really benefit from the experience.

With that in mind, I finally took some time to consider what non-monetary exchanges would actually have real value to me in my life. It was a great exercise that provided heaps of clarity. It also helped me achieve what I knew was important the whole time but couldn’t put my finger on: making people’s non-cash value tangible and real.

So where has this all led me?

  1. I’ve developed a great list of potential non-monetary services and items that I could really use, which I will direct people to in the future;
  2. I have great anticipation about this weekend’s workshop, where I plan to spend a decent chunk of time workshopping participants’ ideas and understanding of the potential for non-monetary exchange in their own lives;
  3. I’m also really curious to see whether people will actually show up to the workshop! Just as I find that people are significantly less likely to turn up if they haven’t paid in advance, I wonder if people will take this workshop as seriously as if they had paid cash for it.

Regardless of the outcome, this has been an extremely worthwhile experience that has really helped to strengthen my vision of the kind of business I want to run and the sort of person I want to be.

Local Food Bites (February 26-March 10, 2013)

This week’s Local Food Bites: the 2nd Saskatchewan Food Summit, Landscaping for Outdoor Living, Regina Seedy Saturday, Eating Year Round from the Sustainable Garden, and more!

Second Saskatchewan Food Summit
Feb 27 – 28, 2013 (TCU Place (Salons A & B), Saskatoon, SK)
Building Sustainable Food Systems, Towards Policy and Action
Sessions discussed barriers/challenges and examined solutions/opportunities in:
– Policy and the Food System Panel (An analysis of Policy Effects on Shaping a Sustainable Food System)
– Designing a Sustainable Food System (What are the Key Considerations in Shaping a Food system for the 21st Century?)
– Global perspectives in Advancing Food Security Around the World
– Building Food Secure Communities
– Distribution – Building a Start-up Distribution System for Small Producers
– Health and Food Safety – Addressing the Regulatory Barriers
– Aboriginal Peoples and Potential for Local Food Production – Strategies and Initiatives
– Land Use Planning and Food Production – Three Models from Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia
More info

Landscaping for Outdoor Living (Regina Horticultural Society)
Thursday, February 28, 6–7pm (Neil Balkwill Centre, 2420 Elphinstone St., Regina)
Landscaping for Outdoor Living with Bonnie Martel Free for RHS members; $5 for non-members. Pre-registration not required.

Regina Seedy Saturday
Saturday, March 2, 10am–2pm (St. Mary’s Anglican Church, 3337 15th Avenue, Regina, SK)
Buy and exchange open-pollinated, heritage varieties of seeds at this year’s Seedy Saturday! Vegetable and flower seeds will be available for purchase from prairie seed growers, including: Prairie Garden Seeds, Heliotrope Gardens, Heritage Harvest Seed. A local garden seed exchange table will be provided. Bring your seeds to trade with others. Plus: Need some new gardening ideas? Bring your old garden magazines to trade!
The day’s events include: Guest Speakers ~ Blessing of the Seeds ~ Garden Songs Sing-Along. For more information, contact the event sponsor: St Mary’s Anglican Church @ 306-522-6052
More info

Nutritional information you can use (Typical Canadian cooking) (Regina Public Library and HELP)
Sunday, March 3, 2–3pm (RPL Regent Place Branch, 331 Albert St, Regina)
Do you have difficulty understanding the variety of food available in the grocery store and how to prepare them? Many new Canadians struggle with preparing healthy Canadian dishes. HELP is a non-profit, charitable organization that provides programs to educate individuals and families to improve skills related to healthy food choices and preparation. Registration required. 777-6086.

Canadian Cooking 101 (Regina Public Library)
Wednesday, March 6, 1:30–3pm (RPL Glen Elm Branch, 1601 Dewdney Ave E, Regina)
Class runs weekly from March 6 to 20. Learn about basic cooking techniques and ingredients common to Canada and Saskatchewan. Participants will have the opportunity to prepare some basic recipes as part of the class. Space is limited. Registration required. 777-6080.

EatingYearRound2013POSTEREating Year Round from the Sustainable Garden (Root & Branch)
Saturday, March 9, 10am-1pm (Creative City Centre, 1843 Hamilton St, Regina)
This half-day Root & Branch workshop will take a holistic, practical approach to planning a sustainable garden that will feed your family year round. We will explore the all the key factors necessary to make urban agriculture truly sustainable! Regular price: $50 (includes tax, snacks, and your Sustainable Seed Collection and growing instructions) Early bird: $42.50 (register by February 27)
More info

Visit our Calendar of Events for information on these and other local food events!

Local Food Bites (February 18-March 3, 2013)

This week’s Local Food Bites: Seed Seed Revolution, the 2nd Saskatchewan Food Summit, Landscaping for Outdoor Living, and Regina Seedy Saturday!

SeedSeedRevolution2013POSTERSeed Seed Revolution: A sustainable gardener’s guide to growing the right seeeds
Saturday, February 23, 10am-11pm (Creative City Centre, 1843 Hamilton St)
$35 (includes tax and snacks)
As gardeners, taking back control of our seed supply is one of the most revolutionary things we can do. In this half-day workshop, we’ll delve deep into both the practical and philosophical issues involved with choosing, growing, saving, and storing the most sustainable seeds. The first in a series of Spring 2013 Root & Branch workshops!
More info

Food Secure SK Annual General Meeting
Tuesday, February 26, 5-8 pm (Station 20 West, 1120-20th St, Saskatoon SK (2nd floor boardroom))
5:00 pm Tour of Station 20 West
5:30 pm Supper
6:30 Presentation CHEP & REACH
7:00 pm Food Secure Saskatchewan Annual General Meeting
Please RSVP to Dana Folkersen at (306) 347-3224 or email reach.director@sasktel.net no later than February 15, 2013 (numbers are needed for supper) Memberships will be for sale at the meeting – must have a membership to vote. Parking in lot on west side of Avenue L. Note: this meeting is prior to the 2nd Saskatchewan Food Summit that begins on February 27

Second Saskatchewan Food Summit
Feb 27 – 28, 2013 (TCU Place (Salons A & B), Saskatoon, SK)
Building Sustainable Food Systems, Towards Policy and Action
Sessions discussed barriers/challenges and examined solutions/opportunities in:
– Policy and the Food System Panel (An analysis of Policy Effects on Shaping a Sustainable Food System)
– Designing a Sustainable Food System (What are the Key Considerations in Shaping a Food system for the 21st Century?)
– Global perspectives in Advancing Food Security Around the World
– Building Food Secure Communities
– Distribution – Building a Start-up Distribution System for Small Producers
– Health and Food Safety – Addressing the Regulatory Barriers
– Aboriginal Peoples and Potential for Local Food Production – Strategies and Initiatives
– Land Use Planning and Food Production – Three Models from Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia
More info

Landscaping for Outdoor Living (Regina Horticultural Society)
Thursday, February 28, 6–7pm (Neil Balkwill Centre, 2420 Elphinstone St., Regina)
Landscaping for Outdoor Living with Bonnie Martel Free for RHS members; $5 for non-members. Pre-registration not required.

Regina Seedy Saturday
Satruday, March 2, 10am–2pm (St. Mary’s Anglican Church, 3337 15th Avenue, Regina, SK)
Buy and exchange open-pollinated, heritage varieties of seeds at this year’s Seedy Saturday!
More info

Visit our Calendar of Events for information on these and other local food events!

Local Food Bites (Dec 10-16, 2012)

This week’s Local Food Bites: International Human Rights Day, FREE City of Regina Composting Classes, the SECOND LAST Farmers’ Market, and matching donations to SK food banks!

We’ll be taking a break for the holidays, so you can expect your next edition of Local Food Bites on January 7, 2013. May your holiday season be filled with nourishing food and good company!

International Human Rights Day
Monday, December 10
On this landmark date in contemporary history, the nations of the world joined together to try to bury, once and for all, the spectra of genocide raised by the Second World War. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was one of the first major achievements of the United Nations and provided the basic philosophy for many legally-binding international instruments to follow.
More info

Composting Class
Tuesday, December 11, 6:30-7:30 pm (Sunrise Branch Library, 3130 Woodhams Drive)
Wednesday, December 12, 6:30-7:30 pm (George Bothwell Library, 2965 Gordon Road)
Learn how to turn your kitchen and yard waste into nutrients for your garden. Composting will reduce your waste and make your garden healthier than ever! Come to one of the City’s free composting classes to learn more. Space is limited, so please preregister by calling 777-7000.
More info

Regina Farmers’ Market (indoor market)
Saturday, December 15, 9:30 am-1:30 pm
LAST MARKET: Saturday, December 22, 9:30 am-1:30 pm
Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre, 2900 13th Avenue, Regina, Saskatchewan
Farmers’ Market website

Matching Donations to SK Food Banks
From now until January 15, 2013, money donated to any food bank in Saskatchewan will be matched by PotashCorp, up to one million dollars!
More info

Visit our Calendar of Events for information on these and other local food events!

Local Food Bites (Dec 3-9, 2012)

This week’s Local Food Bites: Community Feasting at the RPL’s Albert Branch, deadline to be the Community Food Assessment Researcher, and the third last Farmers’ Market of the winter!

Community Feast
Monday, December 3, 4:00-6:00 pm
Regina Public Library, Albert Branch, 1401 Robinson street, 777-6076
This is a time to celebrate the North Central community and RPL’s Albert Branch. Elders will oversee a traditional First Nations feast that begins with a pipe ceremony, the burning of sweetgrass and/or sage and an offering. First Nations protocol will be followed. Join us for an evening of honouring our community. everyone welcome. Registration not required. Contact the branch at 777-6076 for more information.

Deadline: Community Food Assessment Project Researcher Job Posting
Tuesday, December 4, 5:00 pm
The Community Food Assessment (CFA) is a participatory and collaborative process to examine a broad range of food-related issues and resources in the city of Regina, for the purposes of informing actions to improve community food security. CFAs have been undertaken by many communities across Canada and internationally for the purposes of analyzing existing community assets, identifying gaps, and developing strategic action plans to improve community food security across all sectors of the food system, including production, processing, distribution, access, consumption and food waste recovery.

Project Researcher Responsibilities:Under the supervision of the project’s Faculty Co-advisors, the CFA Project Researcher is responsible for completing the initial phase of the Community Food Assessment, the Environmental Scan. The Environmental Scan is a comprehensive overview of existing research to define the economic, social, environmental, cultural, demographic, and policy variables (specific to Regina) as they relate to community food security.
More information

Deadline: Cool Springs Ranch orders (Regina December pickup)
Wednesday, December 5
www.coolspringsranch.ca
Place your order online by December 5 for Cool Springs’ happy beef, pork, chicken, eggs, etc. for delivery to the Regina pick-up location on December 8.
More information

Regina Farmers’ Market (indoor market)
Saturday, December 8, 9:30 am-1:30 pm
Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre, 2900 13th Avenue, Regina, Saskatchewan
Farmers’ Market website

Visit our Calendar of Events for information on these and other local food events!

Local Food Bites (Nov 26-Dec 2, 2012)

This week’s Bites: Raw Food Treats at the RPL, making your voice heard through Design Regina, and a sweet job posting for a Project Researcher for Regina’s upcoming Community Food Assessment!

Check out the Root & Branch Calendar of Events, a great place to find out about these and other great events relating to food, social and environmental justice!

Raw Food Feast: Treats
Thursday, November 29, 7:00-8:00 pm
Regina Public Library, George Bothwell Branch, Southland Mall,  777-6091
Learn to make raw food alternatives to your favourite desserts, including truffles, chocolate mousse and… cheesecake?! Raw food chef Allysia Kerney discusses important nutrition issues such as which foods support vibrant health and what to eat to feel your absolute best. Later, enjoy a short food demo complete with delicious samples and recipes to take home. Teens welcome. Registration required.

Design Regina Feedback Deadline
Friday, November 30
Regina is in the process of creating a new Official Community Plan (OCP). This long-range plan is very important in mapping out how Regina will grow physically, provide services, manage impacts to the environment, and enhance social and cultural development over the next 25 years. The OCP will be guided by eight Community Priorities, and the City is currently inviting feedback from citizens (or “customers” as they call us) on how the City is currently doing to achieve the priorities, and what changes should be considered in the future. Food is not one of the eight priorities, but food issues relate to many of them. This is your chance to make sure the City knows what’s important to you and to help create momemtum for positive change!
Please take a few minutes to fill in the Discussion Guide by November 30.
More information on the Design Regina process

Regina Farmers’ Market (indoor market)
Saturday, December 1, 9:30 am-1:30 pm
Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre, 2900 13th Avenue, Regina, Saskatchewan
Farmers’ Market website

mispon: A Celebration of Indigenous Filmmaking (Opening Night!)
Saturday, December 1, 6:00 pm
First Nations University of Canada
The 2012 mispon festival opens with a bang, with the World Premiere of the first episode in the new Untamed Gourmet season. This show won’t even be on APTN until next year! AND as a special treat, the Sioux Chef, Dickie Yuzicappi, has created a special menu inspired by his appearance on Untamed Gourmet, which we will screen while you enjoy such treats as rabbit stew tartlets, mule deer skewers with spicy maple syrup, saskatoon tarts, wild rice risotto cakes, rose hip tea and MORE! Two of the First Nations producers in training will talk about their experience working on the show with some behind the scenes information. So come on out for some FREE delicious food, celebrate some great Saskatchewan made television, and watch the world premiere of Untamed Gourmet. Silent auction with benefits going to food hampers for families in need just in time for the holidays. Admission free with a non-perishable food donation.
mispon website
Facebook event

Deadline: Community Food Assessment Project Researcher Job Posting
Tuesday, December 4, 5:00 pm
The Community Food Assessment (CFA) is a participatory and collaborative process to examine a broad range of food-related issues and resources in the city of Regina, for the purposes of informing actions to improve community food security. CFAs have been undertaken by many communities across Canada and internationally for the purposes of analyzing existing community assets, identifying gaps, and developing strategic action plans to improve community food security across all sectors of the food system, including production, processing, distribution, access, consumption and food waste recovery.

Project Researcher Responsibilities:Under the supervision of the project’s Faculty Co-advisors, the CFA Project Researcher is responsible for completing the initial phase of the Community Food Assessment, the Environmental Scan. The Environmental Scan is a comprehensive overview of existing research to define the economic, social, environmental, cultural, demographic, and policy variables (specific to Regina) as they relate to community food security.
More information

Local Food Bites is posted every week by Root & Branch. It highlights local Regina events that focus on food (often with a healthy dose of social and environmental action)!