Food and the islands

  • Jan. 24, 2011 7:00 p.m.

Submitted by Jenn Dysart, MIEDS–Over the next weeks, I will be featuring stories about local people connected to food here. I will introduce people who harvest and preserve food, people who farm livestock and vegetables, people who grow food, people who educate others about food – essentially, people who care about food. Last Thursday, I spent time with Noel Wotten from Sitka Spruce Studio. Here’s a summary of an hour-long tour that provided me with more information than I could fit into one article.Noel has been gardening for over 30 years at his home in Tlell. He grows a range of vegetables, fruit, and herbs, and raises geese and chickens. From the moment I started to talk with Noel about his gardens, I could sense he had an intimate connection to the land. We started the tour by looking at a patch of ground where he has a wild garden, mainly comprised of raspberry bushes and rhubarb. When I asked him about fertilization and pest control, he told me that he employs a ‘no poison here’ approach. He does not use any synthetic chemicals in his garden, and seems to take pride in having developed various methods of growing and protecting his plants without having to cause damage to the environment.Noel was excited to show me his strawberries. They’re planted in raised beds made of fire-killed cedar and covered with chicken wire to keep the robins away. ‘We try to do things that work on their own’, he told me. He was referring to the different ways that his gardens take care of themselves. Instead of spending time and energy every few years replanting his strawberry plants, he lets the newer ones naturally take over the old plants. And, he claims to ‘have the best grass’ on the island, which he attributes to the fertilization from his geese and poultry.I asked Noel about his vision for food on Haida Gwaii. He feels that people are still going to shop at the grocery store instead of growing or harvesting most of their own food because food is still cheap there. He says growing his own food gives him exercise and a diversion from his work as an artist. He’s passionate about the food he eats, and believes that nothing tastes better than food you’ve collected straight from its source.He offered these wise words to those thinking of starting to grow their own food:-1. ‘It’s not something that just happens. It takes time’. So be patient and willing to put in the necessary effort-1. Take time to figure out important details, such as where the sun rises and sets, in order to make gardening easierAs part of the Haida Gwaii Agriculture Strategy and Implementation Plan, MIEDS will host an island wide public workshop, “The Future of Food in Haida Gwaii: Taking Action”, in February. The objective of the workshop will be to develop action plans based upon the public feedback from the community meetings. Themes include education, production support, marketing, policy, business opportunities, and partnerships. If you are interested in the future of food on the islands, please join us. Details follow in the coming weeks. Contact me at for more info.

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