N.B. chef enjoys benefits of organicMonday, November 14 2011
This post relates to Chef Carson's Certified Organics
Carson Edwards of Bouctouche’s Dune View Inn follows a ’100-metre diet’ and has a unique twist on using organic, local produce in his restaurant.
Read whole article by By Shannon MacLeod, Times & Transcript staff :
“Our inn and restaurant is also a certified organic farm, where we grow more than 50 varieties of vegetables throughout the year,” said Edwards. “We are proud to feature dishes that are part of our 100-metre diet.”
He calls it the 100-metre diet because all the vegetables and lettuces served in his restaurant comes from his 7.2-acre farm, he said.
“They’re picked basically daily. So the vegetables that you have when you eat at the restaurant were picked earlier that day,” he said.
Edwards only plants on 4.8 acres of the farm.
“We do crop rotations. Out of our farm, we only plant two thirds of it, one third is always in rest, so that the land gets time to recover the nutrients that you’ve taken out of it,” he said.
For the rest of the menu, Edwards extends it to a 100-mile diet, because the fish he serves, he picks up directly from fishermen, he said.
“There’s a fisherman who lives up the road and I get all my scallops from him. I buy my lobster from him as well. When it’s lobster season, he calls me 20 minutes before he hits the wharf and I meet him at the wharf.”
Becoming a certified organic farm is a big investment, said Edwards.
“Now some of it is reimbursed by the government. Now I would say 90 per cent of the money is out of pocket, but it’s something you have to believe in,” he said. “It’s probably $150,000 invested so far. But businesses take five or six years before they make money.”
In the last five years, the N.B. government has become more involved in the organic movement by organizing training sessions and seminars for organic farmers, said Edwards.
“And I have to commend the New Brunswick government because they’re starting to do a lot for organic farmers,” he said.
It’s a big investment, and it comes with its challenges, said Edwards.
“This year we had a huge problem with potato bugs. We picked them by hand and we were keeping up very well, and then we’d have a storm come in and the wind would come over the island (P.E.I.) and you could see the potato bugs coming in on the wind.”
Being organic means, they don’t spray pesticides, so they did lose some of their potato crop this year.
“But I think that’s a small price to pay to have land in 100 years that you can still plant on,” Edwards said.
The process began five years ago when they started using only organic things in the soil. Edwards didn’t know much about it, so he got the Organic Standard, which is a government booklet.
“I read that, then we applied to be certified which is a process where you’re followed for a year.”
After you’ve read the standard, you’re followed by an inspector to be sure you’re doing everything according to the standard, he said.
“And then the following year, which was this spring, they came and inspected again and we had met all the standards.”
The soils need to be chemical free for at least three years and Edwards had to sign a sworn affidavit about the land and that there wasn’t any chemicals used.
Luckily, for Edwards, his land was originally farm land, but hadn’t been farmed for close to 20 years.
“It had grown up with alder bushes, so we cleared all the alder bushes, then we had to wait a year, then we had to take the roots out, so our land hasn’t had chemicals sprayed on it in probably 35 years,” he said.
Edwards also attended an Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network (ACORN) conference, where he learned a lot about going organic.
“You do workshops for three days, every two hours they have a different workshop and it’s all about organic growers and they have speakers at every workshop who are specialists in their field.”
With organizations like ACORN, there is a lot backing and encouragement for the organic farmer, said Edwards.
“There is a lot of support but it’s a long, drawn-out process. It’s three years basically to get certified,” he said.
The certification is important because otherwise, there is no proof that the foods you’re consuming have been grown by the Canadian Organic Standards, said Theresa Richards, N.B. ACORN co-ordinator.
“Farmers work hard to protect the soil, to control pests and disease by prevention methods rather than reactionary chemicals, and to make sure that the food is safe. Safe for us and safe for the environment.”
Edwards and his family work hard to provide chemical-free and organically-grown food, said Richards.
“If certified organic, consumers can be assured that those local farmers aren’t poisoning the neighbourhood, but actually working diligently to enhance the soil, the farm system and the traceability of food,” she said.
It’s no easy task to run a chemical-free organic farm, there are many tasks, said Richards.
“These practices include cover cropping, crop rotation, buffer zones, a demanding audit trail, and importantly, an inspection certifying that a farmer is actually following the Canadian Organic Standards and implementing these important practices on their farm.”
Going organic in this region is still a new-thing coming and it’s still growing.
“In New Brunswick, we’ve seen plenty of new organic operations in the past three years, going from 50 organic producers and processors in 2007 to 65 today,” Richards said.
Organic might be new, but it’s sustainable, said Edwards.
“The whole thing about growing organically, is that we don’t harm the land, we improve it.”
Going organic is not only better for the local markets, but it’s for your health. Edwards and his wife, Nicole have four children, one of whom has Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.
“We only eat things with no preservatives, with no chemicals, with no pesticides and he’s a B student.”
Any chemicals makes his life more difficult. You can see a marked difference, said Edwards.
“His personality is what it should be because we’re keeping his system balanced,” he said.
Growing up, Edwards was raised with the understanding that organic, chemical-free foods were better. Now that he has his own children he knows it’s the best way, he said.
“If we give our kids a treat and there’s chemicals in it, you can see the difference.”
In the grand scheme of things, Edwards believes the price of organic foods will be cheaper if the infrastructure is there, he said.
“As petroleum prices go up, the cost of shipping food is going to go up. If we don’t have the infrastructure already set up when oil prices spike again, the whole region is going to suffer.”
Edwards is growing organic and will continue to buy fish directly from fishermen at the wharf for the freshest seafood, he said.
“We’re the only one in New Brunswick that’s a restaurant, inn and organic farm.”
The Dune View Inn is located at 589 Route 475 in the Baie de Bouctouche. For restaurant or inn reservations, call 506-743-9893 or visit their website at www.aubergevuedeladune.com.
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