November 2010 Review

November has been another hectic month. On one hand, things were lighter as we wrapped up the last of the gardens still needing some work. On the other hand, administrative tasks and backburner projects have now come to the fore and are taking up a lot of my time these days.

It’s been good catching up on a lot of office work, and nice to know that I don’t have to be out and about as much in the cold weather these days. There’s nothing quite like a big, hot mug of steaming tea to keep you company while you go about your work day.

I’ve been thinking about changing around the stye of my monthly updates (again). A while ago, I tried inclulding more reflections on the months activities rather than just a summary of the activities, but found it to be very long and time consuming to write. While I want to continue writing a summary of the fun and interesting activities that happened over the past month, sometimes I feel this monthly review post isn’t the right forum for it. Some of the bigger events deserved a post of their own like the recent one I done on the CFSC conference (not to mention finding the time to write is always challenging) and some events which were really fun I find don’t always warrant a place in these updates. I have yet to figure out a good system or way to write these reviews, so if any of you have any suggestions, I’m all ears! For now though, I’ll stick with my trusty method of posting about the fun and exciting things this past November.


1. So You Think You(th) Can Cook Content
Through my involvement with the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council, I had the chance to act a judge for the 2nd annual So You Think You(th) Can Cook contest held at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair at the Exhbition Place. Along with renowned Toronto chef Brad Long, last year’s winner Hudson Bernard, and Jeff ODonnell of Foodland Ontario, we were treated to cooking demonstration of 3 young people and their original recipes incorporating Foodland Ontario products.

This was the first time I’ve ever had the chance to judge a cooking contest and was very excited for it. Each of the participants had 20 minutes to prepare one dish (prep work could be done in advance) for the judges to taste and assess out of a 40 point scale. 20 points went to taste, 10 points went to creativity and 10 points went to a third category – something about food knowledge or something like that.

Overall, it was a great event, with the 3 finalists cooking up 3 very different dishes. You can find a link to  the recipes and a video of the first part of the cooking contest.

There’s a lot more I would like to write about my thoughts and experiences (such as cooking styles, presentation styles, tasting notes, judging notes, and more on the contest as a whole, but in the interest of brevity, we’ll leave it here for now.



2. Foodie networking event
Near the beginning of the month, I was invited to a foodie networking event by Wayne Roberts. I forget the exact name of the event, but a whole bunch of people involved in the local food scene and eco-friendly scene were there. It was inspiring to meet and connect with some familiar faces, but also with a number of people I hadn’t met before. One person in particular who I had the chance to meet in person (we had emailed back a forth a couple times several months ago) was Candice Batista. It was great to connect with her, and that meeting eventually turned into another opportunity for me. Which brings me to item #3.

As a random aside, I’m not a big fan of the word “foodie”. I used it in this case more out of laziness, rather than spending the time to finding another suitable word.


3. My First TV Interview
After re-introducing myself to Candice, she mentioned that she was filming a tv episode the following week and was looking for local food initiatives to be featured in it. There was still a spot she needed to fill and invited me to participate. So the following week, I headed out to the local tv studio at recorded a short segment for an upcoming episode of @Issue, which airs on the television station iChannel (aka Intelligent Channel). While the studio was quite small and very unassuming, it was a fantastic experience and I saw a whole bunch of other people involved in the local food scene there for the taping as well.

While I don’t believe this program puts their program online, they did say they will send me a DVD copy of the interview and the tentative idea plan is for the piece to air sometime in the new year.


4. Feature in the Queen’s alumni magazine
This November, I was also featured in the Queen’s alumni magazine. They actually did a whole article about us for the online version of the mag, and a small text box/photo in the print copy. It was great see the article finally go live as I think we got interviewed for it during the summer months, and only now was it going to print.

I’m getting ahead of myself here, but my non-profit organization also was featured in blogTO: link


5. Remembrance Day
November 11 is Canada’s Remembrance Day where we honour and remember our members of the armed forces who have served on duty since WWI. I think I mentioned this briefly in another post, but every now and then, I stop and think about how lucky we are to live in a free and democratic society. It truly is a priceless gift for the countless opportunities we have and something we too often take for granted.


6. Tour of the Ontario Food Terminal
As a followup to the cooking contest, all the judges and participants had the chance to take a tour of the Ontario Food Terminal. The food terminal is usually closed to the public, and is the primary clearing house for fresh produce across Southern Ontario. While this was my second time here, this time, we had a chance to meet with the general manager and learn about the history, key statistics, challenges, environmental initiatives, and general story of the terminal. I’ve been meaning to put together a blog post on this (probably won’t happen), but you can see another review by another person here.


7. Frisbee
Frisbee started again for me this month, and I forgot how intense indoor speed point can be. Even though our games are only an hour, I felt that I was running hard almost non stop. I’m excited for this indoor season as there’s a mix of new and old players on the team. In an interesting turn of events, I figured out where my indoor turf shoes had gone after I thought I had lost them many years ago. It turns out that when I moved out of University, I had left a whole bunch of things in my old apartment including my old turf shoes. The next tenants were friends of ours who also happened to play frisbee, and Steve (the new tenant) just so happened to hang on to the shoes, also happened to be on my team, bring them out to the game, and mention that he thought those shoes might be mine. It looks like the shoes are still in good shape as I don’t think he wore them much – not to mention that I don’t think they fit him all too well anyways. It’s like Christmas came early with an unexpected surprise


8. Chocolate fondue
I just had to write about this. I mean, who can’t resist a chocolate fondue – with all that melted chocolate-y goodness. I must have dipped anything and everything I could find in it including chocolate cupcakes (yum!), mixed fruit (double yum!), veggie sticks (not so yum), pretzels, marshmallows, graham crackers, and more. Thanks to Mike and Wing for hosting us that evening and setting up this delicious fondue.


9. YSEC Pitch Competition
On a bit of a whim, and as spur-of-the moment decision, I entered my non-profit organization into a  pitch competition. The competition was put on by a group called the Young Social Entrepreneurs of Canada (YSEC), whose mission is to promote social enterprises. A week or so after we applied, we were notified that we had been shortlisted as one of the final candidates and were invited to attend the final competition.

In total, 5 finalists were short listed to compete for 2 “prizes”. I put prizes in quotation because the winners end up receiving a $1,000 grant. It was actually quite nice knowing that when we entered the competition, we went in not having an urgent need for the money. Despite that, there were many other reasons why we entered into the competition

  • for the publicity and exposure (especially as a new organization) (featured in BlogTO and maybe another upcoming media mention)
  • for the networking and contacts we would meet (have arranged a number of coffee meetings as a result of the event)
  • for the practice (it’s always nice to brush up and practice your presentation skills)
  • and to refine our story (I can now give off a clear, concise, 30-60 second elevator pitch w/out hesitation)

I kind of gave it away already, but we were selected as one of the winners of the pitch competition. Ron and I went out to celebrate afterward, and it was a nice escape from all of the office/computer work I’d been doing all that previous week.

I’m sure more updates on this and other related things will be coming soon.


10. Speaking Engagement for Food Forward Event
Also a last minute event, I was asked to participate and share my thoughts on entrepreneurship and creating your own opportunities in the food world at an event put on by a new organization, Food Forward. I didn’t really have too much time to prepare, and ended up sharing a lot of my thoughts on entrepreneurship and why everyone should take this initiative. Again, it was a great opportunity, and chance to practice and refine my public speaking skills.


11. Meeting up with old friends
November was also interested in that I met up and saw some friends I hadn’t seen in a while – 1 since high school, and several I hadn’t seen in a year or a couple of years. In all cases, it was nice to catch up and hear what everyone is up to.

That’s it for now. There is probably a lot more I can write about, but I’ll leave it here for now


This month’s closing quotation is about one of my favourite topics: food.

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art

-La Rochefoucauld

March 2010 Review

This is only going to be a short update as I’ve been swamped with a ton of stuff to do recently, so here goes my shotgun approach to this month’s review


1. Seedy Saturday Scarborough
-It was a great event, though not nearly the same turnout as the main Toronto event.
2. Homemade wine
-I’m in the process of making my own wine (though not with grape). It’s sitting in my basement doing a bit of aging and should be ready in about a year
3. Volunteered at Canada Blooms
-The City of Toronto had one of the best displays and I was inspired by their beautiful inter-planting of veggies and flowers in ornamental and tasty ways
4. Fitness swim time trial
-Not knowing what I was capable of doing, I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up swimming 100m in 1min28sec.
5. Soup, soup, and more soup
-I went on a soup making binge this month making 3 large pots: lentil soup, a butternut squash soup, and also a mixed veg curry soup. Let’s say that each pot was enough to feed at least 10 people with leftovers
6. Grant writing.
-I was involved in submitting our first grant for our non-profit organization-submitted my frist grant. Let’s hope this is just the first of many we apply for, and receive funding for.
7. TYFPC Food Systems Fair
-We participated at the inaugural Food Systems Fair at UT campus. Great turnout, cool speakers, good food courtesy of the Hot Yam, and more.
8. First garden setup of 2010
-I helped setup the first garden for the 2010 growing season
9. More public speaking
-I gave a school presentation to an elementary school (some grade 7’s and some grade 3’s) on food security. Unfortunately, I think I ended up boring the kids for pretty much the entire time I was up.

A lot of things happened in March, much of which isn’t ready to be shared just yet (or in such a public forum). There were triumphs, defeats, lessons learned, character-building moments, opportunities seized, and more. With time, I’m sure many of these (positive) things we’ve been working on recently will come to fruiting and the other (negative) things will come to pass.

Parting Quotation
Our achievements of today
are but the sum total of our thoughts of yesterday.
You are today where the thoughts of yesterday have brought you
and you will be tomorrow where the thoughts of today take you.
-Blaise Pascal

February 2010 Review

Despite being the shortest month in the year, February has been a full 28 days of exciting events. We’ve entered into the year of  the tiger (according to the Chinese lunar calendar), the Olympics came to Vancouver, and a whole bunch of stuff happened both personally  and professionally (see below for a recap and review). If I could summarize February in one word, it would be “excitement”.

February Recap

1. Seedy Saturday (on a Sunday)
One of the most memorable events happened on February 21st, which was Seedy Saturday (on a Sunday) hosted by the Toronto Community Gardening Network at the Wychwood barns. This was an opportunity to meet hundreds of people interested and involved in the local gardening scene and a fantastic opportunity to help spread the word of Young Urban Farmers and tell people about who we are and what we do. I’ll know for next time to bring more flyers, handouts, and other marketing materials as I was just so overwhelmed by the response that we ran out of things to give out about halfway through the show. One thing that worked out quite well was a promotional raffle draw for a free 20″ shiitake mushroom log. This was a great way to draw people into our display, sign up for the chance to win a free prize, and start talking to people about our urban gardening initiatives. Overall, the day was exhausting, with people arriving much earlier than the advertised start time, and the flow of people not letting up until right towards the end of the day.

What I learned from this event was that it’s better to bring more marketing materials than you think you’ll need, to continue to use promotional raffle prizes or other fun things to draw people into your event, and to get a good night’s rest before the event. We’ve got another similar event coming up next week (Seedy Saturday Scarborough) though this event is supposed to be much smaller than the main Toronto one.

2. More media coverage for Young Urban Farmers
This month, I had the chance to talk to a couple different journalists who represent local, community-oriented newspapers. We got featured in the Riverdale Town Crier (, and may be featured in some more upcoming local articles in the future.

What I learned from this experience is that when talking to the media, I really need to know what my talking points are and stick to them. Speak in simple terms and if I do get sidetracked on another topic, to make sure that the reported understands how it relates to our overall mission and bring it back to the key talking points. I think I need some more training and practice in dealing with the media.

3. Chinese New Year
I spent most of Chinese New Year with my family and it was great to relax and take in some of the Olympic events on TV. As a side note, we also reconnected with some relatives we’ve been out of touch with for years and years. Up until a couple months ago, I had no idea I had more cousins and relatives living here in Toronto.

While my family isn’t very traditional in terms of following the customs and events to celebrate the new year, I like how this is a time to connect/reconnect with family and relatives, and hope to continue this in the future.

4. YUF manager training
At the beginning of the month, we had a traning session for our new managers. Overall it went quite well and one of the things that I think worked the best was the interactive “voice training exercise” we did. It turned out to be a fun event and good break from the lecture-style presentations we had for the majority of the training.

This was the first official training session that we held and I’m sure that as we continue to plan and hold more sessions in the future, I’ll become a more effective facilitator and communicator. After all, practice makes perfect.

5. Sales and marketing has started for our 2010 season
Our sales and marketing efforts have started for the 2010 growing season. It’s time to hit the streets and start
booking jobs for us to have a busy, fun, and productive summer.

If you know anyone who is looking to have an edible garden setup this summer, please let me know!

6. TYFPC events
At the beginning of the month, I attended my first meeting for the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council. It was a great chance to meet other people passionate about local food in the city of Toronto and start to contribute my ideas on where local food can continue to grow/change/improve. There’s a great group of people here with a variety of backgrounds I’m happy to have joined the council get involved with a new and fun group of people.

We had a fun social event at the end of the month for a bring-your-own-toppings pizza party complete with homemade dough and sauce. It was awesome pizza and it seemed like there was just pizza after pizza coming out of the oven – there was so much food! One of the secrtes I learned about making good pizza sauce – slightly caramelize your onions, add in a touch of sugar, then start to mellow out the flavours with your wine, tomatoes, and herbs.

7. More reading
This month, I finally took some time to update my Goodreads account ( if you want to be my friend) and also my Facebook group ( with some of the exciting and interesting books I’ve read and/or skimmed through recently. My favourite book so far this year is definitey “Drive”, by Daniel Pink. It talks about how our current carrot and stick system of motivating people just doesn’t cut it anymore and how we need to create a new model (validated by science and real world examples) of motivation.

Reading is one of my favourite past-times and something I wish I spend more time doing. You can learn so much through the writings of other people, I really think it’s a great investment in terms of time spend vs. concepts learned.

8. Mastermind meeting
Towards the end of the month, I got together with JP and a couple other people for one of our “mastermind” meetings. These are informal meetings that we’ve held sporadically in the past as a way to get Toronto entrepreneurs together to discuss challenges, opportunities and other things related to the field of entrepreneurship. It’s still a very loose coalition of people, but maybe with a bit of time, we’ll be able to turn it into a more regular event and have more people involved in our meetings.

9. Hot Yoga
Also at the end of this month, I had a chance to attend a hot moksha yoga session. While I thought I’d gone through some hot climates and done my fair share of sweating, it didn’t really compare to what it was like inside that room. I’d like to think that I was able to hold my own (there were some really fit and intense people in my class!) and get through that 90 minute session.

I think I’d definitely like to try it again though for now, I’m happy to continue with swimming, biking, and playing frisbee.


One of the things that has struck me more than usual this month is a feeling of gratitude. I feel so blessed and
privileged to have so many opportunities to do what I do and have such a supportive and encouraging group of friends and family. Really, I wouldn’t be able to do this without all of your encouragement and support. Too often, I think we go through life on auto-pilot that and don’t stop to really think about how fortunate we are and how many opportunities are available to us. Even simple things like freedom of speech, living in a  democratic and multicultural society, and having access to clean water are things that we barely give a second thought to. I’ve found that as I’ve taken more time to reflect and be grateful, many of the things we work ourselves up over pale in comparison to the many opportunities we do have. So thank you to everyone who has helped to shape my life into what it is today. I could write for a little while on this, but I’ll leave it here for now.

Looking Forward:

For March, I’m looking forward to doing more outdoor physical activities, continue learning, trying new things, and participating/attending in a whole variety of events (Canada Blooms, National Home/Garden Show, Seedy Saturday Scarborough, and more). I think March will be the month of networking, though we’ll see how the next 31 days actually shape up.

January 2010 Review

January has been off to a fast start so far. The year is already 1/12 done, and I think I’ve made some good process in achieving some of my goals for this year. I’ve gone through a number of stimulating books, got involved with a new organization, and also had a bit of time to relax and have fun.

January Highlights:

1. Return from Lake Placid
At the beginning of the year, I got back from a short getaway to Lake Placid. I went with some friends from my frisbee team to enjoy some snowshoeing, cross county skiing, and have a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. For anyone looking for some outdoor activities in a beautiful mountain environment, I would highly recommend checking it out.

2. Toronto Youth Food Policy Council
Also this month, I submitted an application and received an offer to join the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council (no webiste yet). My term doesn’t start until September and I’m not quite sure exactly what my role and responsibilities will be, but it will involve dealing with local food issues and providing a youth perspective to the Toronto Food Policy Council. As a quick primer, here’s the mission statement of the TYFPC:

“We, as youth, are dedicated to building a food system that is sustainable, equitable, regionally focused and accessible. As a group that represents the diversity of Toronto, we will seek to build community partnerships, produce youth-centered policy documents and encourage the development of sustainable food system infrastructure connected to Toronto.”

3. Photo/Video Shoot
On the 24th, we held a photo/video shoot to get some footage for the Young Urban Farmerswebsite. I have to extend a huge thanks to our social media intern Fran who planned, coordinated, and executed the entire event. From finding the studio space, to coordinating with the photographer, to finding volunteers to be involved, planning the wardrobe, to making sure things went according to schedule – it was fantastic. I can’t wait to see some of the shots from the day and they will definitely be going up on our website in the near future.

4. The 29th Annual Guelph Organic Conference
At the end of the month, I had an opportunity to volunteer at the Guelph Organic Conference. This was a great opportunity to meet and speak with some of the people involved in the organic initiative from across Canada, attend a variety of interesting seminars, and visit the tradeshow with over 100 exhibitors. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll be the ones setting up a booth at the tradeshow. For now though, I was happy attending it as a participant and volunteer. Look for a more detailed writeup on my experiences at the conference soon.

5. New Products
This month, we confirmed that we will be retailers for a couple new and exciting products this year. The first product is a grow-it-yourself shiitake mushroom log that sits outdoors and will provide fresh mushrooms for at least 4 years. The second confirmed product is the Worm Factory 360for customers to make their own compost from their daily vegetable scraps. Both of these are premium products, and will allow us to diversify the edible solutions we offer to our customers. We’ve also got a few more exciting new products in the works, and the details will be announced shortly once they get finalized.

January Reflections:

At times like this, it’s hard to believe where the past 31 days of January have gone. On one hand, I can think back in detail and go through a laundry list some of my daily activities and of things that got done and projects I’ve made progress on. On the other hand, it feels January 1st was just a couple days ago and the year is still just getting started. While we can’t slow or speed up the passing of time, I’m satisfied with how this month has turned out so far.

As I sit and reflect the past month, I realized that January was primarily a month focused on business. While this isn’t a bad thing, as business and related stuff keeps me more than motivated and excited about the future, I don’t want to forget about my personal life, hobbies, and having fun as well (though I did get a chance to play lasertag, participate in some group fitness swims, spend an afternoon playing board games, and go clubbing this month). Moving forward, I will make a concerted effort to have more balance in my life, though at this point I don’t mind too much that business and related stuff takes up a good majority of my time and

One of the key lessons I learned this month was in regards to delegating. One mistake that I’ve made in the past was assigning too much responsibility up front, instead of gradually easing someone into greater and greater degrees of responsibilities. In the future, I’ll start off by delegating smaller projects, until the person proves themselves to be capable of to handle increased responsibilities or projects with more skill and complexity. This way, the person will be more prepared and setup for success, and I’ll be able to gradually ease myself off my tendency to micromanage. It’s a win-win situation.

Another lesson I was reminded of this month was to continually face challenges and opportunities with a mindset of abundance, rather than one of scarcity. In essence, this means to view life with a positive outlook, with the belief that there is an abundance of resources, ideas, and things to share.

Looking forward, February is going to be another fun and exciting month. Our sales and marketing is going to get started again for the 2010 growing season, I’m planning a field trip up to my aunt’s farm (let me know if you’re interested in coming with me), and our cash flow should turn positive again this month.

To conclude, I want to share with you this quotation by Woodrow Wilson I found while putting together the sales presentation for Young Urban Farmers CSA, and found it to be very inspiring and something that I’m trying to live up to every day.

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”
– Woodrow Wilson