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

October Reflections

October was another interesting month, and it’s the time of year when you know the warm weather is coming to a close and winter is starting to set in. We still had some warm and sunny days to enjoy being outside (and playing frisbee!), we take a long weekend for the holiday known as Thanksgiving, and Halloween and tasty candy await us at the end of the month. Here’s a brief update on some of the things that was going on for me this past month.

1. Twitter and Social Media
This month marked my beginning of a foray into a new social media channel – Twitter. While I haven’t had much time to search out interesting people to follow, or write about too many interesting things, it is something that I think can be very useful from a business and personal perspective. If you’re interested, you can find me here.

Speaking of social media, my business recently hired two new interns for a social media program with Young Urban Farmers. Through this program, we’re hoping to develop and grow our brand presence online while building up a community of followers and branding ourselves as the experts in urban gardening. More updates to come as we just finished the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring process. Now comes the fun part of developing and implementing the program.

2. Canning Workshop
At the beginning of the month, I had the privilege of attending a free canning workshop, put on by the nice folks at the Riverdale Food Working Group. In an industrial kitchen, we had the chance to make a whole bunch of stuff, including fresh salsa, plum jam (delicious!), peaches in light syrup, and canned tomatoes. All of this tasted great, and the best part of it was that we got to take some of the cans home to enjoy. All I can say is that fresh homemade plum jam is delicious!

3. Networking Session
This month, I had a chance to go to two interesting networking sessions, one hosted/sponsored by the Telus Small Business Group, and the other by the Toronto Chapter of JCI (Junior Chambers International – a  worldwide federation of young leaders and entrepreneurs). These were different than the “typical” networking session in that it attracted a good, diverse, and interesting mix of people to the events, and in the fact that the Telus event was quite interactive with a variety of people giving small mini-sessions on a variety of topics relevant to small business. It was also nice that free food and an open bar was provided (who doesn’t like that!).

4. Pumpkin Carving
In the spirit of Halloween, I decided to carve my own pumpkin this year. It was something I hadn’t done in ages, and I had forgotten how much fun it was. The best part of all though, was roasting and eating the seeds afterward. Yum!

5. Joe’s Bachelor Party
Also this month, I had a chance to spend a day with a friend celebrating the end of his days as a single man.  We had a fun afternoon of paintball (with extra targets printed out and duct-taped to strategic areas), great food, and most importantly – good company.

I was talking with James during the party, and somehow we got talking about what our future bachelor parties are going to be like, and after a brief discussion, we’ve got it all planned out already. All I can say is that it may involve cute animals……

6. Planet In Focus – Environmental Film Festival
One interesting event I went to in October was a screening at the Planet in Focus environmental film festival. I went to see a film called Homegrown about urban farming, which highlighted one family’s journey into living a more sustainable eco-friendly lifestyle, right in the heart of Pasadena California. It was a very enlightening film to see what one family can do in such a small area, though their lifestyle choices aren’t something that I would want to adopt. You can check out more about the film here:

7. Chocolate Festival
One of the interesting food events that I went to was the Toronto Chocolate Festival – well more of just a bunch of restaurants/cafes offering discounts/coupons on their products, but I’ll take an excuse to eat chocolate any day. You can check out some more details here:

8. Idea Challenge
Last week, we entered into an Idea Challenge – a competition that provides a bit of seed money to interesting, unique, and inspiring ideas. It sounds like an interesting initiative and to potentially raise some money for a new project/non-profit organization I’m working on (if our idea gets shortlisted in the top 10 based on popular votes, and if the judges like our idea), we submitted our idea along as well.  Feel free to submit your own idea or show some love and support our idea here. We’d really appreciate it. Voting closes Sunday Nov. 8th!

This is part of the news I was alluding to in my last update, and as we get progress further in the planning and preparation stages of this venture, I’ll update you with more details.

I don’t have too much to write for this part, so instead I’ll leave you with this parting quotation, which I think is a good summation of how I felt eating a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.  ~Melody Beattie