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


My Review of the 14th Annual Community Food Security Coalition Conference (and New Orleans Food)

It’s been about a month since I arrived back from the CFSC conference down in New Orleans and I’ve finally had a chance to put together some of my notes and thoughts on the experience. Overall it was a fantastic experience and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to go. While it’s difficult to compress all the experiences, notes, thoughts, and impressions down into a short (ok, long) post, here goes:

CSFC Opening Plenary
The opening plenary featured 3 great speakers who I believe collected set the tone and the scene for the rest of the conference. The key points I noted from Brenda’s message is that this is a hopeful and inspirational community out there. Together, we are here to share our ideas, wisdom, knowledge and take it back to our respective communities to make it a better place. Lolis continued on with this theme, talking about food as culture, and sharing a story about the locals who felt most at home with their red beans and rice, even if they had migrated to another State or country. His message reminded me of one of the program’s The Stop put on by growing ethnic food from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Because, if we are to connect and engage all communities, the easiest (and maybe best) way, is to start by understanding their food, their culture, how it is shared, and how people are connected to it. Finally, Pam concluded the panel discussion talking about connecting to people through stories and how food can serve as a tapestry for these stories. Continuing on with this metaphor, she went on to say that the more interconnected and woven together we are, the stronger the bonds and the communities we work in.

One of the things that really resonated with me was this: food security is not about avoiding starvation. It is as much about security – a tangible feeling, a safe environment, or regular access to food – as it is about the actual food itself.


The Workshops:
There were so many interesting workshops, it was very difficult to choose. My rationale in choosing which workshop to attend was based on the following criteria and in trying to maximize the net benefit from each session (yes, that’s business school training/thinking at work here). For example, how much of this stuff do I already know or can learn easily through online research? What kinds of networking opportunities will be available with the presenters and other participants?

The first workshop I went to was about credit/capital as a business tool for farmers. The presenters were extremely knowledgeable, and shed insight on the credit system and how it relates to farmers. For example, loans are based on asset value and what the bank can get  in the case of foreclosure. They don’t really care about your cash flow, your reputation, or other issues. It’s about the cold, hard facts. Farming is also very different than your typical desk job. There are many initial production and pre-season costs, and the farmers are at the mercy of many factors such as weather, the global market, and their skill that it is impossible to predict the yields/finances of the farm at the end of the season. Despite that, farmers are critical to the functioning and well-being of our society. And those that are doing things differently (ex. CSA’s, new and emerging markets), are being failed by the current system. It is an extremely difficult industry to be starting out in, and many people are faced with a choice between the lesser of two evils – scale up or get out when it comes to surviving and making a living out on the farm. In this session, I really enjoyed they had a female fisherman come out and talk about the similar challenges facing the fishing industry. I think they have an even harder uphill battle as so many people view fishermen as rapers and pillagers of the sea. And as year-round demand for certain fish rises, we are starting to lose touch with the cycles of the ocean and catching/eating specific fish during different parts of the year. With the advancement of technology, we are no longer limited to how hard and how fast we can row, but rather by the supply and demand of the global market that don’t take into consideration There is so much more that can be discussed (this was the session I took the most amount of notes in), but in the interest of brevity (well my attempt at it anyway), I’ll leave it here for now.

Youth Food Policy Councils: Engaging Youth Within the Food Policy Framework Workshop:
This was the session that Tracy, Michelle, and I were facilitating. The workshop featured a short overview/presentation on food policy councils and the local scene in Toronto before breaking out into small group discussions using a format called Open Space Technology. You can read more about the workshop and participant notes here. We had a total of 32 participants and everyone gave us really positive feedback. In fact, one woman stood up towards the end of the workshop and said something to the extent of “until now, I thought all young people were lazy and not doing anything interesting, but you guys proved me wrong and this has been the best workshop of the conference so far”.

We gave a recap presentation to the TFPC, who helped fund us in going to the conference, and the thing that I mentioned that really resonated with me is that while we’re working away here in Toronto, this conference and this workshop focused on the bigger picture. That is, how can we help, empower, and motivate other young people to go into their communities to start their own youth food policy council, and how can we inspire, collaborate, and support other young people working across the country in other similar and worthwhile initiatives. Well, through this session, the networking, the website, and personal connections that were formed, I think we’re off to a great start so far.

Foraging for Funding: Is Social Enterprise Right for Your Non-Profit Workshop:
During this workshop time slot, I was debating between this session and one on creating healthy soils. I’m happy I ended up at this one because of the chance to experience a new way of group brainstorming and problem solving using the format of the World Cafe, but also in meeting some interesting people and getting some great resources on social enterprises.

Engaging Youth in Food Justice and Community Building Networking Session
This was the second workshop of the first day, and turned out to be quite similar to the session that we were going to be presenting on the third day of the conference. They used the same ice breaker activity (foodie bingo!) as we did, and also used small breakout group discussions to get people talking about different issues.

Emerging Technologies and a Just Food System
This could have been the most informative session of the conference as I knew very little about what is actually going on in the world of bio-tech, genetic engineering, cloning, and nanotechnology. While the presenters only scratched the surface of what is going on, it was a great primer and introductory session to start understanding the facts presented by people passionate about “traditional” food.

Here are some other interesting things I learned. Companies who promote and engage in the above practices do not view protein as living animals – they view it as amino acids, which can be constructed in a lab environment. They use terms like “we’re the FDA, you can trust us” and we have “the best science”, yet look the other way when communities are emptied out, economies suffer, and the environment, workers, and animals get treated like parts of a machine, rather than a dynamic, interconnected ecosystem.

One thing that really shocked me was learning about a new  genetically engineered salmon. The shocking thing is that not that it has genes from a deep sea eel, but the fact that it is labeled as an “animal drug”, which lowers the bar in terms of standards, and allowing the business to without tests/data about the product, and gives the public no input and not official public process to even begin to assess the potential risks/benefits of this new GE salmon.

Another interesting point was brought up about cloned animals (which the government has no way of knowing if it gets into our food system). One audience member suggested that these animals actually really are not “clones”, as they have many more health problems, a significantly shorter life span, and only 5% survive through the birth process. Doesn’t sound like a clone to me if the parent and offspring are so different.

Again, there’s lots more that could be written about these subjects, but we’ll leave it here for now.

Local Business Clusters
The last breakout session I went to was about local business clusters, which gave two case studies about cities rallying around, you guessed it, local business clusters. The argument that was made is that business clusters are like a multiplier, in terms of social connectivity, financial exchange, knowledge sharing, and so much more. In the example of Detroit, they formed the Detroit Market Development Project which has niche processing, innovative distribution, enhanced retailing, and a business incubator that turned a liability (old rundown building), into an asset (local business cluster). Just like the American craft brewery industry has proven a similar initiative to be a success, he hopes to spread this model to other communities.

General Conference Notes:
Overall, the conference featured lots of really cool people doing really interesting things. If there’s one regret that I have during the conference it was that I made just average use of the networking times and opportunities. It would have been nice to connect with more people and learn more about the cool things happening across the country. I gained insight into what makes a good presentation (tell good stores, use slides with lots of pictures and little text, and engage the audience as much as possible), being on both the presenting and listening side of the room. I realized that I got the most out of presentations that were contrary to my existing viewpoint, or on topics that I knew little about (so many of the presentations seemed like they were preaching to the converted).

Finally, while I believe we’re up to some great things in Toronto, I think we need to continue pushing local food initiatives, continue innovating, continue engaging people and getting them involved, and using tools like social media to push the agenda forward on a variety of food issues. It can be tough work sometimes, but it’s important and well worth the efforts.

Some notes on the food from both the conference and around the city
Being a conference about food and more specifically, food security, many people (myself included) went into the conference hoping for something more than your typical conference fare. I’m happy to report that they didn’t disappoint as the conference organizers worked very hard in collaborating with Sodexo such as allowing non-standard items (Ex. organic milk for the tea/coffee) for the event AND with local farmers who planted crops specifically for this event. Talk about dedication and good planning!

For the conference food, some highlights included the opening reception of roast goat and fresh, delicious produce, as well as the vegetable fritata for breakfast the first morning of the conference. And the thing that capped it all off was a party and gumbo competition where such delicious things like duck gumbo, seafood gumbo, and many other gumbos were served.

Outside the conference, New Orleans offers up lots of great food. We tried the obligatory oysters (raw and grilled) at Acme Oyster House, and beignets at Cafe du Monde, which did not disappoint. Po-boy sandwiches, blackened alligator and crab cakes also featured predominantly in our meals in the Big Easy. Other food highlights included fresh pecans/pralines (the freshest and tastiest I’ve ever had), local beer from Abita brewery, jambalaya, and of course more gumbo. I want to include a special mention for the website (with recommendations almost exclusively in the lower 48 States) as their recommendations were spot on. I’ve been meaning to go to a few of their suggestions (road trip to Buffalo anyone?), and have enjoyed their segments on a podcast I listen to called “The Splendid Table

French cuisine and styles are a big influence on the food, and you can see it in the coffee shops, po-boy sandwiches (on French bread), and in all the butter and roux sauces they use in their dishes.

I could go on about more of the food and beverages of the city, but that’s probably a post for another time. Overall, I didn’t feel any hesitation eating the seafood in the city, especially after the oil spill, though that may be because some of it was not from the gulf area. For the rest of this post, I’ll just leave you with a visual treat of some of the food.

pulled pork po-boy sandwich

Mixed plate of jambalaya, red beans and rice, and an etoufee I believe

Deep fried softshell crab

Another mixed plate, with a salad, gumbo, and something else

Beignets at Cafe du monde

Char-grill oysters (and some raw ones too)

Fried turnip greens

Some Thoughts on 2009

2009 has come gone and I’ve had a chance to spend some time thinking and reflecting on everything that’s happened this past year. Overall, it’s been an incredible year of growth and maturity, and through my experiences and actions, I learned a lot about who I am and where I want to go in life. Most importantly though, I had fun along the way. So here’s to 2009, and another exciting year ahead for 2010.

Some key highlights:

1. I continually tried new things
In 2009, I picked up snowboarding/snowshoeing, went curling for the first time, completed a triathlon, dehydrated a meal for a camping trip, attended a raw food potluck, experimented (is “cooked” the right verb here?) with bacon ice cream, led a focus group, and MC’d at my sister’s wedding just to name a few things. I really enjoy trying new things as variety is indeed the spice the life, helps me put things in a different perspective, and keeps me humble by putting myself in the student’s perspective going through the learning process.

2. Started a successful business
2009 marked the launch of Young Urban Farmers, a business I cofounded with two other friends/partners. While it was filled with a variety of challenges, I would consider our first year a success, especially as were were featured in two major media outlets.

3. Connected and reconnected with a variety of incredible people
As I’ve grown and matured, I realize that nothing happens without the suport of other people, and developing healthy relationships is at the core of it. Through reconnecting with old friends, meeting new people through networking sessions, friends of friends, or some other scenario, I felt that I was able to meet, network, and connect with a wide group of people. While some of these connections will be temporary, I hope that many will lead me to new and interesting paces I wouldn’t have imagined had I not met that person. So to all my friends and family who have shaped me in one form or another (you know who you are), thanks for being there and helping me become the man who I am today.

4. I failed at a number of things.
To fail is not to be a failure; rather to not try is to be a failure. And I believe if you’re not failing often enough, maybe you’re not challenging yourself enough. I’ve learned so much through failure, and in my opinion, even more so than through success. While I don’t think anyone enjoys failing, it does show that I’ve been open to putting myself in new and challenging situations oustide of my comfort zone to help me grow and develop as a person. Two failures that stick out in my mind was my Lemon/Herb camping trip and not fulfilling my volunteer commitments for the non-profit group Endeavor Volunteer Consulting Network.

5. I had fun
Despite the failures, 2009 was a fun year. From playing ultimate frisbee to summer BBQ’s, from winter hiking and summer camping trips, and from sharing a beer on a quiet patio to celebrating a few weddings, 2009 was a spectacular year. I can’t wait for what 2010 has to offer.

Theme for the Year:

Theme for 2009
After thinking about this for a while, I would say that 2009 was the year of personal growth: mentally, emotionally, and physically. With this has come increased confidence in who I am, realizing that it’s ok to be vulnerable, letting go of the belief that I should know everything, and being better equipped at dealing with a wide range of emotions (joy, happiness, sadness, grief, excitment, anticipation to name a few). There were fears and uncertainty, awkward moments and exhilarating experiences, joys and triumphs, and it is by living through and overcoming these situations that makes all the hard times worth the effort and journey. 2009 was not without my fair share fears such as fear of failure or fear of looking silly, but even if these things did happen, life would still go on. I’ve learned that the only person stopping me is me (and my own fear).

Theme for 2010
>Going into 2010, I feel incredible knowing that I had an amazing 2009 and that the man going into the new year is different than the man 365 days ago. I’ve tentatively labelled 2010 as the year of breakthrough – that is taking things to a new level, reaching new heights, and continuing to shatter expectations. That’s as far as I’ve figured it out so far, but for now, and the clocks already ticking for 2010, and before I know it, the

To end, I want to leave you with this quote by Robert Cushing, “The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.”

November 2009 Reflections

November has been an interesting and intriguing month. And while I’d like to think that things aren’t as busy for me with as we’ve wrapped up our growing season for the year, my schedule still seems to be filled with things to do. And honestly, I enjoy having a busy schedule, though it’s never too busy that I don’t have time for friends and people who matter in my life. Now, on to the main monthly recap:

1. Volunteer Fairs
At the beginning of the month, I participated in two volunteer fairs at UT Scarborough and UT St. George. The purpose was to recruit volunteers for our non-profit enterprise Young Urban Farmers CSA for all aspects of our organization for the growing season of 2010 including sales and marketing, public relations, finance and accounting, operations, and more. We had a great turnout, though the UT Scarborough turnout seemed much better than the St. George one, and it was wonderful to see so many students who are motivated and interested in volunteering for a good cause.

2. Joe/Christina’s Wedding
Congratulations to Joe and Christina, who recently started a new life together. It was a pleasure to celebrate this memorable event with you, and hope you enjoy what I think is one of the most awesome wedding gifts ever. A number of us pooled our funds together to get the new couple a 15′ canoe, with a couple of paddles and life jackets to boot. The greatest moment – walking down the church aisle with the canoe to present it to them after the wedding ceremony and seeing the look on their faces. It was brilliant.

3. Guelph Urban Agriculture Symposium
Also this month, I had the chance to attend an Urban Agriculture Symposium in Guelph. It was a great chance to meet other people involved with urban agriculture, who are interested in local and sustainable food, and a chance to see what other people are doing in this emerging field.

4. Toronto Community Garden Network strategic planning event
Continuing on with the networking events, the day after the urban agriculture symposium was a strategic planning event for the Toronto Community Garden Network – a group that is made up of interested and energetic individuals and organizations from across Toronto who are committed to greening and organic gardening across the City of Toronto and to making community gardening an integral part of city life. Again, it was another opportunity to get involved in the local community, meet interesting people, and hopefully contribute some ideas and suggestions to the group.

5. Betterment Movement Toronto
The last networking event that I went to was a last minute decision, but I’m glad that I went. Somehow I heard about this event called the Betterment Movement Toronto. It billed it self as an opportunity to “Hear the stories of people in action, making the world a better place!” And it was indeed inspiring and a great chance to meet a bunch of designers, as the organization who put this together was originally a community of designers.

6. Potluck Parties
Potluck parties are one of my favourite types of parties. You get to eat a variety of foods, participate in some fun activities (we played this board game called Bang!), and spend an evening with a group of fun people. I ended up making a chocolate pudding, which turned out much better than I had originally thought it would. Despite burning the milk (just a bit) and not having fresh mint (it was supposed to be a mint chocolate pudding), it still turned out great, with people asking for the recipe afterwards. Maybe my secret weapon/ingredient of burnt milk (though you couldn’t taste even a hint of it) made it that much more tasty…….. And if you want that recipe – honestly it’s a good recipe – you can find it here.

In looking back at this past month, a couple of things come to mind. The first is that I’m grateful for all the people who have and who continually enrich my life. As much as I try to stay connected in the online world, life is best lived in the real world and it is these friendships and reationships that you make and experiences that you share with people that really matter and gives life that personal touch. Life is full of ups and downs, and having friends who can be there in good times and bad is essential. I think this was heightened by the number of networking events that I went to, and while I know that many people feel jaded and put off by these kinds of things, I think if you go in with an attitude of exploration, wonder, and open to opportunities, you’ll never know who you’ll meet, what you’ll learn, and where it will take you.

This reminds me of a quote by Shunryu Suzuki which goes like this:
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.

The other thing that I think defined my November was that it was a month of learning. I’m not perfect by any means, and don’t pretend or try to be. And so with the idea of approaching things from a beginner’s mind, I was able to try to look at things from a more objective perspective, think critically about what worked and what didn’t work, and how to improve on things. For example, we’ve been on campus recruiting for potential franchisees for our business, and our initial efforts were relatively weak. We tried a bunch of things, and realized that it wasn’t working too well and so we modified our actions, and saw better results the subsequent times we went recruiting. Learning can come from both success and failure, though I think it is in failure that we learn the most. Sure it hurts to fail, it hurts to feel rejected, and it’s hard to stay motivated, but it is in these times when our character gets tested that we experience the most growth and learning.

If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative
– Woody Allen –

Looking forward, December is going to be a joyful month, with the holiday celebrations getting into full swing. I’ll be taking some time to do an annual review, some in-depth goal setting, and just enjoying this time of year. So cheers to the holiday season and may it be filled with love, joy and happiness.

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

A Reflection on the Toronto-Based Networking Event: Tofu

This evening I went out to a networking event for the young professional Asian/Chinese community in Toronto. It’s called Tofu and was organized by a friend of of a friend. For all those interested, you can find the facebook group here.

What struck me the most when I went was the homogeneity of people it attracted. While they were 95% Asian (with most being Chinese), to be certain, there was a good range of age groups that were there from the fresh college grad to the mid level managers in the late 30’s, a range of professions, and there was a decent ratio of men and women. But that’s not what I mean when I say the homogeneity of the group.

What I mean is the fact that almost all of the people who I networked with and spoke to seemed to be “stuck” in life. Stuck in the sense that they were in a job that they didn’t like, were at a stage in their life that they didn’t like, and were looking for something, anything to help them get through their mundane week. What’s worse, you could tell that they had lost the fire in their eyes, their passion for life, and the desire to succeed. It was apparent the moment I tried engage them in conversation. It was as they accepted the fate that life has given them, not knowing that they were the ultimate arbiters of their destiny.

And while there was one person who genuinely had a yearning for something different, it was as if he wasn’t quite sure what to do or how to get “unstuck”. I applaud him for taking the first step in coming out to this networking event, but personally, I wouldn’t look to this group for inspiration, motivation, or to be a role model for me in the future.

The other thing that I didn’t quite get was the fact that there were so many people at this event – by my guess, there were at least 50 people at this event. It even got so loud that I was practically screaming to be heard over the voices of everyone else. Maybe these people came for the sake of coming, because it was something for them to do, maybe they had othe intentions, or maybe they had other reasons; either way I was quite impressed by how big of a turnout there was.

Another interesting theme of the evening was the fact that many of them seemed to clamm up and be evasive when I asked them about thir job or about their hobbies in life. One person even said flat out to me “my life is quite boring actually”. And when I asked him what he wanted to do about it, he said “I don’t know”. And then the conversation died. And then I went on to talk to someone else instead of him.

But the point of this post and this experience is that it made me realize that there are a lot of people like that out there who are completely unsatisfied in life and who have few (if any) goals, limited ambitions, and almost no drive, or initiative to guide their life. They are completely reactive to the circumstances that happen to fall upon them. They react to whatever life throws at them and unfortunately more times than not, things don’t turn out the way they want or expect.

Reflecting on this experience, it has intensified my desire to be successful and reach my goals. As an entrepreneur, I am in charge of my destiny and have the ability to shape my future. I will not settle for second best, accept mediocrity, or lose theat fire in my eyes or become like some of the people I met today. I will embrace life, tackle it head on, and emerge stronger as a result of it.

There is so much to live for, so many opportunities out there, so much to be thankful for, and so much to experience that I can’t wait for tomorrow continue on this journey called life.

Let me sum up this article by saying this: Examine your life situation, set ambitious goals, and be better than average. All it takes is a small concerted effort on your part. As Socrates put it, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. What are you living for?