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travels in Nepal

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Hello from Denise :)

I arrived home Tuesday night from a three-week vacation in Nepal, where my eyes and heart were both opened wide. The first week of our trip was spent on a "Hidden Journey" with Change Fusion Nepal, where Andy and I were introduced to people who are tackling some of Nepal's greatest challenges—poverty, women’s rights, fair wages, working conditions, sanitation, and clean drinking water; to name just a few. ChangeFusion Nepal is an organisation that supports and empowers social entrepreneurs who are making real and long-lasting change in this developing country. The next part of our trip was spent climbing up to Annapurna Base Camp, where we were surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the world.

The changemakers we met in that first week had a profound impact on me. Experiencing what these people are doing, often with very little, was nothing short of amazing.

Early in the week, we travelled to Dhulikhel and enjoyed a tour of an organic farm in the making. Farms in Nepal are all terraced, making use of every available bit of space. Our guide, Jason, showed us his plan for vegetables, fruit trees, animal grazing, and water collection. The farmhouse had been rendered unlivable by the earthquake so Jason had it torn down and was re-using the wood and clay roof tiles for the new home he is building—an innovative rammed earth design with 24-inch walls, a rocket stove for heat and cooking, a beehive incorporated into the outer wall, a full solar panel for electricity and hot water, a biofuel catchment system in the animal shelter to provide cooking gas, and a rain water collection system. His plan is to offer a home stay for other young farmers who want to learn to farm sustainably.



We spent a day with B.P. Shrestha, the former mayor of Dhulikhel, who truly transformed the town in the 30+ years he was at the helm. He installed water and sanitation (sewers and indoor plumbing), started a hospital, a medical and dental school, started a well-recognized university, and started a girls school—giving girls an equal opportunity education.



Sunita Nhemaphuki connects and provides resources to some of the poorest farmers in her community. Five years ago, she started a magazine (http://www.agrinepal.com.np/) that shares information about the agri-market, technology, seeds, fertilizers, and more to farmers across Nepal. The magazine now has over 5000 subscribers. Sunita organizes a monthly “Friday for Agriculture” meeting, bringing together farmers and others in the industry to discuss issues and ideas; she writes bank and business proposals for other (illiterate) farmers to help them secure loans; she runs ten “green shops” in and around Kathmandu where she and her fellow farmers (a co-operative of 300) sell their vegetables; she has partnered with three schools (so far) to provide fresh, healthy organic veggies for school lunches; and she runs an education/internship program for schoolchildren to come to the farm and learn about organic and sustainable farming. Farm education is mandated for children in grades six and seven in Nepal. How cool is that?? Oh, and she runs an organic farm that employs a number of local women at a fair working wage. Just an incredibly inspiring story. You can read more about Sunita here and here.



We also met Sabita Maharjan, a domestic abuse survivor who runs a knitting co-operative that employs 300 women—full-and part-time—in the Kathmandu Valley. Andy and I bought two of the most beautiful, warm sweaters from her during our visit. You can read more about Sabita here


Friends Shanti and Nirjala Shrestha run Friends Handicraft, a business producing beautiful (beautiful!) things (hats, slippers, mobiles, flowers, purses…) from felt. Shanti and Nirjala employ 125 women from low income households, giving them a living wage and good and safe working conditions.

Check out this YouTube video to meet these two wonderful ladies.


What really struck us about each of these folks (and the dozen or so others that we met) is the passion and commitment they have to making things better—not just for themselves but for their whole community. There is a deep connection to place in Nepal. We met a young architect, Rabindra Puri, who has been (very successfully) rebuilding traditional Newari-style homes using earthquake-proof methods. At 40, he gave away half of his wealth and started a foundation, saying: “How I can I be a rich man in Nepal when so many others are needing?” He has started a trade school, training young men and women in the work needed for his restoration company, guaranteeing all of them jobs when they graduate. He employs over 500 local people. There is a profound sense of wanting others to do well; to help others.


Every day I collapsed into bed marveling at the vision, tenacity, and generosity of the people we were meeting. And every day, I would shoot Patricia messages about our experience and about what we were learning, and the connections I was making between what is happening in Nepal and what is happening here at home.

§  Organic farmers in Nepal face the same challenges as we do here—chemically-grown veggies are easier to produce to a more uniform size and shape, and are therefore easier to sell to supermarkets.

§  Children in Nepal wear uniforms to school, which I really liked because in a caste-system country, it puts every child on equal footing with their peers.

§  We complain about our roads here in Canada but in Nepal it can take 20 hours to travel 100km. A new highway between Kathmandu and the Sindhuli region (135 km away) has created a 4-hour distribution channel for Junar (a type of orange) farmers to market and sell their fruit into the city.

§  We are so very lucky to have access to clean drinking water. In Nepal, only 27% of the population has access to a toilet and while 80% of the population has access to some form of water, it is not clean. We visited the Smart Paani offices (smartpaani.com) in Kathmandu. These folks make rainwater harvesting and filtration systems and have installed them in schools, providing schoolchildren access to clean and safe drinking water.

§  People with vision are changing the world!


Above left: SmartPaani is bringing safe, drinking water to the Kathmandu Valley.
Above right: terraced farmland


Above left: radish drying in the sun 
Above centre: delicious lunch at the women's co-operative in Kurtipur
Above right: a ubiquitous meal of daal bhat--it was different (and delicious!) everywhere we went.

That just scratches the surface of our experience with Hidden Journeys in Nepal. I am so inspired by the work being done there and feel grateful for the life I have here at home that allows me to travel and immerse myself in another culture so vastly different than my own. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to work for folks like Patricia and Josh, whose vision and values were a common thread in the social entrepreneurs I met while away. We have our very own changemakers here at home. 

And finally, a few photos of the mountains :)




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In this week's share you will find a small brown bag of dried sage. Sage is a herb that I have only recently began to incorporate in my cooking, and I am hooked! Anything roasted in the oven with sage has rich aromatic flavour that keeps me digging into the pan for every last delicious morsel.

I am constantly amazed in learning how many of our common kitchen herbs are beneficial for health in our minds and bodies; sage is no exception to this rule. Our ancestors who relied on plant based medicine would incorporate these tasty plants in culinary exploits for flavour and for the all benefits their consumption brings. These traditional flavours have been passed down through our recipes but are rarely acknowledged for their powerful healing properties.

Sage or salvia literally means good health, to cure or to save, and has been considered a sacred plant by many peoples around the world. Sage is said to act as a digestive aid, especially when served alongside fatty foods. Sage, steeped in hot water to make tea, is reported to sooth coughs, and to reduce perspiration, depression, memory loss, and Alzheimer's disease. Some women use sage for painful menstrual periods, to correct excessive milk flow during nursing, and to reduce hot flashes during menopause. Sage is also used topically, as a poultice, to help fight bacterial and fungal infections. If you would like more information on herbal healing learningherbs.com is a great place to start. As well, a wide variety of books on herbal healing can be found through the Halifax Public Libraries.

This past season the Taproot Herb Division was established. Our mandate is to explore and grow a wide variety of annual and perennial herbs to enhance our CSA and our market. We dried much of what we grew in a walk-in dehydrator. All of our dried herbs have been harvested in the late morning when the plant's potent oils are high in the leaves, for maximum flavour and healing potential. You can look forward to a sampling some of these herbs in the upcoming share boxes. If you are interested in our dried and fresh herbs check out the updated add-ons list, or get in touch with us at csa@taprootfarms.ca


I have been using sage, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper tossed with chopped root veggies and squash baked in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees as my staple winter meal. Throw some sausage in the pan and a nice steaming pot of quinoa on the side, and you are sure to nourish all who eat your creations. Sage is also lovely when mixed with butter, or coconut oil, and rubbed on your chicken before it is roasted. I have also been enjoying sage steeped in hot water as a soothing and nutritious tea. It is nice blended with thyme and nettles.

Tonight my friend Amanda is coming over for dinner. I am in the process of making Sage Flat-Bread with Goat Cheese and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.

I look forward to hearing about your kitchen adventures with Sage.

For the love of herbs,



My Swan Song for East Coast Organic Milk

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East Coast Organic Milk shut its doors last week. Launched in 2012, this initiative has been a work in progress for a number of years. It was nursed infancy in the pastures along Highway 1 in Grand Pré with the Mentink’s organic cows in the early 1990s.

An organic farming system has integrity because all the steps along the way protect and support the organic crop or product. For East Coast Organic Milk some of the steps that had to be considered were specific trucks for organic farm milk pick-up; a separate pasteurizing process; transitioning grain fields to organically managed grain; growing grass instead of corn. These pieces were thought through and developed over the course of many years.

East Coast Organic Milk farmers made the commitment to transition their farms long before ECO milk hit the shelves a year and a half ago. They were working towards a unique product that could get a price that represented the value and work of organic farming systems. When East Coast Organic Milk hit the shelves last year it meant that they were no longer building these beautiful healthy farms and pouring  their milk into the conventionally-farmed milk system, it was now possible to sell their milk for what it was, an organic product with a label. Their faith that East Coast Organic Milk would one day happen is what made it possible to even consider creating the product.

One of the reasons ECO milk has had to ‘stall operations’ is the presence of Nielsen’s organic milk, an Agropur product, based in Quebec, and launched in Nova Scotia grocery stores within weeks of the ECO milk launch date in 2012. Better able to afford prime grocery store real estate, and a cheaper deal for customers because of Agropur’s economy of scale, Nielsen’s cheaper organic milk has contributed to East Coast Organic Milk’s demise. Yuck.

The regional network for organic farming, ACORN, has a tagline which is “Local and Organic, better together!”. I love that. It summarizes the powerful synergy that supporting local economy and healthy natural systems can and should have. Organic farmers in Nova Scotia continue to act everyday with a tremendous faith in the future; let’s continue to put our $ where our mouth is.







Warning: May contain stones!

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Hi folks,

A member emailed me saying that she found a pea-sized stone in her frozen peas, and so I just wanted to send everyone a warning to watch out for stones.  This is something that I believe is somewhat common with mechanical harvest; many of the baked bean recipes I read warn to rinse the beans and watch for bean-sized stones.  Ours we're picked by hand and shelled mechanically, so I hope this is just an isolated incident and that the rest of you won't have any problems, but I wanted to save your teeth just in case.

I recommend letting the peas thaw a little before dumping into your cooking so that you are able to have a good look through them.

Please let me know if you have questions or issues with your frozen peas.