We are a public information hub promoting information and services to help food producers at all levels in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador move toward food security by producing more of what we eat and use right here at home.
Food Producers Forum, Inc. is a provincially registered non-profit society created as part of the Earth Sheltered Greenhouse Project in 2019. The need for an information hub was identified by 21 local stakeholders during consultation meetings at the MUN Botanical Garden that year.
We welcome new partners to help us focus on key issues, challenges and opportunities to help build a better food system in our province. Send us your questions and suggestions.
DAN RUBIN – Founding Chair
Dan is a retired educator with a Master’s Degree in Curriculum Design from the University of Victoria. During his thirty-year career in education, he served as a teacher at the elementary, secondary and university levels, as a school principal in two provinces and worked as a developer of unique learner centered educational programs. This work earned an award from the Prime Minister of Canada in 2000. For two periods he led teams to create programs for the renewal of traditional indigenous languages, while collaborating with native elders. Since retiring from education and moving to Newfoundland in 2002, he has been active as a musical performer, arts administrator, writer and publisher.
In the past he has led a series of community development, educational and arts groups. Here in Newfoundland he has served as a board member of the Writers’ Alliance, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Musicians Association and founded and chaired the Pouch Cove Heritage Society. The book which he edited and designed, Pouch Cove: Our Home by the Sea, received the Manning Heritage Award in 2015.
As a home gardener he has built on his undergraduate degree in biology (Reed College, 1968) to develop new approaches to local food production. His workshops on Creating the Year Round Garden have been attended by more than 800 people, and he now is contributing to food security as facilitator of the Earth Sheltered Greenhouse Project and Chair of the Food Producers Forum. He has written articles for regional magazines and produced a ten episode radio series about gardening for CHMR Radio called “Uncle Dirt.” He is currently writing a northern gardening book to be published by Boulder in 2022.
ALISON SNOW – Chairperson
Alison grew up in Mount Pearl in a family of seven and spent a lot of time with friends, volunteering and babysitting. She graduated from Mt. Pearl Central High (now Mt. Pearl Senior High) in 1986. She spent several years working at various jobs while attending Memorial University. She then attended Cabot College (now College of the North Atlantic) and graduated from the Computer Studies (Co-op) program in 1998.
She started her career in IT at what is now Bell (fomerly xwave) and now works at Memorial University in the IT department as a Systems Analyst. Her main responsibilities include support for the Registration and Grading function at MUN and the Marine Institute.
As part of the Memorial Community Garden Board, Alison helped plan and implement a garden expansion in which the number of available plots doubled from 30 to 60 and building a greenhouse for garden members. She was a member of the Memorial Campus Food Bank and worked to connect the Food Bank with the MUN Community Garden, to encourage donations of surplus crops to the Food Bank.
She has always lived in Newfoundland, with the exception of two four-month work terms in Ottawa during her Computer Studies. Alison has travelled to various parts of Europe, the US, Dominican Republic, Cuba and about half of Canada and hopes to visit Europe and other parts of the world with her children.
JEREMY CARTER – Vice Chair
Jeremy grew up in St. John’s and spent summers at his family’s Mt. Scio Farm. He enjoyed biking and being outdoors as much as possible. He attended high school then studied science at Memorial University and agriculture at McGill. These days he is involved in running the family farm, growing summer savory and is responsible for drying and packaging this beloved local herb.
He was involved in a successful challenge to a group of American mobsters who wanted to import and burn US garbage here. Now he realizes that by doing this he saved his own children from the impacts of this highly polluting activity, creating a better place for them to live. Jeremy has spent time in Costa Rica where he has travelled more than once, marveling at seeing people living closer to the soil, surrounded by so much biodiversity.
Jeremy brings to the Food Producers Forum decades of hands-on experience in agriculture. On a practical level, as a person directly involved in agriculture, Jeremy sees this work as wealth creation, and a way to use our resources more efficiently. He understands the medium and larger scale potential for food production here. At that scale, what is really needed are more opportunities for incubation of new ideas and exchange of information to help everyone food move forward to become more diversified and more productive.
He believes that the Food Producers Forum is a critical missing piece that can make a huge difference to agriculture and local food security. Rather than exchanging abstract or academic information, we can share practical tips and exchange better methods for growing, storing and distributing food. There are ways we can move ahead through small-scale inventiveness applied to the devices we use. Small improvements can generate real efficiencies and success.
HEATHER RHODES – Treasurer
Heather grew up in Port Moody, BC, a community at the end of the Barnet Inlet, down the hill from Simon Fraser University (SFU). She went to school at SFU and earned a graduate degree in psychology. She spent several years working as an academic advisor and moved into information technology while working on a project for the university. On moving to St. John’s, NL, she began working with other universities to help them implement new student administration systems to manage their student records and processes from admission to graduation. As a consultant, she has traveled to work with institutions in cities across North America.
She spent her childhood hiking on Burnaby Mountain and the mountains of the Lower Mainland and she learned about plants and gardening from her parents and friends, growing flowers, shrubs, and trees in Port Moody and in Burnaby. For many years, she volunteered with the SFU Student Bursary Plant Sale Committee to raise funds for students in need through the sale of plants raised by plant sale committee members and donors. After moving to St. John’s, NL, she started raising flowers and vegetables from seed, creating compost, and building beds. Relocating to Holyrood, she began producing food on a larger scale, experimenting with greenhouses and raised, no-dig beds.
Through research on growing in cold climates and food security, she found the Greenhouse Outreach Project and volunteered to help build the demonstration greenhouse at O’Brien’s Farm and interview project participants about their plans for their own greenhouse. She joined the Food Producer Forum (FPF) Board to learn more about and to help with food production projects. To the Board she brings her interest in local food production, food sustainability, and food security, in addition to skills in business analysis, project management, research, and writing.
TIM WALSH – Board Member
Tim is a Horticulturist and the Nursery Manager at the MUN Botanical Garden who has been with the garden for 30 years! He manages the greenhouse and nursery area and is involved with all levels of propagation and production for the gardens many display beds along with the many Research Projects at the garden. The nursery also supplies plants for MUN’s Biology labs on campus.
Tim teaches workshops at the Garden, leads tours, helps with school groups and works closely with F.O.G (Friends of the Garden) Horticulture Group to produce a wide variety of high quality plants for their annual plant sale fundraisers. He is also a regular on CBC’s Gardening Crosstalk and has been presenting a recent series of online workshops for gardeners.
He grew up in Kingsmans Cove, Fermeuse, on the Southern Shore and graduate in Horticulture from the University of Guelph in 1999. His interests include new and underutilized flowering plants and shrubs for the Atlantic Canadian garden. He is carrying out comparison studies on grow lights for local hydroponic production.
Tim brings a wealth of focused horticultural knowledge to our group as well sound advice, as we develop our policies and procedures.
DR. ATANU SARKAR – Faculty Advisor and Board Member
Atanu is originally from India, where he studied medicine and public health. He completed environmental studies at Queen’s University before joining Memorial University as a faculty member. He has served with the United Nations for various health projects.
Atanu holds a MBBS degree in Medicine (Burdwan University, India 1992); PhD in Public Health (Jawaharlal University, 2005); Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies (Queens University Kingston 2010). He has published extensively in a series of studies about the impacts of environmental contaminants on human health. Currently he teaches public health for undergraduate medical students and graduate students in public health.
Atanu Sarkar has been involved in food security related activities for decades, working in India, Ethiopia and in Newfoundland. He has worked with various community-based organizations and individuals, such as greenhouse projects for more than five years, in various capacities. He edited a volume on climate change, food security and adaptation with contributions by researchers from 18 different countries.
He recently led a project to study food insecurity among the single parents and seniors in St John’s, a project was funded by Harris Centre at MUN. The article about that research was just published. He has also supervised a graduate student exploring the food culture of Newfoundland and has published in Newfoundland Quarterly.
With two grants from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), Atanu has worked on promoting community based food production in the Mi’kmaq community at Conne River. A second project there is still ongoing. Currently, he is faculty sponsor for the project funded by the MUN Office of Public Engagement that is building the Earth Sheltered Greenhouse for public demonstration of year round food production at the O’Brien Farm in St. John’s.
SOLANGE FUEKANG – Board Member
Solange grew up in a small village called Baba 1, Ndop in the North West Region of Cameroon. On their farm her family grew just about everything they ate: beans, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, peanuts, rice, fruit.
In her earlier years she was a volunteer for her aunt’s non-profit organization called Nascent Solutions Inc.. Solange was educated at St. Augustine’s College, Nso, and graduated in 2002 with a GCE A-Level Certificate. Then she went on to the University of Buea, but due to unforeseen circumstances, had to drop out of school, and was not able to return until now.
She lived and worked in Accra, Ghana for about a month in 2018 and hopes to travel as soon as she can and if possible, work overseas. Solange brings years of farming experience (what most people will refer to as kitchen gardening) to our work, as well as the zeal to find a way to produce food locally and organically.
She currently lives in St. John’s where she is an undergraduate engineering student at MUN. She is hoping during her university career to work on very interesting things.
Solange is also a single mother of a rambunctious toddler and she worries about what he puts in his stomach – where it is coming from, how it was produced, how it is preserved, and if it is generally safe. She brings this practical, personal perspective to all our discussions of food production and food security.
RACHEL SNELGROVE – Board Member
Rachel Snelgrove is an Indigenous student at Memorial University who is pursuing a Bachelor of Biology degree, with a concentration in Applied Ecology and Conservation. Her experience in the Greenhouse Production Program at Academy Canada inspired her to continue her studies at Memorial, with a focus on food security.
Raised in Labrador, Rachel is passionate about Northern food security and sustainability. She understands the challenges of climate and the costs of importing food for people who live in the North. She wants to make sure that everyone can enjoy the benefits of eating healthy food. Her perspective is both cultural and ecological, a symbiosis that brings together ecological understanding and traditional knowledge.
Rachel regularly canoes the Churchill River where she finds inspiration from the traditional trapper’s way of life. She traveled to Tanzania, Africa, as a student volunteer where she had the opportunity to climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. While in Africa, she saw how food sustainability has impacted tribal communities, in a place where children walk to school kilometers away not just to be educated, but to be fed. This experience planted a seed of deep commitment for her future studies and chosen career path. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the Province’s wilderness with her dogs.
Rachel brings to our board practical knowledge of plant growth and greenhouse production methods from working at Lester’s Farm Market in St. John’s. She is currently a farm associate at the Pye Centre for Northern Boreal Food Systems, operated as part of the Labrador Campus of Memorial University. Her role there includes organizing community events and management of the farm. As a member of the board of Food Producers Forum, Rachel will provide a voice for Indigenous and Northern communities in our province.
PAST BOARD MEMBERS
NATHAN GIDGE – Former Board Member
Nathan Gidge is a former educator turned farmer who grew up on New World Island, a quiet rural community in Notre Dame Bay. He had an idyllic childhood in a family that kept chickens, turkeys, sheep, pigs, and he had a horse that was way too big for him, that he rode all over their property.
He completed elementary schooling in Newville, where he attended New World Island East Elementary. His earliest years in school had a big impact on him; the staff were wonderful, and being there felt like you were part of a family. In that school he learned about working together and being part of a community. After training at Universite Sainte-Anne in Nova Scotia, he returned to Newfoundland as a teacher at Bay D’Espoir Academy. He became High School Principal at Jane Collins Academy in Hare Bay where he finished out the last of his days as an educator.
Nathan has always loved growing food. He is fascinated by how plants and animals grow and interact, how little we understand, and how much we have to learn about the living world. To acquire more knowledge about these complex relationships, he completed his Permaculture Design Consultant Certification in Saskatoon. This reinforced his understanding that nature knows best and when we ignore that, we do the world and ourselves a disservice. Rather than imposing a plan, you need to observe and learn from the landscape, the plants, the sun, the insects and animals. This has made him more patient in his farming. It also provided the inspiration for his family farm.
Kingfisher Farm is a family farm born out of the desire to marry concerns about food security with the need to develop a system that combines organic principles with a deep belief in the wisdom of the soil. Rather than bringing in nutrients that are created artificially, Nathan has come to see our local landscapes as the best source for everything we need. He considers himself a “soil farmer;” he has a passion for building healthy soil. He and his partner, Samantha Whitman settled on a barren rocky hillside in Gambo. By choosing to build soil and grow food in that place, they are showing that good food, and the healthy soil on which it depends, can be created anywhere in our province.
In their raised beds and under high tunnels, Nathan and Samantha have been growing cantaloupe, eight types of tomatoes, seven varieties of peppers, eggplant, beans, peas, a wide range of salad greens, edible flowers, herbs and a variety of other vegetables, fruits and flowers. In 2021 Kingfisher Farm supplied 15 families with weekly CSA boxes, and provided Gambo’s Family Resource Centre with produce that was passed on to new mothers with young children. Nathan and Samantha are raising their own son Gabriel, while continuing to develop and expand their hillside farm. They have made a commitment to donate a significant portion of the food they produce to those in their local community who need it most.
As a new member of our board, Nathan brings with him a wealth of knowledge about food production, and his deep commitment to rebuilding soil as the foundation for growing healthy food.
STEPHEN GULLAGE – Former Treasurer
Stephen Eric Gullage grew up in St. John’s, NL, son of a nurse and a politician, and spent his time reading books, climbing trees, birdwatching, and playing sports. He graduated from Bishop’s College High School in 1993, the University of New Brunswick in 2000 (Bachelor of Science in Forestry and Environmental Management), and from Dalhousie University in 2005 (MSc in Biology). He completed a Permaculture Design Certificate with the Permaculture Research Institute in 2015 in Rhynie, Scotland.
Steve lives in Torbay and is employed as Senior Biologist with SEM Ltd., a locally-owned and operated environmental consulting company in St. John’s, Nain, and Labrador City. SEM is also a registered Indigenous business with the Nunatsiavut Government and registered as an Aboriginal business federally. SEM strives to blend technology with contemporary science and traditional ecological knowledge. Recently they have conducted research and development projects on (1) using RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, i.e. drones) to conduct raptor nest surveys, minimizing disturbance to nesting birds (the drone replaces the traditionally expensive, GHG emitting, and disruptive helicopters of the past) (2) Boreal Felt Lichen Monitoring.
Previous experience on various boards, including Food Bank, Community Garden and OH&S committees has allowed her to bring her organizational and planning skills to Food Producers Forum, as well as her IT skills.
Steve conducts monitoring of this species to assess health and vigor and to establish important life-history variables (3) The Newfoundland Caribou Strategy – Steve was the Manager of the field program for this 15-million dollar project to research the decline of caribou on the island. Steve was responsible for managing the field team who collared dozens of caribou, bear, lynx and coyote, and Steve participated in collaring caribou calves to assess mortality causes and crawled into bear dens and lynx cages to immobilize animals for telemetry.
Steve has lived in Fredericton, NB, Halifax NS, Fort Frances, ON, Sackville, NB, Kejimkujik National Park (NS), Fundy National Park (NB), conducted hummingbird telemetry in Costa Rica, traveled to and chased birds around many states in the US, throughout Mexico, and the Greek Islands and Dominican Republic.
He has a particular interest in where we are headed on this island of ours concerning food security, and has joined FPF because he wants to be a part of helping address that issue. His experiences with community gardening, food banks, backyard gardening, and attempting to bring people together for a common cause are all experiences he brings to the Forum.
VIVIANA RAMIREZ LUNA – Former Board Member
Viviana grew up in Southwest Colombia surrounded by sugar cane crops, playing in a very peaceful neighbourhood, and learning to dance salsa with the best dancers of the world.
She completed a Bachelor of Science (Biology) in Cali, Colombia, and a Master of Science (Environmental Science) at MUN, which is why she’s here. For years, she worked on small-scale fisheries project, travelling to fishing communities on the Pacific coast of Colombia, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. In 2017, she learned about the Zero Waste movement and her life changed. Since then, she has been spreading the word, raising awareness, and growing a team of like-minded people to further the zero-waste movement in NL to include citizens, government, institutions, and businesses. She’s done so through her affiliation with the Social Justice Cooperative of NL (https://www.sjcnl.ca) and her social enterprise Planeet Consulting (https://planeet.consulting).
Viviana is also a full-time mom of one 4-year old amazing kid, who she hopes will grow up with all the freedom and responsibility to do and be whatever he (or she? they?) wants.
Over time, food has become a passion too! This spring she and other 4 people helped found our province’s newest, the Aldershot Community Garden in partnership with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She’s now very excited about what the Food Producers Forum will bring!