Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming Tour with Slow Food

On Thursday October 6, Slow Food hosted a tour of the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming (GCUOF). Slow Food is an international organization whose goal is to encourage and educate students about the importance of good, clean, and fair food. When we arrived at the centre we were still a bit early for our tour so we took  advantage of our spare time and used it to do some shopping at the organic market located right in front of the farm. I purchased some delicious produce including a head of butter lettuce, some cherry tomatoes, and a little pumpkin (which I turned into pie over the weekend).

Guelph Center for Urban Organic Farming
Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming

After we had all made our purchases, we met Martin who gave us a tour of the facilities. At one hectare, the centre was bigger than I had anticipated for an on campus farm. Martin told us that the GCUOF is used to give students a hands on, in the field learning experience. It is primarily used as a lab experience for students studying plants and agriculture and as a place for research projects to be performed. As it is a centre for learning and research, the farm contains a wide range of edible plants.  It ranges from typical produce like lettuce, tomatoes, and garlic, to more unique foods like bitter melons, litchi tomatoes (like cherry tomatoes but encased in a spiky leaf like shell), herbs, and even edible flowers! I got to taste one of the edible flowers called a nasturtium flower and surprisingly it tasted slightly spicy!

Martin giving us a tour
Getting a tour!

One of the things I learned on the tour is that organic farming involves a lot of trial and error (like so many things in life). Growing a good size crop organically can be difficult, and challenges such as the weather and pests can vary from day-to-day and year to year. Organic farmers have to find effective ways to deal with pests and fertilization, while still meeting organic standards. This means they are always coming up with new and innovative ways to improve the productivity of their farm. Martin told us that some of these innovations and ideas work well and inevitably, others do not. For example, Martin decided that he wanted to convert the back stretch of land into a lawn. He decided to just start cutting back the overgrowth and after a while only grass and clovers grew, forming a lovely green lawn. On the other hand,  a student tried adding fertilizer to the water in the irrigation system. While it seemed like a great way to improve the farm’s efficiency,  it turned out that animals such as raccoons were intrigued by the scent of fertilizer and they actually ended up eating through the irrigation lines!

Martin showing us around

Visiting the GCUOF was an eye-opening experience that made me appreciate my food more. Seeing how much Martin and the other people at the centre care for and love growing food was amazing. I hadn’t realized that someone could have such a passion for plants and the way they’re grown. In many ways these people reminded me of Laurie from Braiding Sweetgrass, and how she put so much care into her research, as well as how she found herself learning from the grass. The gardeners, students, and researchers are doing that right here on campus. They are taking the time to learn from and listen to nature, trying to understand how plants grow, what affects them most, and how they can help each other to thrive. As we have discussed throughout this class, these ideas of learning and listening are critical steps in the process of developing a positive relationship with nature.

The Green House

Touring the farm and engaging in conversations with Martin and other Slow Food members has made me realize that organic farming, like many other activities we talked about in class, is a way in which we interact with nature. Also, if farming is a way in which we interact with nature then I believe that eating is as well. Eating food is a way of enjoying, discovering, and sharing creation. I think it is important to take the time to learn about where your food is coming from and the impact that its production has on the environment. If we don’t take the time, it is easy to view food as something that just comes from a store or a fast food restaurant. This prevents us from understanding how food can offer us a better connection with nature. Alexander Wilson discusses this idea in The Culture of Nature when he mentions that we often let new technologies and innovations, such as televisions and camera lenses, prevent us from truly connecting with and understanding nature.

The flower garden

So to wrap up, if you haven’t been to see the farm or the organic market yet, I highly recommend that you check it out! Also of note, the path to the market is marked with painted carrots starting near the J.T. Powell building, so you can’t get lost 😉 The market takes place on Thursday’s from 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm. If you interested in learning about, or volunteering at the Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming, check out their website here!

For information about Slow Food and our events, feel free to come ask me or find us on Facebook. Slow Food has an annual meeting and runs 1 or more public events every month with the goal of encouraging students to take the time to slow down and think about their food and where it came from. I attended October’s event, the tour of the GCUOF, and November’s event, a vegan cooking class, and had a great time at both! The next event coming up is a restaurant tour downtown on November 26! The cost is $5 for non-members and you can check out the details here if you are interested! 

~ Nicole VanderWindt

Yellow Walk – A One Kilometer Search for the Colour of the Sun on a Cloudy Day

Yellow Walk is a project I completed on October 29, 2016. The sky was cloudy and it was late in the day when I set out on my one kilometer walk. It was measured to be exactly one kilometer using a pedometer. My walk had no destination, simply a goal – to find, collect, and document objects the colour of the sun on a day when the sun was hiding. My sister Elise accompanied me and together we walked for one kilometer, simply continuing to move in the direction of the next yellow object.  I documented the findings of my walk in the form of a photo collage (for those objects that could not be moved) and a collection (for those objects that could be collected).

Yellow Collage
Yellow Collage – Nicole VanderWindt 2016

The inspiration for this project came from my desire to find brightness on a cloudy day and from my love for searching and finding (it reminds me of playing eye spy as a child). By combining these two ideas my project was formed.

Yellow Collection: Arrangement 1
Yellow Collection: Arrangement 1 – Nicole VanderWindt 2016

For me, my walk was a physical way to experience the process of searching for bright spots when the obvious light, like the sun, is missing. It was also a way for me to be in my home neighbourhood in a new way. Instead of my usual walking from one place to the next, this walk directed my attention to the smaller details of my neighbourhood that I had not previously taken the time to notice. 

Yellow Collection: Arrangement 2 – Nicole VanderWindt 2016

Overall, I enjoyed the process of creating and performing Yellow Walk, and I think that one would be surprised by how much joy can come from finding bright coloured things on a grey day.

  • Nicole VanderWindt

Class in a Greenhouse

Who wouldn’t want to have class in a tropical paradise? On October 18 our Outdoor School class had the opportunity to have a class discussion in the Bovey Greenhouse on campus. When we arrived we were given the chance to explore the greenhouse and admire all the different types of plants growing within.


After admiring the greenhouse and taking some pictures we gathered together to discuss our reading from Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Although we were worried that we might get watered by the sprinkler system at anytime (thankfully we weren’t); it was a really neat experience to be able to discuss the various types of relationships that humans can have with nature while surrounded by plants. In our discussion one of the aspects of the reading that we focused on was how humans can have a positive relationship with nature. For example, when people respectfully harvest sweetgrass it actually causes the sweetgrass to grow better than when it is left on its own!


We wrapped up our time in the greenhouse by mentioning the various outdoor related clubs that we had joined on campus. I think we all really enjoyed getting to have class in a greenhouse; I know I did.