Yesterday I wrote about the Witches of Rochester Street. Most of that story was true, with the exception of Martha Stewart. As far as I know, Martha’s spatula has never hit the town lines. Last week however, I met the closest I will ever come to pioneer sustainable agriculture advocate Alice Waters. If you have never heard about her, it is because she is an icon in the United States.
Water’s philosophy is that cooking should be based on the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally. She is a passionate advocate for a food economy that is “good, clean, and fair.” For nearly forty years, her restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, Ca. has helped create a community of scores of local farmers and ranchers whose dedication to sustainable agriculture assures the restaurant a steady supply of fresh and pure ingredients.
Our local “Beckwitches” are actually comprised of husband and wife Penny and Greg Foster. They make their products together, and have even involved their children into their business. In addition to the soaps and hand made goods, they are now are branching out to garlic (planted last fall in the rain with baby in tow) and heirloom vegetables. This year The Beckwitch will be growing glass gem corn, about 15 varieties of tomatoes, and all their own hot peppers for their infused salts.
Greg and Penny are Beaver leaders with 1st Beckwith Beavers. They are also giving their garden education to the Beaver colony as well. They already brought them to the dairy farm to give them a taste of farming and they even milked the cows.They have five children ages 2 through 18, and built their forever home at the front of the family dairy farm.
The Beckwitch’s concept was built on upcycling and being environmentally responsible. They try and buy local where they can, they re purpose as much as possible (chip bag pouches for instance) and want to promote edible propagation. They harvest and preserve most everything, dehydrate what they can’t and are known to gift their produce within the community to others.
This gifting concept led them to another idea – The “Free in CP – Gracious Giving and Receiving” FaceBook Group. They have almost 300 members as of today (all local to CP) and the group runs on kindness and kind words – and everything is free! It is a free cycling group with manners (and they do enforce it!). They have met so many individuals through their group and believe it is bringing the community together, not to mention reducing waste in our landfills. The Free in CP group has also provided Penny an avenue to request needed items for her Angel Gowns, where she makes angel gowns and wraps for babies born too soon or still from donated wedding gowns.
In 1996, Alice Water’s commitment to education led to the creation of The Edible Schoolyard at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School: a one-acre garden, an adjacent kitchen-classroom, and an “eco-gastronomic” curriculum. By actively involving a thousand students in all aspects of the food cycle, The Edible Schoolyard is a model public education program that instills the knowledge and values we need to build a humane and sustainable future.
Recently Penny has begun to receive donations for her own school garden projects. Her first school garden project will be at St. Gregory’s school in Carleton Place next month where she will help 277 students make classroom gardens. There will be themes like pizza garden, herb garden and perennial garden, with the hopes that she can convince the schools to make outdoor gardens at each school.
This serves many purposes as it will not only teach the students about edible propagation but high school students can manage the gardens over the summer and earn their volunteer credits too. Jessica Pettes, (wife of Chef Dusty Pettesfrom Ballygiblins) has graciously offered to assist her with the school garden projects.
If this wasn’t enough, Penny also works full time as a senior analyst with National Defence and a full time graduate student at the University of Ottawa. This is her fourth university degree. Her previous research pursuits were on a gendered perspective of mentoring women, and she is an academic and a published author of two peer reviewed articles on the subject. Her current research through the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies at the University of Ottawa involves the gendered perspectives of entrepreneurial identity, to help contribute to women specific business research.
What do Greg and Penny do in their spare time? According to Penny they sleep sometimes!