Hello and welcome to Righting Our Relations with Food, a podcast series where we meet with guests from across the country to discuss food security and food sovereignty, and how we can make changes to our food system with a focus on Canada. Righting Relations is a national network of adult educators and community organizers are working for radical social change, and this series is part of a larger project on food sovereignty and the sustainability development goals. So, if you're interested in learning more, please check out our YouTube channel and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Today, my guest is Audrey Logan. Audrey is a Nehiyaw Cree-Metis woman from northern Alberta, who teaches out of a permaculture garden in West Broadway, Winnipeg using traditional methods. She has been living off the land in urban Winnipeg for more than a decade, and now she leads Dehydration Nation, a grassroots, Indigenous-led movement to harness the traditional method of food dehydration, and pairing it with nation-to-nation trade as a way of promoting food sovereignty. Audrey, thanks for joining me today. I know that a lot of people think that living off the land just isn't possible for them. Can you share with some practical tips that you've learned?
A real punch word out there is permaculture. But it's - permaculture is great, but it does not really include the spiritual aspect that we have with plants, and our peoples always have had with the plant nation. And, because, without the plant nation, we can't live. Everything relies upon it, from the insects to the animal, to us. Everything relies upon the plant nation. And, and it's been disrespected quite a bit. I did, for about two years, here in Winnipeg, [I was] eating from the store, I ended up gaining about three, I was 310 pounds, as well as borderline diabetic. So I figured, you know, I gotta do something about this. Which we have every authority and the ability to do! So many people think, oh, you can't do that, you can't grow, well, we're reliant upon the stores. And I'm like, eh, no. If my Kokum and Aunty can live out on the, in the bush, and still have their gardens and their foods, and still live healthy lives, then I've got no excuse because I'm in a very good area. And in the city, there's an abundance of food around, you just gotta go forage for it. So I knocked on a neighbor's door and asked if I could use her front yard to grow some food. She goes, "Oh yeah," she says, "but you won't get much because there's a tree there and a lot of shade". And I'm like, you don't know me. I can grow anywhere. And I grew the best tomato and other things. And using the permaculture method, I don't have to water. And so there's a lot less watering having to happen. And much of our food is drought resistant. So it doesn't eat a lot of water. In fact, a lot of our native beans, the less water for them, the better they fruit and flower. And that's what I share, share at the garden space too, we spot water when they're seedlings, the seeds just put in, for the first couple days. And after that we just let 'em be and they do wonderful, but our soil is integrated with a lot of leaf material, a lot of natural stuff that that helps the mycelium grow, which is why we just direct seed. I direct seeded zucchinis middle of July last year, and they not only came up, but they were just as good as the ones that were planted in May. We have over 3000 different types of bees to help pollinate our plants. So at the garden site I take care of at 545 Broadway, we actually do have quite a few native bees there. And it's quite wonderful to see them. Some of are so tiny! The little tiny ones! Bumblebees will just crush those flowers of some of the tiny flowers that are needing to be pollinated, right?
So, switching over has been great. It does take a little bit of work. Yes. But, so, I only end up working during that time of fresh season. So right now, because of the food that's available out there, from our local cost share allotment, from a farmer, as well as things I forage and gather, I only process once a year. And then I dehydrate everything, like our people once did, you dried everything. That's how we were able to transport a lot of our goods around all of not just Turtle Island, but South America as well. And that food is medicine. And food can cause very much good, but it also can cause very much bad. I found with dehydrated food in the store, a lot of it is soaked in sugar water has a really grainy, gritty feel to it.
And my own dried fruits and such, there is none of that, because I don't so soak it in sugar. No, and it's just a natural sweetness from the plant itself. When it comes to flour? Well, I switched off the flower because it made me both so bloated, and tired. So I stopped using it and went back to what our people originally used, which was squash flour. So I have my my squash, I dry it and use that as flour instead. And is so much more flavorful and healthy. There's just nothing but goodness comes from it. So I dry my vegetables myself, because I really can't stand kale. Some of the other greens, I'm not really a salad person, but I can dry it. And then add that into whatever I'm making. Whether it be my soup or stew or type of bread, flatbread mostly and, and still get my nutrients that way. When you dehydrate you only lose 14% of nutrition. Whereas if you can or pickle you lose 60 to 80%. I would rather do the drying. And when it comes to drying, our people were the first ones to use solar and wind energy, the sunlight sterilizes the food because of the UV rays. And I've never had a problem with that method. Now I use the sheets or you can use just some windows screens and haul your stuff on, put it outside. Usually by the end of the day, it's dry. Carrots, root vegetables take a little bit longer, so I bring them in for the night and then put them back out for the second day. And I used to think, when I first started, I'm going to be eating a lot of food here. So I get 40 pounds of carrots one year and I, that was three years ago, I still got carrots. But when I add them into the hot water, boom, they come back to full form as if they just been freshly cut. And sweet, and delicious! When I tried using the store bought ones it was terrible. They were bitter. That's because a lot of the store bought food is dipped in fungicides and, and herbicides and I could taste it and I said no, I can't do this. So having a cost share allotment with a local farm with a good food club has been a benefit, because then they can grow some of the things that I'm not able to grow at that site. You know, 'cuz you can't grow everything! You can't grow chickens, you see, but I can grow things that I can then barter and trade with others to where I can then get some chicken, naturally raised chicken. And so these are, uh, people say "Oh, well that's a lot of work." And I'm going well, our people we're never scared of work. Never. But it can take hours at times. But once you do it, then the rest of the year I'm free to do whatever I want. My berries, I just take whatever berries I have and put them into nice warm water. Morning time, I just use a little hand blender and boom - I got jam. I add more water and I got juice. I can make a pie from it too, just by adding just a lot less water. I also use them for making pemmican, so when I'm going out somewhere I can just take a bit of pemmican with me and put that in the cheek, in my mouth. So switching back to these traditional foods. It's not all Bambi and berries. We have a whole slew of foods.
Yeah, you talked about like how our people weren't food insecure back then. Like, just maybe sharing some of your thoughts around, you know, people that live in the North and how challenging food sovereignty is in the North?
Just get planting. People are starting to do it again. And they're going well, we may have a short season, but we have longer days, so they get a lot more sun. And there's a group called Grow North in Thompson, they've been doing wonderful work, because they reverted back to our traditional method of no tilling and building up the soil the way it's supposed to be built up. And, and they're growing like crazy. There's pictures even now, like even in Alaska, some of the largest largest vegetables are coming out of there, because they have longer days.
Okay. Yeah, I guess just maybe like a quick question, asking you like, how do you think that we should approach about righting our relationship with food. And I think you did already touch upon some of that -
Yeah, getting back to practices, getting back the names and uses. Our traditional corn was not that soft corn that you see, it was hard corn, we boiled that in wood ash, and you got a very high calcium food. Very delicious as well. And there are now stores, even here in Winnipeg, that are selling all of those types of corn, some blue corn, yellow corn, white corn, green corn, there's a whole, whole list of wonderful corns that we had. And you just boil with that with that wood ash and strain it out, boil it again. And then you can either dry it and then use it as a flour. Or you need to dislike it is there's so many ways. Food is medicine. I made a medicine with some youth yesterday using sweet grass and coconut oil. And, I don't know if you can see that, but it's like little circles. And that's the science of you know, the separation of the medicine into its own collective. Wow. Other medicines will give you other shapes. I've seen ones that were hexagonal shape and, and such. But that sweet grass is not just for burning. I love it as a tea and infused into oil like that it keep mosquitoes away. As well as it's nice for the skin, and smells like vanilla. We need to get back our traditional foods in traditional ways and be proud of it. Be proud of the fact that we weren't just looking for Bambis and berries. We were growers, we were, you know, provided the food for the world. The world would not have all the food that it has, if it was not for our people cultivating it for that many thousands of years.
Audrey, I just want to thank you for sharing your knowledge around like food sovereignty and food practices. Yeah, sharing your teachings and also what we can learn from you as well. And hopefully that we can also practice.
On Facebook, I have a page called Dehydration Nation. And on there we have videos, some traditional stories about plants, insects, as well as pictures on how to make your own pemmican. How to make your own, you know, all kinds of fruit roll ups and other things like that. Feel free to check that out. And my other page is Klinic Garden Group, with, Klinic with a "K", and that shows how we transitioned the garden from a Westernized garden to a permaculture, traditional garden.
Alright, there you have it, folks. Thank you for listening to this month's episode of Righting Our Relations with Food. We would like to thank our wonderful guest for sharing their knowledge and their insights with us, and from everyone here at Righting Relations Canada, we would like to thank our partner, the John Humphrey Center for Peace and Human Rights, and of course our funders, the Catherine Donnelly Foundation and Employment and Social Development Canada, for making this project possible. And we hope you'll join us again next month!