Healthy snacks and brown bag lunches

Guest Blog – Christine CrosbyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Christine is a long-time volunteer and former board member of the Coquitlam Farmers Market. Christine provided information about healthy eating in her guest blog four weeks ago. Here she writes about incorporating healthy food into school and work lunches as September approaches.

As we start to move into the fall season we make the change from picnic lunches to brown bag lunches. Some people go with the traditional “sandwich, fruit/veggie, cookie” kind of lunch but there are lots of “outside the box” ideas out there, and lots of cuisines to draw inspiration from.  

First, as this is the peak season for local fruits and vegetables, I would suggest looking at market to find things you love and can preserve for the off-season so that you can put together lunches quickly. I love roasted peppers so I will barbeque a large batch of peppers now and freeze them. Then they’re ready for quick meals (dips, warm salads, sandwiches).  

Consider freezing (tomatoes, fruits, peppers), canning (chutneys for dipping or sandwiches, sauces, jams), and drying (fruits, tomatoes, peppers) so that meals in the colder season will have little bits of summer included. 

A wise investment for lunch-time is a wide-mouth thermos. With this simple tool you can easily have a warm lunch which is comforting in the cooler weather. Soups are quite easy to make and are wonderful for lunches. Or make lots of a dinner and have the leftovers the next day for lunch (don’t they often taste better the next day?!). Or, for example, transform last night’s dinner of mixed roasted veggies into a warm wrap for lunch. Simply warm the veggies, pack them in the thermos and bring a tortilla, condiments and a protein (meat, cheese, beans) and assemble your wrap at lunchtime.  

Bean dips can be a wonderful snack or lunch. The traditional one, of course, is hummus made with chickpeas. I find that hummus, some raw veggies and some crackers or bread make a great lunch. To switch it up a bit you can make a Mexican black bean dip or a curried lentil dip. You can serve bean dips at room temperature or warm with whatever you have in the fridge or kitchen.  

Try a new raw veggie with your dip. I was surprised when someone told me that squash (especially butternut) is nice raw when thinly sliced. I love carrots as the traditional dipper but it’s nice to switch it up with other veggies too: roll up some kale or cut some beets into matchsticks.  

I love to bake as I can make things much healthier and cheaper than buying them (and my house smells really good when things are baking). Try to bake a large pan of bars or a batch of muffins, once per week. If you build up a repertoire of a few recipes that can be tweaked you can have endless variations. For example a date square can be made with blueberries or apples, or add in raisins. You can make a blond brownie and add new things every week: raisins, dried fruit, nuts, etc. Or add squash or carrots to muffins. If you make a batch a week you can have them all week, then try a new variation next week. 

Don’t forget that the Internet is your friend. You can find a recipe for anything online, just type in the ingredient you want to use and lots of ideas pop right up! You don’t have to have a boring sandwich every day. Mix it up and have fun at lunchtime, wherever you are!

BC Blueberries – Nature’s Candy

Local BlueberriesBritish Columbia has over 800 blueberry growers cultivating 28,000 acres that yield approximately 120 million pounds a year. British Columbia is home to one of the largest highbush blueberry-growing regions in the world, helping Canada rank as the third highest producing country. The United States is the largest grower of blueberries. According to the Ag Marketing Resource Center at Iowa State University more than 473.3 million pounds of cultivated blueberries were harvested in 2012 with 60 percent sold as fresh blueberries.

High bush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) are also known as “cultivated” blueberries. These berries grow on bushes that can be more than two meters high. High bush blueberries are harvested earlier, are generally larger, and are less perishable than the low bush variety which makes them highly suitable for shipping to retail markets. The majority of high bush blueberries in Canada are produced in British Columbia.” BC produces most of Canada’s high bush blueberries, with low bush blueberries predominantly grown in the eastern provinces.

Blueberries rank very high in antioxidant activity according to a number research studies. From the Dieticians of Canada: “Antioxidants provide a protective coating for your body’s cells to prevent damage caused by pollutants, smoke, unhealthy diets and the normal aging process.” Some of the benefits of antioxidants include the slowing of the aging process, a reduction of cell damage that can lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease and loss of brain function. Blueberries also contain condensed tannins that help prevent urinary tract infections, and anthyocyanin-a natural compound linked to reducing eyestrain. The BC Blueberry Council, where the catchy title of the blog was borrowed, has several studies cited on their web site.

Because of the abundance of blueberries in the Lower Mainland, farmers are looking for innovative ways to add value to what is a fairly low-margin crop that takes years of investment before bearing fruit. There are several farm-based blueberry processors that have diversified into a range of value-added products including juice and fruit wines. Bremner Foods produces high quality fruit juice on its farm in Delta using blueberries grown on site as well as other local juices from raspberries and cranberries. Because of the appeal of the anti-oxidant properties of their juices, they have made in-roads into the Asian market in addition to their presence on local retail shelves. They recently expanded into fruit wines and have a retail outlet in a heritage barn on their farm.

Cal-San Farms in Richmond is another example of a farm diversifying into frozen berries, fruit wine, and an innovative technology that produces their high-value, dried blueberry products. The product can be used as an ingredient in snack foods, cereals, energy bars, and baked goods. CAL-SAN Enterprises Ltd. has over 200 acres in production, along with a new 30,000 square foot facility capable of processing up to 7 million pounds of fruit annually.

If you are a blueberry lover there is no better time than now to buy. You can buy a year-round supply and simply bag the berries in large zip-lock bags. You don’t need to wash them, just take them out of your freezer and rinse them under the tap before eating. You can learn more about the different varieties and their availability from the Ministry of Agriculture web site. Drop by the market this Sunday for our Blueberry Pancake Breakfast and pick up some recipes supplied by the BC Blueberry Council.

Nutritional Facts

Serving Size: 1 cup blueberries (140g)
Calories 80 Calories from Fat 0
  % Daily Value*
Total Fat0g 0%
Saturated Fat0g 0%
Cholesterol0mg 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate19g 5%
Dietary Fibre 5g 20%
Sugars 9g  
Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 15%
Calcium 0% Iron 0%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) Consultation

In a blog posted on the last week of April, we asked our readers to express their views on the province’s proposal to change the ALC Act. Despite considerable pressure from various groups and individuals to allow for a proper consultation process, Bill 24 passed on May 29th with the Liberal majority carrying the day. The speed of the bill’s passing and the lack of public input was compounded by leaked government documents from last winter proposing an end to the ALR. Former Agriculture Minister, Pat Pimm was also accused of interference in an ALC ruling late last year. Prior to his cabinet posting, the ALC criticized MLA Pimm and the mayor of Fort St. John for lobbying on behalf of a landowner who built a rodeo facility on his land; “In our respectful view, those representations were not appropriate. They could create the impression for both the Commission and the public that these officials were attempting to politically influence the Commission.”[1]

Since passing Bill 24 in May, the provincial government has promised consultations on further changes to the ALR. Bill 24 changed the structure and governance of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), splitting the province into two zones. “Some of the detail that determines how these legislative changes will be implemented will be determined through changes to the ALR Regulation that supports the Act. This consultation is intended to solicit input on potential regulatory changes as they relate to changes in the land use activities allowable in Zone 1 and Zone 2.”[2]  The consultation process involves stakeholder engagement and an on-line survey.

“The focus of this consultation is to ask the question: what further activities should be allowable on farmland in the ALR without an application to the ALC, what parameters should be put around them, and should they vary between regions? A Reference Group convened by the Minister of Agriculture and comprised of representatives from the ALC, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) and the BC Agriculture Council (BCAC) has made a number of specific suggestions in answer to this question, and these suggestions are presented in this paper for your consideration and comment.”[3]

The background paper is available here: This survey link contains 11 questions ranging from on-farm processing, to alcohol-related businesses, to more troubling ideas like question 7. “One idea is to expand opportunities for a broader range of land-based non-agricultural businesses, such as certain oil and gas ancillary services.” The survey closes on August 22nd. Please take the time to read the background paper and either fill in the survey or send your comments and questions directly to:

[1] B.C. agriculture minister sought to influence an ALC decision prior to reform proposal

[2] Consultation on Potential Changes to the Agricultural Land Commission Act, page 5,

[3] Consultation on Potential Changes to the Agricultural Land Commission Act, page 1,

An Abridged Version of the Questions

  1. Currently the Regulation states that food storage, packing, product preparation, and food processing are permitted if at least 50% of the product is from the farm or is feed required for the farm. The parameters for allowable on-farm food storage, packing, processing and retail establishments should be revised.
  2. Breweries, distilleries and meaderies should be allowed on ALR land on the same or similar terms as wineries and cideries are currently allowed.
  3. Currently, wineries and cideries in the ALR are allowed to establish consumption areas (or ‘lounges’) to a maximum size of 125m2 inside, and 125m2 outside, which is roughly equal to a maximum of 130 people. The allowable footprint for consumption areas (or ‘lounges’) ancillary to wineries and cideries (and potentially also breweries, distilleries and meaderies) should be increased.
  4. Wineries and cideries (and potentially breweries, distilleries and meaderies) should be allowed to sell alcohol that was produced elsewhere in BC, not at the winery or cidery.
  5. Anaerobic digesters should be permitted in the ALR, if the inputs are generated from farming activities.
  6. On-farm cogeneration facilities should be permitted on farms where a portion of the energy created is used on-farm.
  7. Currently the Regulation permits a home occupation use that is accessory to a dwelling, of not more than 100 m2 or such other area as specified in a local government bylaw. One idea is to expand opportunities for a broader range of land-based non-agricultural businesses, such as certain oil and gas ancillary services. The parameters should be expanded for when non-agriculture related businesses are allowed to operate on ALR properties in Zone 2.
  8. The subdivision of ALR properties in Zone 2 to a minimum parcel size of a quarter section should be allowed without an application to the ALC.
  9. The subdivision of ALR parcels in Zone 2 that are of a defined size, and that are divided by a major highway or waterway, should be allowed without an application to the ALC.
  10. Greater clarity should be provided on what constitutes an agri-tourism activity that is allowable in the ALR without an application, and if so what parameters should be established.
  11. a) Temporary leases of portions of a property in Zone 2 of the ALR should be allowed without an application to the ALC:  b) for intergenerational transfer of an active farm or ranch operation. And c) to encourage the use of otherwise unfarmed land by existing or new farmers.