Food Advocate Profile: Arzeena Hamir @arzeena #foodadvocates
Our mission at Foodtree is to connect people with where their food comes from. With this in mind we’re highlighting individuals and organizations we think do a fantastic job of contributing, promoting, building, and transforming the food system. We call them Food Advocates. Would you like to participate? Fill out our interview here and we’ll follow up!
Today we’re featuring Arzeena Hamir, Coordinator of the Richmond Food Security Society.
Tell us about yourself:
I’m an Agrologist, which is a fancy term for someone who works in agriculture. My training is in Crop Science but I’ve worked in organic vegetable production for the last couple of decades. I was a CUSO volunteer in Thailand in the early ’90s and worked in Gujarat, India conducting research in indigenous agriculture. My husband (who is also an Agrologist) and I recently purchased a farm in Courteny where we’ll be moving in 2012. We have two children who are 6 and 9.
Tell us about your project/business:
I wear a number of hats in the community. The one I’m paid for is as the Coordinator of the Richmond Food Security Society. We work towards creating a more resilient food system by supporting everything from seed saving & gardening classes to hosting canning drop-in sessions to youth community kitchens. We manage an incubator farm project with 5 new farmers and also manage the City of Richmond’s Community Gardens.
Has your relationship with food evolved over time? How?
Food is the center of every culture. My grandmother was a fabulous cook and I have fond memories of our family eating together. I never, however, really learned how to cook for myself until I left for university. Although my formal degrees are in agriculture, it wasn’t until I started gardening in my mid-’20s that everything finally clicked. I love growing food and teaching others how to do it. In my ’30s, I finally learned how to can & preserve food. Now, I’m addicted to making apple sauce, pears in syrup & sun dried tomatoes. I’ve also learned how to forage for nettles & elder flower which I dry into teas for the winter.
What is your earliest memory about food?
Eating pillau, a mixture of rice, vegetables & meat, with my hands. Traditionally, it’s eaten with yoghurt and an onion/tomato/cucumber salad. You had the get the right combination of each to help it stick together and get into your mouth.
What’s most important to you when it comes to buying food – local, organic, fair trade, GMO-free, etc?
Organic & local are both equally important but so is knowing who grew my food. If I can’t grow it myself, I’d like to know who’s growing the food for my family.
What is the one thing you’d like to see change about the food system?
I think if people understood that they ARE what they eat, they wouldn’t put half the crap they do into their bodies. Then we’d see the reverberations throughout the food system. Also, if we all took ownership of our own food waste, we wouldn’t be throwing away so much food on a planet where 1 billion people go hungry every day.
What is special about food where you live? What’s one thing you would change?
Richmond is one of the few places in the Lower Mainland that is both city and country. You have the rich cultural diversity of a big city but there are still pockets of farmland and green space. So, you can go for sushi, butter chicken, pho, dim sum & shwarma but also buy blueberries, garlic, potatoes etc. direct off the farm. What would I change? We need more organic farmers!!! There is not one certified organic vegetable farm in Richmond.
What are your favorite ingredients to use when preparing a meal?
Sauteed onion. That’s the key to everything!! When in doubt, coconut milk fixes lots of mistakes.
What are your favorite foods?
Sorry, can’t pick just a few.
Other than food, what are you particularly excited about right now?
Very much into the Transition Town movement. Affordable housing and poverty are both big issues for me too.
Tell us about a food-related project that has inspired you:
I learned how to ferment food a couple of years ago. It’s extremely easy to learn and accessible (don’t need much special equipment and just some salt). Since then, I look at food as medicine, not just nourishment. I love making sauerkraut but I’ve also gotten hooked on kombucha, which I swear is the solution everything that ails us.
Where can people find you both online and offline?
At the Sharing Farm in Terra Nova or in a coffee shop with WiFi.