Kozroots Community Empowerment Projects (KCEP), producers of the Eastern Ontario Festival, are happy to be bringing the event to life.
The Seeker is happy to be a Media Sponsor for The Eastern Ontario Garlic Festival this year, an event with a “New Normal” look and we were fortunate to be able to catch up with the event’s Founder and Past President Brenda Norman to conduct the Seeker’s 5 QUESTIONS Interview with her.
KCEP is a grassroots non profit organization that was formed in 2015 by a number of agri-food advocates and farmers, and business leaders who appreciate the assets the region held. Our goal at the time was to engage community, growers, and like minded organizations to develop agri-food learning opportunities, special projects and events that involve collaborations across demographics and areas of expertise. We saw a gap in the region regarding youth and community engagement and utilizing the expanse of land in the region of Stormont Dundas and Glengarry, and around Cornwall.
As a garlic and herb farmer, I came up with the idea to showcase everything local and so the Eastern Ontario Garlic Festival came to life in 2015. I shared this idea with other stakeholders at Eco Farm Days in 2015 and within a few weeks, we had all kinds of folks, businesses and organizations stepping up to support this effort and make it happen. The #eogarlicfest was a great hit in the first year with thousands of visitors and 40,000 dollars of sales made by producer, foodies, and the non profits. Since then, we have helped producers, artists, and non profits raise $150,000 over 5 events. Each year, we have partnered with various destination spots to host the event. This year, we were incredibly happy to come back to Cornwall. The community, the city and tourism were supportive of the idea. We are grateful to all our past sponsors, partners, volunteers, and vendors for making the Eastern Ontario Garlic Festival a great success.
QUESTION #2 – What kind of projects has KCEP initiated over the last six years?
We are known mostly for producing the Eastern Ontario Garlic Festival. It has been hosted in Cornwall twice, at the Nav Center, South Mountain Fair, and last year at Marlin Orchard where we featured top notch garlic growers, artisans, and the Upper Canada Cider Company. We are a volunteer grassroots organization with leadership and volunteers who have all kinds of skills and creative ideas to develop and mobilize unique projects.
Some of our projects include:
• Garlic Planting and Harvesting: Workshops and special projects, such as the garlic initiative at the Glengarry Memorial Hospital Rehabilitation program, and Cornwall Housing Community Gardens.
• Tapping In: A Maple Syrup project where seniors in the rural areas shared their knowledge and skills to tap 150 trees in old maple bushes on their land. This was an intergenerational project in celebration of Canada 150 and took place at the former Strathmore Winery and Orchard with Carmen Bender and other like-minded folks.
• Bears Fruit: With Carmen Bender retiring and closing his landmark Winery in North Stormont, KCEP took over caring for the apple trees. We soon found ourselves with so many apples, we did not know what to do with them all. We shared the bounty with families.Then came along Upper Canada Cider Company. Carmen mentored the founder, Matt Cameron and KCEP facilitated so that he could have access to the orchard and make his delicious cider. Last year we pressed and made 90 gallons of Apple Cider Vinegar that will be sold at the upcoming #eogarlicfest.
• Seize the Day Camp: KCEP ran a day camp for children and youth in Winchester. This community initiative supported families and children with special needs. It was aiming to run again this year but as we all know these are unusual times, so we held off.
• Art in Motion: Was the brainchild of Kimberly Cameron a local Cornwall artist. We invited the three Cornwall and area art associations to participate. 12 artists painted over 12 canvases with 12 themes related to making things grow. It was the first time that all groups ever worked together and was the onset of many more collaborations between local artist. The art has been exhibited at agricultural conferences and events, as well as The Wild Oat in Ottawa and is available for exhibition in restaurants and community spaces. • Youth Farm Experience: KCEP has facilitated over 200 youth from local high schools in Cornwall and SDG in experiential learning agriculture fieldtrips.
• Canada Summer Youth Jobs: Our initiatives have employed 20 youth from SDG and Cornwall over the last 3 years through the program. From coordinating the #eogarlicfest from working the land and taking care of the apple orchard and Christmas trees, to being councillors at the day camp; we have been focused on empowering youth.
QUESTION #3 – What happened to your organization’s efforts when Covid-19 hit you?
We could see that something was coming at the end of February. Everything was so unpredictable; and a lot of planning needs to go into our efforts. We cancelled all activities except for the Eastern Ontario Garlic Festival. We knew the garlic was getting ready to grow while we were all asked to stay home. We waited and here we are. It is happening. We will see what the future holds and will rebuild and pivot, if necessary, in the future to actualize our projects in 2021.
QUESTION #4: – What is the Eastern Ontario Garlic Festival going to look like this year?
Each year, we invite non profits from the area to participate and lead some of the activities. One year, the Salvation Army, Baldwin House and Agape produced an amazing second hand fashion show. Other years, the Cadets ran the children’s programs. Chefs and foodies offered workshops and we had beer and wine gardens with local entertainment.
This year in the spirit of helping others through this difficult time, we will be giving all profit from the #eogarlicfest to Food for Thought Net Café. Food for Thought pivoted at the onset of Covid 19 from their usual activity, to feed vulnerable populations living in Ottawa Family Shelters. They have prepared and delivered over 30,000 meals to people who are facing adversity and living with no kitchen. While restaurants were mandated closed, chefs from across the city stepped up and joined in the effort to create delicious meals, made in authentic ethic culture. Readers can learn more at: https://www.foodforthought.cafe/
We will be hosting the event on Sunday, August 30th from 10am to 3pm on the Seaway Path and will feature garlic growers from across Eastern Ontario. It will be a one stop shop for garlic lovers. Different this year is that there will be a $5 donation per visitor made to Food for Thought. Each $5 dollars feeds 4 people. Due to the pandemic we will be following all the requirements set by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit. While there will be no tasting, or food and drink for sale, we are inviting local restaurants in Cornwall to feature a garlic laced menu the weekend of our event. There will be busking to create atmosphere, assorted artisans, and other farmers market vendors along the path.
QUESTION #5:Is there anything else you would like to add?
Kozroots Community Empowerment Projects thanks our sponsors: The Cornwall Seeker, Bonville Garden, Black Duck Farms, Spicy Pearl. We want to also recognize that our producing partner the Eastern Ontario Agrifood Network makes it possible for us to produce this event with ease.
Brenda will be our guest talking about this event on “The Monday Morning Motivation with The Seeker Chicks Show” on Monday, August 3rd at 10 til 11am. Tune in to see the show at 10am with this link: https://streamyard.com/86cusgxdfu?fbclid=IwAR2S_kkcA7yy-87z1HV_ivjbofwCoDfQaO_A6U0wdhbpOQGPbTw_7hV1HuM
You can also see the repay of the show on The Seeker Facebook Page
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