The Pictures: Jonathan Gatehouse from Macleans, Ashley Dunn of McClelland & Stewart, Wayne Oakley at the Kingston train station; the Ron Mann and Judith Keenan and John Tran and  film crew; the crew filming; Susan Belyea explaining the community garden; hand-painted BEANS sign; Deanna Harrington and organic lunch.


There was so much to write about in Kingston that I’ve divided it in two:

the Green Initiatives, and the Event itself.

On September 23 Ashley Dunn and I took the train from Ottawa to Kingston. Jonathan Gatehouse from Macleans rode along with us, interviewing me when not discussing early childhood education with Ashley. We were met at the Kingston train station by old bookpal Wayne Oakley, who with Barbara Allen ran bookstore Printed Passage for years, then Indigo for five years after that.

We stopped by Indigo/Starbucks in search of organic coffee – Starbucks has some beans called Pike Place which are, we were told, until they actually went through the grinder. (???) Why? Contamination by unworthy beans? Bad electricity? Anyone got a clue about this? (Sometimes a Starbucks can make you a Pike Place espresso or latte, sometimes not. Depends on the outlet, it seems. ???)

Wayne then drove us out to one of the site of the Community Harvest Working Group’s gardens, where Susan Bellyea – co-ordinator of Loving Spoonful ( (“delivering fresh surplus food to people in need”) — walked us around the public allotments and communal vegetable gardens. Community Harvest runs local food markets, teaches organic gardening and cooking, and runs a gleaning program whereby families in need can go into fields after harvest and pick up any extras.

Ron Mann and his film crew trailed us and the wind blow my pink sunhat around as Susan explained how the programs work, and how families use the gardens and surrounding area for play and outdoor recreation.  Then she told us of the disturbing plan by the Federal Government to close all the current Canadian prison farms for no good reason – they have not said how they will use the land they will have grabbed by doing so, or how they will replace the food currently provided by the farms, but rumour has it they want to build vastly expensive battery-hen big-box crime incubators of the kinds that have been so thoroughly demonstrated to produce nothing but more and better criminals — and of the opposition of the National Farmers’ Union to this scheme. For full information, go to their site at  This is an issue that cuts deep in Kingston, home of Canada’s famous old Penitentiary – which is, not incidentally, the main setting for my novel, Alias Grace.

Then we went back to the Holiday Inn (home of the Kingston WritersFest, (, where there was a lovely bouquet in my room made from flowers donated by local private gardeners (among them the herself) and arranged by Paradiso ( An excellent organic and local vegetarian lunch was kindly delivered in a box by Deanna Harrington, who runs two restaurants—Olivea ( and Bella Bistro ( She explained the local cheeses she had selected: from Glengarry Cheese, “Barely Blue,” “Figaro,” and “Lankaster:” from Can Reg, “Elderberry.” I ate the lunch sitting on the balcony, overlooking Kingston Harbour.

Then it was time for Merilyn Simmonds (La Frugalista, author of The Convict Lover, and head of the WritersFest this year) to pick me up in the new luxurious Prius 2010  hybrid leant by Bruce Stewart of Toyota Prius so I would be as green as possible. “Is it on?” said Merilyn, as we swerved dangerously close to a cement pillar, leading me to wonder if this was the last Prius Toyota might ever offer up. But we made it to wherever we were supposed to go, where there was a reception/fundraiser for Community Harvest, headed up by Tara Kainer. The food was themed to the book – full menu under “Dinners,” see “The Tour” – and I ate several Zeb’s Devilled Eggs, and more, though avoiding the mini-SecretBurgers.

Then it was off to the Event itself, where I had no advance warning of the wonders about to unfold…

1 Comment

Filed under 1, YOTF Tour Blog

One response to “KINGSTON GREEN INITIATIVES: September 23

  1. Dianna Inkster

    I’m glad to see how clearly Ms Atwood sees this closing of the Prison Farmls for what it is.

    I also wonder why we haven’t tried to retain our Canadian farming/hunting/gathering lifestyle. My parents survived the last Depression because they knew how to hunt moose & deer, fish, cut wood, farm, and butcher farm animals as well as cook, tat and knit.

    Will their grandchildren and great-grandchildren need different skills in the next Depression which is fast approaching.


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