Jason Pelley: Driving Halifax’s local food movement

Jason Pelley explores the province, sourcing local, no-spray, often organic products and distributing them to some of the most popular restaurants and cafés on the peninsula.

By Emma Jones

Jason Pelley delivers goods to the Dalhousie Student Union Farmer's Market Wednesday morning. (Emma Jones / Peninsula News)
Jason Pelley delivers goods to the Dalhousie Student Union Farmer’s Market Wednesday morning. (Emma Jones / Peninsula News)

Meet Jason Pelley. For two years now, the 35 year-old Haligonian has used his entrepreneurship, his sustainable ethic, and his truck to connect urban consumers to the freshest local farm goods.

Pelley explores the province, sourcing local, no-spray, often organic products and distributing them to some of the most popular restaurants and cafés on the peninsula, including Edible Matters, the Good Food Emporium, Ratinaud French Cuisine and Agricola Street Brasserie.

[pullquote]“It’s just about knowing your neighbourhood. You have to actually go out, drive around the mountains and valleys and get lost to find the best products.”[/pullquote]

Serendipity

Pelley experienced a number of careers before finding the one he loved.

A Dalhousie graduate, Pelley worked for the government in needs assessment, and as a sustainability analyst for a number of years. He thrived at his jobs and had the chance to travel the world, at one point working in Geneva.

But at the end of the day, he wanted something different. “I just needed a change,” he says.

“I worked in international organizations for a while and part of it was looking at really tough stuff in conflict zones. When I moved up, I started writing a lot of high-end reports. When you do that, after a while you start to wonder if anyone’s reading them.”

Pelley moved back to Halifax, joining his friend who had started his own farm. Still working for the government, he began driving products from the country to the city while he commuted.

His work experience had given him an understanding of economic structures, so Pelley knew he had touched upon a need in the farming system. He made connections with an increasing number of farmers, soon quitting his job and distributing product full-time.

“It was a weird, serendipitous thing. I was ready to stop doing what I was doing. I fell into a job, and I felt good about what I was doing. That was the biggest thing.”

A long workday

Pelley says he works between 18-20 hours a day, five days a week.

Most days, he wakes up early, hitting the road (and grabbing a coffee) by 7 a.m.

“My first coffee of the day is always important,” he says with a laugh.

Pelley spends his mornings driving to farms to pick up orders he received overnight and to meet with the farmers. Along the way, he likes to get a little lost, exploring new farms and searching for new products.

After filling his truck with fresh produce from the country, Pelley begins the distribution process, stopping at restaurants in Sackville, Bedford, Hammonds Plains, the South Shore, and finally at his warehouse in Halifax.

One of the perks of working with people in the food business is the great food, Pelley says. “It’s ridiculous how much I eat out, almost every night. Free food from some of the best chefs around!”

After dinner, Pelley works in his warehouse taking orders and packing products. Around 11 p.m., he settles in for a couple hours of paper work.

Making connections

Fresh and local produce.
Wednesday’s DSU Market goods. (Emma Jones / Peninsula News)

Pelley focuses on making meaningful connections with farmers, restaurateurs, chefs, and consumers.

Pelley takes pictures of the dishes created using his farmers’ products and takes the farmers to eat at the restaurants that use their food.

“If you’re a farmer in Middleton and you work up to your elbows in dirt every day, you kind of lose the forest through the trees. So when they come in, I take them to these nice restaurants and show them the stuff that they put in the ground in February.”

For Pelley, the best feeling comes when farmers feel pride in their work.

“Farmers have such a gruelling schedule, so it helps to give them a shot of energy, which makes me feel good about what I do.”

Kamie Branch is one of two co-ordinators at the Dalhousie Student Union Farmer’s Market, a market that receives all of its produce through Pelley. She feels that because of Pelley and his services, students have been able to understand and to place value in local farming systems.

“Jason’s just great. Not only is he our source of food, but he’s helping people’s food awareness. The first priority for students isn’t always the quality and proximity of food, but he’s helping people to make that connection and to care about where our food comes from,” she says.

A kind company

The DSU Market in the Student Union Building. (Emma Jones / Peninsula News)

“Good foods and healthy foods are right for everyone,” says Pelley.

“There’s a family that comes down to my farm table that are new to Canada, and I know that they don’t have a whole lot of cash, but I know what the woman is doing in school,” he explains.

“So for a year I provided this family with a bag of food at the end of each market day. It helped her work less, she ended up getting a bunch of scholarships, and now she’s on her feet. I don’t know, be kind to people, there’s a weird karma.”

Why we love local

The local food trend has skyrocketed in the past decade in Halifax. The reasons, says Pelley, are that young people today are more health conscious, have less money, and are more community oriented than in generations past.

“If you look through history, breaking bread together and having meals, in terms of community and group interactions, is about one of the most intimate and personal things that you can do,” he says. “Now, more than ever, we focus on the building of social capital as opposed to monetary or financial capital.”

Older farmers are often surprised that young men in their 20s are interested in cooking, Pelley says. He always tells them, “Well, we can’t buy a nice Corvette to impress girls! The girls in our neighbourhood aren’t looking for that stuff any more, and it’s a much nicer thing to be able to cook for someone in our generation.”

Sustainability: three big ideas

Thinking sustainably is hugely important for Pelley, both in his business and in his personal life. For him, sustainability comes down to three big ideas.

Be respectful, don’t waste, think about the whole. Those are the three general guidelines. I could break it down to energy flows, conservation, and biodiversity, but it always comes down to those things.

“Sustainability starts with yourself. If you’re going to be a good citizen of the world, treat yourself right. Have respect for yourself first, respecting the fact that you have a whole life ahead of you, and think about your future.”

Shining a light on a hidden disorder – epilepsy

Wednesday marked Purple Day, an international movement to get those with epilepsy talking about it.

By Nick Holland

Janice Pace checks her calendar constantly because she has memory loss from having so many seizures. (Nick Holland/Peninsula News)
Janice Pace checks her calendar constantly because she has memory loss from having so many seizures. (Nick Holland/Peninsula News)

At any moment Janice Pace could have a seizure. She can’t predict when she’s going to have one, but after having them her entire life, it has become somewhat of a routine.

The single mother lives in Halifax and has epilepsy. Pace has three types of seizures. Her eyes will roll upwards, stare off into the distance, or Pace will drop to the floor and convulse.

She won’t remember any of it.

“I have no control over it so there’s nothing I can do,” she said. “I went a couple years that I was seizure free, (but) the last few years my health has deteriorated.”

Pace is on medication but the side effects caused nerve damage in her legs and now she finds it difficult to walk.

She also has two shoulder replacements. Her doctor told her she couldn’t work anymore.

Pace once worked as a homecare worker but now homecare workers come to her home.

Purple Day is celebrated on March 26 to promote awareness about epilepsy. (Nick Holland/Peninsula News)
Purple Day is celebrated on March 26 to promote awareness about epilepsy. (Nick Holland/Peninsula News)

Drastic effects to the brain

Every time someone has a seizure they lose brain cells, resulting in side effects. One of those side effects Pace has encountered is long-term and short-term memory loss.

“I have problems remembering certain things. People can ask me certain things and I can’t recall it,” she said. “I find new ways to try to deal with things. I have my own calendar that I keep everything ahead of time.”

Pace now volunteers as a co-ordinator for the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia.

March 26 is Purple Day

Wednesday marked Purple Day, an international movement to get those with epilepsy talking about it. For Pace, this day is important.

“It’s a chance to try to bring recognition around the world to people like me with epilepsy because it’s one of the hidden disorders that people don’t see,” she said. “They’re scared of it and people don’t see it as a disorder, but it is.”

Cassidy Megan started Purple Day with the help of the Anita Kaufmann Foundation and the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotian was in Grade 3 when she created the movement in 2008.

Cassidy Megan founded Purple Day. Her junior high school had an assembly honouring her movement. (Nick Holland/Peninsula News)
Cassidy Megan founded Purple Day. Her junior high school had an assembly honouring her movement. (Nick Holland/Peninsula News)

The now 15-year-old junior high student has epilepsy.

“I felt really scared and alone, and I was embarrassed to tell anyone,” she said. “I really didn’t want other people to feel that way.”

Her seizures left her feeling so scared and alone that she wanted to spread awareness about what it’s like living with epilepsy.

And spread awareness she did.

Purple Day is now recognized in over 70 countries and on every continent, including Antarctica.

“I feel really happy for how much Purple Day has grown,” Megan said.

Megan still has seizures. They don’t come as often as they used to, but that’s because of the medication she’s on. She will never know when one will come on.

“I pretty much just zone out of everything that is going on, go into my own little world, or pretty much just start crying,” she said. Just like Pace, Megan can’t control any of the seizures.

But Megan’s campaign has been so successful that it grabbed the attention of Hollywood celebrities and even the Queen of England.

It was started by a little girl continues to grow and to spread awareness about a hidden disorder that still affects both Megan and Pace.

DJ VI PINK Collective brings glitter and grooves to King’s Wardroom

DJ VI PINK Collective pulled together generations of positive vibes, crafting a friendly and fun space for its audience to dance and have fun last weekend.

By Emma Jones

Simone Hogeveen and Maddie Kingston bask in the magenta light of their DJ booth.
Simone Hogeveen and Maddie Kingston bask in the magenta light of their DJ booth.

A vocal music student, an English graduate, and a European Studies major: usually, sisters Simone Hogeveen and Esmé Hogeveen, and childhood friend Maddie Kingston play the part of Halifax university students.

But stick on some face rhinestones, toss in a little Leo Sayer and hang two plastic flamingos, and DJs bigPURP, pinkySWR and PetroleumNelly emerge “honey glazed” in the ethereal fog of a pink smoke machine.

On Friday night, the women, known as DJ VI PINK Collective created a unique “grooviance” in the University of King’s College Wardroom, bringing silliness and sparkles to a packed student crowd.

The all-female DJ collective performed its first official set, a vibrant compilation of disco classics like ABBA with contemporary hits including Mapei and Beyoncé. DJ VI PINK Collective pulled together generations of positive vibes, crafting a friendly and fun space for its audience to dance and have fun.

“Silliness was key,” said Esmé Hogeveen after the event. “It was important for us to take everything so over the top that people could relax and have fun to whatever level they want. By setting the scene to a 10 of intensity, then people can approach it in their own way.”

DJ VI PINK Collective in their bedroom DJ space.
DJ VI PINK Collective in their bedroom DJ space.

The group encouraged letting loose by dressing up in colourful outfits and handing out prizes for the wildest dancers of the evening.

The last song of the night was met with objections from the enraptured audience. As the Wardroom lights turned on, the collective’s instant fan-base of old friends and new supporters cheered for more.

The audience couldn’t get enough of the collective and its special feel, a feel described by some as particularly feminist.

All three DJs were surprised that the audience had derived a feminist agenda from their show.

“It’s kind of strange that just because of who we are, that had to be the way we were identified. We had never called ourselves a feminist collective,” Maddie said.

Even though each member identifies personally as feminist, DJ VI PINK Collective maintains that its aim, as a group, is strictly apolitical.

“Obviously the point is to make a space that’s comfortable for women to dance in, but never having used that term, it’s interesting. Our goal is to have a fun and funny time,” said Esmé.

“Dancing is this really great, usually wholesome, aspect to our lives. We all did FYP in different years and all have different friends, and dancing was really integral for all of us at that time. It still is,” Esmé noted.

“Our King’s crew is really open to have fun,” added Simone, describing the close-knit and supportive King’s community all three women belong to. “It’s really special to Halifax and to King’s that we could do something like this. We don’t really know what we’re doing, but we know that we want to try it out, and it’s really special that we have enough of a community here to support that.”

The next event for DJ VI PINK Collective is not yet locked in, but the group is confident its future will be glitzy. Simone, Esmé and Maddie are hoping to refine their technical skills and understanding of DJ equipment in the near future and create a monthly event for friends and fans to come together and have fun.

“We’re trying to sync up with our periods. We want to have an event called ‘Aunt Flo Comes to Town-That Time of the Month’,” laughed Esmé.

“It’s kind of a fun learning curve. Now it’s fun to think that we can actually refine our DJ-ing. It was our first time using actual speakers and that equipment, so now we can really mess around and have fun with it.”

Homelessness Marathon: where all voices are heard

A blustery storm and the Homelessness Marathon on CKDU radio delivered chilling realities to residents of the Halifax Peninsula.

By Emma Jones

Homelessness MArathon

Though we might have hoped the end of February would bring warmer weather, the past days have served as reminders of how harsh this month can be. On Wednesday evening, a blustery storm and the Homelessness Marathon on CKDU radio delivered chilling realities to residents of the Halifax Peninsula.

A group of over 60 community members gathered in the basement of St. Matthew’s Church on Barrington Street for the Halifax portion of the 12th annual Homelessness Marathon.

Based in Edmonton, the radio marathon started at 7 p.m. and continued for 14 hours, spotlighting dozens of community and campus radio stations from across the country. Each station brought a different perspective on the collective experience of homelessness and poverty in Canada.

Students, city planners, health workers, and homeless individuals made up some of those congregated in the downtown Halifax church to eat food, share experiences, and talk through often unspoken truths about poverty and homelessness through a national radio broadcast.

“The thing that I really like about the Homelessness Marathon is that it takes away from having experts talking on these subjects,” said Jordan Roberts, the events and communications coordinator for the CKDU and the Halifax organizer of the Homelessness Marathon.

“The Homelessness Marathon is mindful and focused on getting the voices of folks who don’t have access to large-scale media as a kind of alternative to mainstream coverage,” she explained.

Attendees sat in a circle and were each given equal opportunity to speak for the entire two-hour broadcast. Topics of discussion ranged from Halifax’s lack of affordable housing to the question of the determinacy of mental illness.

Many speakers felt that their own mental health had been stigmatized. Many more felt that they had been denied a number of basic human rights, even of their dignity, both by other community members and by government representatives.

A number of comments on the broadcast were directed at Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine and his recent public statement asking citizens to be responsible for their own health and wellbeing before taking advantage of the health care system.

One participant addressed Glavine directly, indignantly inviting him to justify his beliefs to those with health issues struggling simply to make ends meet.

Her comments were met with applause and shouts of approval.

Despite the challenging, frustrating, even painful nature of the discussion, there was an emergent element of celebration at the Homelessness Marathon.

Individuals shared many of their grievances, but they also shared their victories.

Zach Collins, who goes by the stage name Zach Trash, is an instructor at the Halifax Circus School as well as a volunteer with an outreach program for at-risk youth. A busking performer who was once homeless, Collins attributes his own success to the discovery of outreach and assistance programs through the Halifax Circus and St. Matthew’s Church. He attended the Homelessness Marathon to promote awareness for these kind of existing programs.

“It helps people realize the sort of options there are. Where there’s an issue in reaching resources and stuff, it can bring that sort of thing to light. And it gets people together for the discussion, which is half the battle,” Collins said.

Ryan Murphy, a participant in other CKDU radio initiatives, attended Wednesday’s event.

“It’s important to raise awareness in a community that’s as small as Halifax about the problem of homelessness, and more importantly, about the marginalization of poverty-stricken people,” Murphy expressed after the broadcast had taken place.

“The stigma surrounding all of those things allows us to forget about the people who exist within those communities and how they might need our help and awareness.”

Roberts shared this sentiment.

“Often, especially in the media when we hear about homelessness there’s kind of one thought pattern. There’s one party line,” she said.

“This is a great way for people to walk away learning more, knowing more, and motivated to do something about the issue of homelessness, inadequate housing, and poverty, both in our community here in Halifax and across Canada.”