Michael graduated with a PhD in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University, where he still teaches in the Sustainable Futures Program. He was born in the Ukraine and grew up in Winnipeg, where his interest in food was sparked by early experiences watching his mother and grandmother make perogies the old fashioned way. He grew up with a garden and never quite understood the relationship between that thing they call a tomato in the grocery store, and the garden-fresh, misshapen jewels that gave up their juice so easily when still warmed by the sun.
As a graduate student, Michael decided to channel this interest in food into the very heart of his research. He began by plunging head-first into the 100-mile diet for one year. In the process, he learned how to pickle, ferment, and celebrate the seasons by preserving nature’s bounty in season. He completed an internship on an organic farm, learned how to grow food in ways that heal the soil, and lovingly tended a jar of sourdough that is now more than a decade old. These experiences form the backbone of his book, The Politics of the Pantry, which explores how the local and sustainable food movement can become the cornerstone of a more rational and sustainable way of life. An avid urban homesteader, Michael honed his skills in a small backyard in Hamilton’s Sherman Hub neighbourhood and soon fell in love with the idea of providing as much of his family's food as possible from a small space.
This passion became channelled into a new focus on microfarming when he started Common Ground, a teaching farm in Hamilton that has declared a war on the lawn and hopes to build bridges between the country and the city by helping people to grow and preserve food. Michael believes that too many of us have lost the joys of preparing for winter, of squirreling away and sharing, and finding ways to transform decay into delicacy. Common Ground is dedicated to empowering people with the skills they need to get off the industrial food grid. He is driven by a passion to rebuild a more resilient local food system at all levels. He works for the Halton Food Council as their community food network manager and hopes to create new opportunities for people to re-engage with the food system. It is Common Ground’s goal to become the most sustainable farm period, and to help urban folk with rural dreams realize their wildest dreams of self sufficiency or to simply help them grow better tomatoes.
Spencer is new to the Common Ground team in 2016 and he is excited to begin contributing towards building a stronger local food community in Hamilton. Over the past few years he has been actively involved in the urban agriculture scene in the Greater Toronto Area. A York University graduate with a Bachelor in Environmental Studies, he developed his skills and passion for growing food in suburban Ajax. It was the innate capability of gardening to enable citizens to become less reliant on the unhealthy industrial food system that made the thought of growing food very intriguing to Spencer. Following a successful initial summer of backyard gardening, he then decided to attain a Certificate in Food Security and complete a course series in urban agriculture.
He has spent the last two years learning the ins and outs of small-scale sustainable farming on a rooftop farm at Ryerson University in Toronto. After spending the 2015 season in a coordinator and leadership role where he engaged with members of the Ryerson community about local food issues and taught people farming skills and techniques, Spencer is ready to continue to actively engage with Hamiltonians who share an interest in small-scale urban farming and local organic food. If there is one message that he hopes to spread is that growing your own food and eating locally is not as difficult as it may seem.
Growing up in a small town in northwestern Ontario, for a long time Kyle's exposure to farming was limited to what he ate from his grandfather's garden. He has fond memories of eating fresh snap peas off the vine, and the taste of fresh carrots and potatoes that his grandparents used in their beef stew (which ruined him for 'grocery store' carrots and potatoes from a very young age). It was not until many years later when he moved to Hamilton that he would reawaken this early fascination. Kyle has been with us for just over two years, and in that time has spent countless hours helping to build and expand the farm, all while learning the subtle art of sustainable agriculture.
Thanks to the quality, immersive education he has gained as an intern with Common Ground, he has come to recognize the transformative potential of local food, and is now translating this passion into a new, active role at the farm. An English PhD candidate and an award-winning teacher, beginning in 2015, Kyle is adding 'communications manager' to his list of roles with us. He manages all aspects of our online presence, from our website to our social media accounts, and helps to find ways to encourage and sustain community engagement in this unique project. He's also a dedicated cyclist, riding his bike up here a few times a week. This year, he'll be biking all of our produce from the farm into the city on our specially-designed trailer, so if you see him on the way into town, give a honk and a wave!
Jocelyn is a PhD candidate in English and Cultural Studies and has lived in Hamilton for five years. Originally from Mississauga, she is relatively new to farming and to the local and sustainable food movement, but since becoming involved at Common Ground as an intern in 2014, she has learned a lot and really fallen in love with it. Not only are we capable of growing our own sustainable and local food sources in ways many of us never dreamed possible, but it’s an incredibly rewarding experience to feed yourself and your friends and family with food you cultivated yourself--whether it’s fresh tomatoes or peas right off the plant, or beautiful roasted root vegetables from the backyard, or sauerkraut you’ve preserved in your basement. There’s a more intimate connection with the food on your table--you know where it’s been, every step of the way, and you’ve got the dirt under your nails to prove it--and it tastes a million times better!
Jocelyn is excited to continue exploring her passion for sustainable farming, local and organic food, and getting her hands dirty at Common Ground, and is looking forward to learning more about how to implement these small-scale farming practices in her own backyard, and to learning more about preserving and eating more locally not only in the summer but through the Canadian winter as well. As a teacher, tutor and PhD student, she has an interest and background in education that perfectly aligns with Common Ground’s mandate to, via workshops and other educational programming, assist Hamiltonians in their quest for their own sustainable, local food sources, even in the city!