ONSLOW – When Janet McNeil started growing organic food four years ago, it changed her life – or at least her taste buds.
And the Onslow resident doesn’t plan on going back to conventionally-grown vegetables any time soon.
“If you try an organically-grown apple and then one that’s not, you can’t see much difference,” McNeil explained.
“But if you’ve been eating organic for several months and then you try a conventional one, you might find it has a slight chemical taste or less flavour.”
McNeil is one of the many Colchester County farmers who will be attending Seedy Saturday, an all-day celebration of local food, farming, flowers and community in Truro.
Last year’s event was a great success, said McNeil, a 35-year-old married mother with one child.
“It was well- attended and vibrant with lots of familiar faces. Lots of happy people. Energetic people and people excited about spring.”
This year’s event, which actually starts this evening at 7 p.m., will feature local vendors, a performance by ukulele and cello musicians James Hill and Anne Davidson, a seed exchange, a food film festival, discussions on global and local food issues and activities for the kids.
And attendance is expected to increase now that more people know what the event is all about – buying locally-grown food, organically-grown fruits and vegetables and family fun.
McNeil said she’ll be there again this year.
“I do baking, as well, with organic ingredients and I’ll be bringing some of that along. And some eggs from organically-fed hens.”
All activities are free and all are welcome. Donations for Seeds of Survival are encouraged.

(This was published in the March 27, 2009 edition of the Truro Daily News.)

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TRURO – When former Truro resident Ian Cameron was five years old, he caught scarlet fever.
“I just remember being very sick,” recalled Cameron, who was the class valedictorian at Colchester County Academy in 1961.
His family’s home was quarantined. A sign was placed in the window and he was secluded from his siblings in an effort to stop the disease from spreading. The family wasn’t permitted to leave the house.
“I can’t remember how my father got groceries,” said Cameron, 65, who will be discussing the history of quarantines in Nova Scotia this evening at the Colchester Historical Society Museum.
Typhus, cholera and smallpox put a nasty dent in Nova Scotia’s medical history. The worst of these diseases were found in Halifax and Pictou. Truro was more fortunate.
“I think because of it not being a port, it just wasn’t at risk,” said Cameron.
Truro’s strongest link to quarantine history lies with Adams George Archibald, a father of Confederation based in Truro.
When he was 18, Archibald volunteered to be a medical assistant in a quarantine hospital in Halifax in 1832. His life of pubic service is honoured in Truro.
“Adams Street is named after him. Archibald Street is named after him. George Street is named after him,” Cameron said.
Cameron, who is now a professor of Family Medicine at Dalhousie University, is a Fellow of the Canadian College of Family Physicians and a Diplomat of the American Board of Family Practice.
In 2007, Cameron published Quarantine: What is Old is New. It focuses on the history of Truro,
Pictou, Halifax and Lawlor’s Island and the devastating diseases that were passed from port to port.
He also will comment on the fact that infectious diseases still make headlines, only now the names are SARS virus and bird flu rather than smallpox and cholera.
Elinor Maher, chairwoman of the program committee at the Colchester Historical Society, is looking forward to Cameron’s discussion, particularly considering his strong connections to the area. “His father was the principal of the high school and his mother was a delightful lady who was a well-known artist. They were very much a part of Truro,” said Maher.

(This story was published in the Truro Daily News on Thursday, March 26, 2009.)

Cobequid Educational Centre teacher Suzanne Fougere is travelling to Macedonia this summer to help build homes for low-income families. Submitted photo.

Cobequid Educational Centre teacher Suzanne Fougere is travelling to Macedonia this summer to help build homes for low-income families. Submitted photo.

TRURO – Cobequid Educational Centre teacher Suzanne Fougere has been putting her passport to good use for the past three years.
Fougere, 39, has been circling the globe with Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization devoted to building simple and affordable housing.
In 2006, the Truro native traveled to Madagascar, an island off eastern Africa. The next year El Salvador was her destination and last summer she touched down in far-off Mongolia. Now, the countdown is on for a summer visit to Macedonia, a poor eastern European country that used to be part of Yugoslavia.
Fougere said many of her students don’t know where Macedonia is.
“They think, ‘Where is that?’ I have to point it out on a map,” she said with a laugh. “They say, ‘Why do you go to all these weird places?’
“I see first-hand the need for assistance for low-income families and impoverished families here in Truro. But going to another country also brings a cultural element to it.”
A lot of these places are desperately poor, added the English 11 and Law 12 teacher.
“They don’t have the social services and charities and assistance that we are fortunate to have in Nova Scotia.”
Fougere said she enjoys working with Habitat for Humanity because it adds to the traveling experience.
“I love travelling but I like doing something with my traveling and giving back to another country, another community.”
Every trip is different from the last, said Fougere, who also volunteers in Truro at St. Vincent de Paul Society.
“What doesn’t change is the appreciation and smiles and gratitude that you get from people who really need help and deserve help and are so appreciative.”
The Habitat for Humanity plans in Macedonia include construction of about 90 homes for low-income families in the next three years, particularly for married couples who are economically active and have children but low incomes.
Anyone interested in helping the organization closer to home doesn’t have to travel any farther than metro.
“Sackville, Spryfield and Dartmouth,” said Fougere. “So, if someone wants to go, there’s an affiliate down there. Pick up a hammer and help out.”
A portion of the profits made today at the King Lam Restaurant in Bible Hill will go directly to the project Fougere is co-leading in Macedonia.

(This story was published in the Thursday, March 26, 2009 edition of the Truro Daily News.)

Truro's Max Pearson, 17, spent his storm day from Cobequid Educational Centre shovelling snow. Photo by Jillian Hamilton.

Truro's Max Pearson, 17, spent his storm day from Cobequid Educational Centre shovelling snow. Photo by Jillian Hamilton.

(This photo ran on the front page of the Truro Daily News on Wednesday, March 25, 2009.

NSCC student Laura Martin, 21, fills out the Know The Score quiz while learning about problem gambling. Hamilton photo.

NSCC student Laura Martin, 21, fills out the Know The Score quiz while learning about problem gambling. Hamilton photo.

TRURO – Like some of his peers college student Caleb Clyke occasionally gambles a few dollars while playing cards with his friends on the weekend.

He sometimes plays online poker, too, but not usually for money.

At Nova Scotia Community College yesterday, Clyke, 20, took a quiz on problem gambling and learned about some of the risks involved.

“Gambling is very addictive,” he said.

Educational assistant student Laura Martin also took the quiz even though she chooses not to gamble.

“It wastes money that could go towards my education or my dream of owning a horse,” she said.

The quiz was part of an interactive problem gambling awareness program called Know The Score designed by an Ontario-based non-profit organization committed to problem gambling prevention. The program was successfully piloted in 2001 in Ontario and has since appeared in other Canadian provinces.

NSCC students were enticed to take part in exchange for a chance at winning a $1,500 scholarship award.

“By completing the quiz, we hope to make students aware of local services for help with gambling-related problems and suggest ways they can limit the risk of developing a gambling problem,” explained project coordinator Kathleen Baldwin.

Gambling is not a way to make money and young people need to understand that, she said.

Student council and diversity committee chairman Ashley Brown, 35, said the quizzes made for a unique way of teaching students. “By filling them out, they may learn a few things about themselves or some of their friends,” he said.

Brown said he gambles with friends on occasion. “Knowing the score and knowing your limits makes it a lot easier to know when to call it quits,” he said.

By having this type of display set up at school, it shows students that money is important, Brown said.

“We want our students to realize that by damaging their credit and, by using their credit card, they’re accumulating debt.”

The gambling presentation will be set up in the NSCC residence dining hall today from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

(Published in the March 24, 2009 issue of the Truro Daily News.)