Instructor Bio’s

Mélisanne

Mélisanne graduated with a Masters degree in Environmental Studies at York University. She specializes in environmental education and urban gardening. She moved from Laval, Quebec, to Toronto, Ontario, to take part in the city’s vibrant urban agriculture movement. Along the way, she became fluent in English. (She still talks French to her plants, though.) She has been involved with Fresh City Farms as a Member Farmer for two growing seasons. From planning and planting to maintaining, harvesting, and preserving, small-scale farming is for her an exciting and challenging experience. Every year, she produces a bounty of vegetables that need to be canned over the summer.

Preserving fruits and vegetables, for Mélisanne, is a family tradition. Since childhood, she has especially enjoyed preserving her own strawberries and transforming them into jam with her mom and dad. The smells and tastes of homemade preserves are the best rewards for the labour that goes into making them. She draws from family recipes as well as new ones found online or in books. She also owns a pressure canner, and she’s not afraid to use it! After two seasons of harvesting her own sustainably grown veggies & fruits and canning them along with some of her other favorite locally grown goodies, her pantry is a treasure trove of colourful preserves.

Fresh local flavour is always her goal as long as safety comes first.  Mélisanne background in biology and her work as a microbiologist at Saint-Laurent College has giving her a deep understanding the importance of sterilization for neutralizing and keeping away harmful microorganisms. She approaches canning in the kitchen with the same diligence and enthusiasm as she did doing experiments in the lab.

Preserved food is a great convenience and the nostalgic reward that Mélisanne turns to in the depths of winter, when she misses her garden and dreams of the next growing season.

Michael

Canning 101, Fresh City, urban farming toronto, canning workshop toronto, Michael MikulakMichael was born in the Ukraine and still speaks the language.  Growing up in Winnipeg, his interest in food was sparked by early experiences watching his mother and grandmother make perogies and other cultural mainstays the old fashioned way.  And having a garden was simply their way of life.  As a boy, he never quite understood the connection between that round reddish thing they call a tomato in the grocery store, and the home-grown, misshapen, ruby jewels in their garden that gave up their juices so easily when still warmed by the sun.

Michael went on to graduate with a PhD in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University.  Today he teaches in the English department and the Sustainable Futures Program.   As a graduate student, he channeled his interest in food into the very heart of his research.  Plunging head-first into the “100-mile diet” for the first full year, he learned how to pickle, ferment, and celebrate the seasons by putting up a variety of preserves.  He also completed an internship on an organic farm, learning how to grow food in ways that heals the soil and nourished his soul.  To this day, he lovingly tends a jar of sourdough started on that farm that is now almost 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. Recently, Michael also started Common Ground Farm in Hamilton, a teaching farm that has become a “no lawn zone”. 

Michael believes that some of our most delicious fermented foods –miso, kimchee, pickles, beer, wine to name a few – emerged out of the necessity to juggle the seasons, accommodate nature’s bounty when it arrives, and plan for her coming cold miserliness.  His goal is to help others rediscover the joys of preparing for good old Canadian winters and relearn the art of squirreling away food to share and enjoy another day.

Cindy

Canning 101, Fresh City, urban farming toronto, canning workshop toronto, Cindy ChanCindy is fluent in Cantonese and grew up helping her family to tend their traditional backyard garden of vegetables grown from the seeds they saved from the year before. She still loves stepping outside when she visits her parents to hand pick a basket of fresh goodies for dinner that she knows have been grown free of chemicals.  In the summer you might find her harvesting rose petals for a cardamom- infused rose petal jelly or picking peaches off her special tree for spiced peach jam (um…yummmm).

One of her favorite pastimes is visiting farmers markets.  Scoping out what’s fresh and local inspires her sense of canning creativity.  Cindy puts up everything from pickles to sauces & marmalade but if you press her she’ll admit her favourite preserve to prepare is good, not-so-old-fashioned jam.  Her pantry is in a constant state of jarring over-capacity giving her plenty of stock for experimenting with new recipes.   She loves to bake and uses her own preserves to turn out amazing treats all year long.

Cindy’s left her career in Media and Broadcasting to study culinary arts at George Brown College and pursue a career in food education after volunteering with several community organizations such as West End Food Coop, The Stop, and Not Far From the Tree.  These days she gets her digital fix from writing her own food blog.   She’s also super pumped about sharing her knowledge about healthy, responsible eating with elementary school kids as a new lunch club coach.