Elizabeth Gorman is on the phone in her office in the basement of Lisa Brown’s – aka Farmer Brown’s – house. She is talking at length to someone slated to do a beekeeping workshop. With her calendar, her notebook and the encyclopedia of details she keeps in her archaeologist-trained brain, she is making things happen.
Elizabeth is an organizer. She’s other things, like a mushroom farmer and a community gardener, a volunteer, a mom, and a horse person. But you get pretty quickly that she is an organizer and a networker and completely comfortable at that centre of some new thing in the making. Anyone who can say with passion, “I love my calendar” and go on in detail about the many ways she relates to it, is a true organizer. “My calendar keeps me sane,” she declares.
She now works part-time for Foods of the Fundy Valley (FFV), where she is organizing, among other things, the Community Food Smart project, a CSA-type program — that will see people in the Albert County area get produce year round. She used to be the coordinator for Our Food SENB where she helped get some 23 community action food projects funded. That’s the result of hard-core networking. “I feel like having worked as an archeologist before, and all my university training with data entry, and tracking minute pieces of data has been really helpful in that regard.”
She tells us her partner, Jeremiah Percival, has said, “I can’t go with you to the health food store. You go and you connect with somebody and you’re connecting them with somebody else and it turns into, like, a half-hour conversation when you went in to get milk, bananas and bread.”
Elizabeth says, “There is something in my brain that I log all the stuff that I hear is available, and see the needs and the gaps, and when I meet people with those needs I just have the strongest desire to connect them.
“A friend said I need to pull back for my own self. She said you’re like the Walmart greeter who not only says, ‘Hi. Socks? Yeah, aisle 14,’ but you take the person to aisle 14 and pick out the socks, give them the socks and say, ‘Do you want help putting those socks on?’”
How important is food?
“There’s a difference between having a meeting and having a meeting with tea and cookies or potluck,” she says, food “shifts everything. It’s more social. It’s something everyone can have a conversation around and everybody has some knowledge they can contribute.”
But Elizabeth is aware there is something wrong with the food system. She relates one of one of those head-scratching disconnect stories one hears about encounters with the industrial food system mentality. She says she was picking fiddleheads a number of years ago and went to market them to a local chain supermarket. They told her they (fiddleheads) weren’t out yet, but she said, “I have a truckful outside. They’re clearly out.” Then they told her they brought them in locally from Nova Scotia. This was in Fredericton.
She says, “I think the bigger food movement is about reconnecting with food, culturally, in our communities, sitting down to have supper with our families, and making things from scratch again and regaining the knowledge of how to do it, teaching our kids how to do it and having fun with them doing it. Having a good time around food.”
Foods of the Fundy Valley
She loves where she is now at Foods of the Fundy Valley because of shared goals. Our Food SENB’s had similar goals, but she’s closer to the projects themselves at FFV. “It’s kind of really nice to be on the ground now,” she says.
Her work is varied, which suits someone who obviously thrives on having a lot of things on the go, plus she can connect with the end users, like the day I went out to photograph her and Lisa Brown. They and some volunteers, including the children, were cooking a massive turkey lunch for the children of Hillsborough Elementary School.
And when I visited her at her office in Dawson Settlement, she was due again at Hillsborough Elementary with Lisa for a garden club event this time. She was also working on a beekeeping workshop as well a few others, and a new community garden, and the food box program, and the list goes on. And all of them sounded fascinating to her and gratifying.
“To be a coordinator,” she says, recalling a discussion she had with her successor at Our Food SENB, Aaron Shantz, “it requires so many strange and important skill sets. It requires the ability to do public presentations, sit on boards and groups and committees and motivate people and capture stories and data and write grants and write reports do newsletter, do bookkeeping, do
Somewhere in there she had mentioned she had to write some stories and, hoping to read a few examples of her writing, I asked had she written any yet. “Nope.” But the idea of learning yet a new skill did not daunt her in the slightest.