Mar 26 2016
“Exuberant, creative, bright-eyed, smart and beautiful in so many ways, Alya Nouasri loves to organize and work and advance the social good, like organizing a Community Food Mentor program, which is where I first met her.”— Elaine Mandrona
Last June (2015) Alya Nouasri and the Mapleton Teaching Kitchen’s Janet Hamilton facilitated the first of their two Community Food Mentor (CFM) programs. The CFM program is where participants learn about food security, safety and nutrition, plus grant writing for community food action, and group cooking. Alya was bent on feeding us the best of food and went out of her way to purchase fresh veggies and goodies from Dolma Foods (now resurrected after a January fire) and kept us supplied with vegan almond cookies—always in demand.
Love for good food is from family
Alya’s love and respect for good food come naturally to her. “My grandparents have always been into gardening. My parents have always been into gardening. So it’s always just been in the family.”
Originally from Whitby, Ontario, she says the richness of the soil there meant there was always lots of wonderful produce. “I remember when I was young buying bushels of peaches with my grandmother and canning peaches at our kitchen table and bushels of tomatoes at the end of the growing season and canning tomatoes. So the connection with the growers and the canning process has always been natural.”
When the family moved to New Brunswick, that connection was lost, but now, through her gardening, her volunteering and her workshops, she is helping reconnect people with growers and good food.
Alya is passionate about hydroponics
Alya says that she got involved in hydroponics as a kind of therapy. “I found that during the summer when I was outdoors and gardening – specifically more flower gardens than anything – I was really happy and then I would work in the winter and I would have no garden and it caused a lot of seasonal depression and so the solution was this tent.”
Since then she has become a serious hydroponics gardener, and educator and grows tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant and peppers in her 6 x 6 x 6 Mylar tent. Her dream is to create a huge hydroponics system in an old warehouse or abandoned building that potentially could help feed many Monctonians.
But growing food is just one of three prongs to her dream. The second is an educational component complete with a teaching kitchen, school tours, whatever it takes to share their knowledge with the community.
“The third prong,” Alya says, “is we’d like to be able to share our knowledge with, say, Fredericton or Saint John so that they can replicate what we’re doing here. So it’s like this huge castle but we have to work on it piece by piece.”
And then there are the chickens
And then there are the chickens. She has four chickens — the maximum allowed by law in Moncton — and to listen to the degree of detail she knows about each of their personalities, you’d think she was the parent of four adopted children. But they’re children that supply lots of fresh eggs.
A Gallery of Alya Nouasri