A Growing Team at Growing Chefs! – Introducing Ryan Shannon
Hi, I’m Ryan Shannon. I have volunteered in the last two program sessions with Growing Chefs! and I couldn’t be happier to be the newest member of the team in the role of Program Assistant.
I love food. I love to grow food. I love to cook food. I love to preserve food. I love to eat food. I love to learn about food. I love to talk about food. And I’ve spent nearly all my life working with food; it is what I have always been passionate about, and I’m lucky that I have had plenty of opportunities to do it.
I was raised in the Okanagan by a family who valued good food. My mother taught me to bake, my dad opened my eyes to a world of spices, my nana showed me how to cook tasty meals with simple ingredients and my grandpa educated me in the art of growing the best tomatoes. With my upbringing being what it was, it’s no wonder I continue to work with food to this day.
For 18 years I was a part of the food service industry and it helped shape my views on our food system. My education at UBC and York University provided me with the foundation of knowledge to understand the problems of the conventional food system as well as potential solutions. My experience in a permaculture course in Cuba helped demonstrate how local small scale agriculture can contribute to a city’s ability to feed itself in an ethical and sustainable way. Working with local food providers and producers has provided me with evidence that there are plenty of people working to re-localize our food system and make it better.
Surrounding myself with people equally as passionate about food is why I have stayed in this industry for so long and why I’m inspired to keep working towards making it better. When I’m not teaching kids how to grow and cook their own food, I work as the Farmers’ Market Manager and Director of Fun & Games for Urban Digs Farm, a local ethical pig farm. We supply families and chefs with trustworthy meat, eggs and produce grown at our farm in South Burnaby and by other farmers we know. You can find me most weekdays and weekends at the local farmers markets representing the farm, selling our product and talking to people about what I’m passionate about – good food, and how to prepare it.
When I’m not at work, I’m likely playing softball, tending to my balcony garden, soaking up the sunshine at the beach or on a bike ride, or more than likely in the kitchen, experimenting with new recipes and local ingredients. I was a vegetarian for 16 years, but since working for the farm, I have been enlightened on the right ways to raise animals for meat. I am now a recovering vegetarian, and I have welcomed meat, and especially bacon, back to my plate with open arms and excited taste buds.
As you can see, I’m pretty passionate about food and contributing to changing our food system. I believe that everyone has the right to fresh, good quality food. I believe that food should be produced in a sustainable and ethical way. I believe that farmers should be afforded a living wage. I believe that a larger portion of our food should be produced locally. I believe that food is the foundation of our cities and can contribute substantially to building sustainable local economies. I believe that cooking is an essential life skill. This last point is why I’m especially excited about this new position with Growing Chefs! And look forward to exciting conversations about food.