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David Asher has been a member of CCEC since 2007 which is also the time he has been sharing his knowledge on the culture of cheese. David takes a political stance against Big Dairy and criticizes both standard industrial and artisanal cheesemaking practices.  He encourages us to source good raw milk, promotes the use of ethical animal rennet, protests the use of laboratory-grown freeze-dried cultures, and explores how GMO technology is creeping into our cheese. 

Why I belong to CCEC:  I joined to keep my money in my community, and  to divest from the corporate investments that underpin the conventional banking system.  Its such a comfortable place for me to bank, and I cherish the rare opportunity to visit when I come to Vancouver from the Gulf Islands.   And it’s so respectable too; what other banks send out emails with the statement.

David just published his book, The Art of Natural Cheesemaking, and is currently on a North American tour to network, share his knowledge and to educate us on how to "take back our cheese".  So, what does that mean?

Over 10 years ago, while studying at UBC and volunteering at UBC farm, David decided to become a farmer.  He visited a co-operative farm in the Fraser Valley where he had his first taste of a homemade cheese, made by the farm manager with her raw goats milk. He says that tasting the amazing cheeses aged in her own cave provided the spark for him to try cheesemaking at home.  However, as his milk bills started going through the roof, he decided it was time to leave the city and find a cow.

It was at Varalaya farm on Mayne Island (with his farming mentor Ron Pither, founding member of CCEC) that he did his first organic farming apprenticeship, and had his first taste of raw milk.  He got his own goats and kept them in community  as everything is better in community.  He says that the fresh raw milk made all the difference to the natural cheeses, which just don't work right with overprocessed and pasteurized milk. 

The realization that raw milk was most suited to cheesemaking gave him a sense that maybe raw milk is better for us than your average store bought milk. and restrictions on its sale take away consumers rights to choose the most healthy and nourishing foods they could eat.  

Asher's Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking is a traveling cheese school that offers workshops in partnership with food-sovereignty-minded organizations and communities.  He feels that these groups are reconnecting people to the food, the farmers and the land that sustain them.  They bring folks together round the dining table, and educate and empower consumers to make more sustainable food choices, and The Black Sheep School's educational offerings fit right in with their directives.  Together, they are helping to build a stronger and more just food system.  

David is an advocate for consumer access to good raw milk.  He feels that better access to raw milk will help improve our cheesemaking culture. He says, "We just don't make cheese as part of our culture here in North America, and this is in large part due to systemic fear of raw milk, and limits on its access."  Raw milk makes a more simple cheesemaking, and a more delicious cheese, and as we learn to work with it safely, people will realize that making home-made dairy products is entirely possible.  

David is on a North American cheese tour promoting his book with the help of his publishers, Chelsea Green.  He is very excited to share his cheesemaking message with the world, and when he returns wants to set up his Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking on the Gulf Islands.

For more information and to buy his book, click here for the Chelsea Green publishers or visit Amazon.

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"There is room for everyone in movement towards social justice. We need everyone on board." says Tasha Henderson, Alumna of the 7 month leadership program for youth committed to social and environmental justice who want to make social change their life’s work, "Next Up". 

“People in positions of power need to start listening to what the community values and give them space to be heard.” 

Tasha spent much of her ‘20’s working on the front-lines with vulnerable populations such as at-risk and Indigenous youth.   It was while participating in the Canadian Roots Exchange program she met an alumna who recommended she enroll in NextUp. After living outside of BC, when she was accepted at UBC to do her Masters in Indigenous Community Planning, she applied to the program as an opportunity to reconnect with the activist scene in Vancouver and to step back professionally to see her work through a larger scope.
 
At first, Tasha didn’t see herself as an activist.  However, she learned there are many forms and roles of activism.  Being part of a larger community working together to make change was a very empowering lesson. 
 
When she met her fellow co-horts, she said, “Wow, they got my name wrong.  I don’t belong here.  The caliber of youth was mind boggling”. She continues, “I felt that I really hadn’t done that much.”  She soon realized that everyone felt a certain level of intimidation by each other.  These feelings were soon overcome as they recognized that the work in social and economic justice is so broad there is room for everyone.  The co-horts ranged from a first-year Engineering student to a PhD cancer researcher to a woman working internationally on climate justice. Learning from each other and the invited guests was a humbling experience. She learned to not be afraid to ask the wrong questions or to accidentally say the wrong thing.  What is more important is to show up and get involved; others will help you learn the rest.
 
For Tasha, the program helped her to see the bridges between movements and issues.  She says, “Too often in our work, we work in silos and operate with a tunnel-vision. There is always an urgency in our work with a sense we are competing for resources, space and money. And working with non-profits often means constant roadblocks and setbacks. It was uplifting and inspiring to be reminded that there is a community at work and we all have our role to play in it."
 
Tasha is finishing her Masters and taking the rest of the summer off to spend time with her 10 month old son.  She Co-Chairs the Board for Check Your Head , a youth-driven organization that educates and activates young people to take action for social, economic and environmental justice.  She is excited to see what new opportunities might come of her new NextUp network and the confidence she gained through the program this Fall.
 
I f you are or know of anyone between 18-31 who is on a continuum of their activist career who is looking for direction, exploring options, and wanting to be part of a broader community, visit www.nextup.ca for more information or email Tasha.  

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