The David Busby Street Centre

March 31, 2011 at 10:24 am Leave a comment

We are very excited to have Andrew Miller join our “The Root of the Idea Exchange” at Ecofest!

One of his favorite quotes seems to sum up his reasoning behind founding Back to Basics.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Read more on his inspiring story below in his guest post.

The David Busby Street Centre

It’s quite exhilarating when you put yourself in a new situation where you’re out of your element and pushing your comfort zone. Not knowing what to expect, feeling perhaps a bit intimidated while jumping into the unknown, your mind making up ‘what if’ scenarios, all while getting shots of excitement by the potential for making a difference in someone’s life.  This is what I can remember experiencing two years ago during my first day volunteering at the David Busby Street Centre in downtown Barrie.

Looking back, I can see just how transformative that experience has been in my life.  It helped change my perspective of the world and how it works. I met people from all walks of life, many with tragic pasts including abuse and all that goes along with having to live on the streets.  Through their stories, I realized how we are all connected by our life’s common needs.  To survive, we all need clean water, healthy food and a safe place to live.  To thrive, we need a relevant education and access to resources.

The dedicated staff and volunteers at the Busby Centre also had a severe impact on my work ethic.  They give unconditionally to the people they serve and always without judgement, working long hours for little pay and, at times, little support. Chronically understaffed, they do a wonderful job with the limited resources they have access to.  The poverty epidemic can, at times,  feel overwhelming when you are working towards making positive change. Even with the challenges they face every day, the staff have a wonderful dynamic and have learned how to stay positive and move forward.

Their sphere of influence hit me hard in the chest. How could I, as an organic vegetable farmer, adapt my industry to benefit those who can’t afford the extra price for organic food. Now I’m talking about people who have less than $100 per month to spend on food and personal items, after paying rent.  Many of the Busby participants relied on the food provided by the Grocery Assistance Program or G.A.P., run out of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Simcoe County and I would help people sign up for this wonderful service.  One day, it all just clicked; I was going to grow as much food as possible with the help of volunteers and give it to G.A.P, the Salvation Army, the Busby Centre and Youth Haven.

It’s amazing how it all came together. No one is going to stand in the way of the right idea, once they understand that it’s for the common good. Bruce from Chappell’s Farm donated some land for us to farm, Bob from Richards’ Farm Equipment donated a tractor to do the tilling, John from Pine House Farm donated his walk-behind rototiller (amongst many other things, thanks!), a few people donated seeds, and some donated money to purchase seeds. We had a half acre (100 ft x 200 ft) garden ready to grow food and a goal of 5000 pounds of food to give away. Twenty or so wonderful volunteers were recruited along the way as word got out and we were ready to get our farm on! Back to Basics was born.

We met out at the garden plot every Sunday with most volunteers giving 1 or 2 hours of their time. We had volunteers ages 2 to 72 coming to help us grow carrots, potatoes, squash, onions and beans.  Growing food organically means working with nature, not against it. We use no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.  In stead of spraying to kill weeds, we pick them and hoe them by hand. It’s a lot of work but super good for the earth and our bodies. We fought off potato beetles and soggy weather and with our bare hands, hit our 5000 pound donation goal.

Paula King, the executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society and G.A.P., was so appreciative to receive the fresh produce that she wanted to collaborate with Back to Basics to make this initiative bigger and better. Last winter we wrote a grant proposal to the Ontario Trillium Foundation and four months later we got it! Now that I could work on this full-time, we upped the goal to 15,000 pounds of food donated. More land was donated to us, more volunteers came out, more food was planted. In order to keep sustainable into the future, we designed a business model that allows us to donate 20% of sales to G.A.P. as food. Not 20% of profits, 20% of sales, right off the top.

It was a tremendous season with more than 80 new volunteers getting their hands dirty and thumbs greener with us. We met our 15,000 pound goal last month and because of a bumper crop, we are neck deep in delicious, sweet, organic carrots. We are selling a 2 lb. bags of carrots for $4 that also come with vouchers certifying that we will give away 2 lb. of food to the G.A.P. in your name.   We also have 50 lb. bags of carrots that are selling for $50.  If you are interested in purchasing, or volunteering, email us at or call 705-716-4006.  Thanks to all our supporters and volunteers for a great season!

Sincerely yours,

Andrew  Miller

For more info on Andrew Miller and Back to Basics:


Youtube: Back2Basics09’s

Twitter: @amillergp


Entry filed under: Back to Basics, barter, buy local, City of Barrie, eco friendly, ecofest, food and drink, gardening, Green Party, ontario, Social Development, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

April Ecofest Barrie News! Eco Fashion Friday Spotlight (Part 1)

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