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Harmer in harmony with Hamilton's Greenbelt Harvest philosophy

08/21/2012 08:23 EDT | Updated 10/21/2012 05:12 EDT
Sarah Harmer thinks the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic is more than “sonically awesome.”

The famed Canadian songwriter thinks it’s also an opportunity to promote organic farming.

The festival — set for Sept. 1 at the Christie Lake Conservation Area — promotes the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation’s work to protect Ontario’s Greenbelt, which Harmer says was an important vision on behalf of the Liberal government to “set aside this land so that it’s not just randomly bought up.”

“Because there’s already been so much sprawl in the Greater Toronto and Golden Horseshoe Area,” said Harmer, who is from Burlington.

The festival and foundation’s objectives of protecting wetlands and farmlands overlap well with her environmental activism. The Juno award winner co-founded the community group “PERL” — Protecting Escarpment Rural Land — in 2005, and works actively to educate Canadians about threats to the environment.

Harmer will be sharing the stage with big-name acts like Feist, Emmylou Harris, and Gord Downie, but in her view, some of the biggest stars at the festival are the farmers and “food-conscious” folks.

“I’m really excited that this year there will be booths set up by CBAN [the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network],” one such food-conscious group, she said, “to really get the word out about genetically modified seeds.”

Harmer hopes the Canadian government will not permit genetically modified seeds, such as alfalfa, despite pressure by chemical industries. “It’s a huge, grave risk to organics and it’s a grave risk to democracy,” she said in an interview at CBC Hamilton's James Street North office.

“So at the Harvest Picnic I know that there’ll be information so that the general public will start to understand how this is a big concern.”

Harmer’s enthusiasm for the festival isn’t limited to educational opportunities.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the Sadies backing up Gord Downie,” she said, and for playing with “local celebrity” Julie Fader.

She played at last year’s festival and remembers stocking up on local produce.

“Bring your grocery bags, bring your reusable bags,” Harmer recommended. “And bring your bathing suit.”

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