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Inspirational Tuesday ~ Serious Food For Thought about Food and Urbanism

Here are three good pieces on the current state of the world today. I hope they inspire you to look around and be the change we need.

  1. The future is living local, growing local, being a good neighbour and citizen. James Howard Kunstler exposes and asks critical questions about our current urban design and why we stopped developing places that are worth caring about. What has changed in the last 50 years in how we design the very places we inhabit? What does current architecture communicate to us? What does it really say about us? Do we use ‘Nature Band-Aids’ to remedy ‘mutilated urbanism’? Do current habitats induce anxiety and depression?  (Note: contains foul language and intense cynicism). Put on your seat belts, the age of the 3000 mile Caesar Salad is coming to an end and I couldn’t agree more…

 

2. Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture News is a hub of useful and relevant articles available from his Permaculture Research Institute.

What is Permaculture? “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labor; of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.” Bill Mollison

 

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3. This is a must read for those who are currently indifferent to or apathetic about Genetically Modified Organisms that flood our processed foods and crowd out supercenters. The jury is not out on GMO foods as some would have us believe and the hidden funding of ‘impartial’ academic research by big agro is the tip of the iceberg. This article was forwarded to me in the early morning hours by a very good friend of mine.

This article is about the impending defamation lawsuit launched by an academic who was called out by a New York Times journalist on his undisclosed research funding sources. I look forward to seeing all the evidence in this suit.

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

 

All photographs by Jane Grueber 2017

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Creating Urban Food Policy in Every City ~ A Good Read

Food Politics is one of my favorite blogs out there. It addresses the business that the food we eat truly is. Marion Nestle suggested a great read on her blog today about the development of Urban Food Policy – it’s about time.

Enjoy her brief blog post and links and pick up the book “What Makes Urban Food Policy Happen?” that highlights five successful urban policy case studies from around the world.

This book is a must read for those (like me) who want to create an Urban Food Policy in every town – rethinking the way we grow, transport, process and buy food.

 

~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

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Growing Urban ~ Early July

The summer and the entire growing season is going by so quickly. The garden changes almost daily and we are fully enjoying our harvest. Lettuces and spinach make for simple, flavor-filled salads. We shuck peas for breakfast, snack on strawberries, radishes and broccoli. We infuse our drinks with fragrant herbs and patiently await the arrival of our tomatoes and cucumbers. There’s nothing like a fresh salsa or bruschetta on a hot summer day.

Here are some photographs from our garden and its progress. I am really loving the companion plants we put in this year. Not only are they distracting pests of all sorts from the crops, they are a joy to look at.

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It looks like a busy place but among all those companion plants, there are fruits and vegetables.

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Giant dill that is now taller than our scarecrow.

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Runaway cauliflower. If not harvested at the right time, it goes on to create little florets that are not very tasty.

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As someone who loves cakes, I have been thoroughly enjoying the edible flowers in the garden as well. Flowers add such a lovely touch to the top of any cake without the need to go heavy on the icing.

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These cake topping beauties attract bees. Borage flowers, the dashing blue stars, refill with nectar every two minutes and have a way of keeping the bees’ attention. I have been on a mission to capture a bee in action for some time. They flutter from flower to flower and are surprisingly difficult to capture.

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I am in the process of starting up a larger Urban Garden Farm. I want to focus on growing specific greens and herbs that are known to be especially powerful for healing, or helping to ameliorate symptoms of, chronic conditions.

So now I am on a mission to find a polytunnel that will be a good fit for our back yard and for growing food free of chemicals or any off-farm inputs.

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

 

 

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Urban Garden Harvest ~ Early June

It is early June and here are some of the delicious vegetables coming out of our urban garden. Our first harvest included Cherry Belle Radishes, lettuce, spinach and all kinds of herbs including dill, cilantro, parsley, lemon balm, bergamot, lemon verbena, marjoram, thyme, oregano, holy basil, and rosemary.

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The kids enjoyed harvesting the radishes, big and small. They are excited about growing their own food. Planting, watering, harvesting and taking care of a garden are a good life skill that may just come in handy.  When we started our Urban Garden in the Front Yard, we wanted it to be a full contact sport.

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Different kinds of lettuce and spinach are in full force. I love running out the front door and chopping fresh veggies and herbs for a nice salad to go with dinner or as a big part of dinner. The lettuce and spinach regrow relatively quickly so we are able to enjoy a lovely salad everyday. There is something wonderful about eating produce cut minutes before it is consumed.

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Below is a sample of the salads we have been making over the last few weeks.

Radishes, spinach, lettuce and dwarf kale. Fresh dill, holy basil, lemon verbena, cilantro and parsley make it into the salad, too.

I keep the vinaigrette simple, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil, 1 table spoon of Balsamic Vinegar, 1 tablespoon of real Maple Syrup.

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Strawberries are almost ready. They will make a fantastic addition to salads. That is, if they don’t get eaten up first.

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Nasturtium flowers are edible and add a lovely decoration and taste to any salad. Here is our fist flower.

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

All photographs are original by Jane Grueber.

 

 

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Front-Yard Urban Garden ~ May Update

Now that May is half over and all our garden beds have been filled with vegetables, fruit and herbs, it is time to pause and take stock of what is actually growing and to reflect on why we are growing our own and sharing it with others.

~~~

Why a Front Yard Garden?

This is our front yard. We decided to trade our weed-filled front lawn for six 4′ by 8′ raised garden beds filled with organic soil and home-made compost.

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This is our experiment. We want to know how much food we can grow and whether this set up can provide enough for our family of five for a 22 week growing period and beyond.

My hope is that we grow enough produce for our family AND to share with our neighbours as well as those who face household food insecurity in our community.

Read more about our front yard urban garden project here.

What is Household Food Insecurity? 

Not enough nutritious food on the table even though paychecks are coming in? Yes, this does exist in Canada. It is worse in some parts, such as the Northern Territories where two-thirds of children have very limited access to nutritious foods.

On Vancouver Island, where we live, research shows that 25 per cent of families experience some form of household food insecurity and have difficulty putting nutritious meals on the table as their money runs out long before their next paycheck.

Malnutrition in children and adults leads to poor health and mental health outcomes. Developmental difficulties as well as chronic conditions are directly linked to household food insecurity and increased health care costs.

Read more about Household Food Insecurity here.

Nutritious foods sold in ‘Farm Stores’ and Farmers’ Markets are expensive and out of reach for many working families and individuals attempting to manage chronic conditions through better nutrition.

Read more about Household Food Insecurity here.

These challenges are real. They are also opportunities. Growing our own as a way to gain independence and create greater food security in our community is indeed a revolutionary act.  Thankfully, there are many people around the world engaged in such subversive grassroots action. Our family is on a mission to Grow, Share and Thrive.

This is our first year. Our total investment in this front yard urban garden was $1600 CND. This is two months worth of groceries for us.  I know that this seems like a large sum (we saved and used many creative shortcuts). But this is a one time investment. Next year, our own compost and saved seeds will decrease the cost significantly. I see this as an investment that will pay off in the long run and benefit many.

My hope is to help others set up similar operations in their front yards; to provide them with free seeds, free seedlings, free compost (or help them create their own compost), to help them put together garden beds the most cost-effective way possible as well as an easy drip watering system that saves time and money.

I am heartened that people are interested in what we are doing. This year, we were able to give our neighbours tomato and strawberry seedlings as well as unused seeds to help them start their own urban gardens. Naturally, the biggest barrier to growing one’s own is time.

We specifically set up our urban operation to be non-time consuming. Once seeds and plants are in place, it’s water tap on, water tap off. Done.

Want to start your own urban garden? Read more about how to get started here.

Get even more inspiration for growing your own here.

What’s Growing in the Garden?

Cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, radishes, peas, beans, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, squashes of all sorts, watermelon, strawberries, sorrel, garlic, cabbage as well as 32 different herbs and perennials.

Here are some pepper blossoms. They are so delicate. We started the seeds for these from an organic green pepper we purchased at a local store (one way to get seeds). We started the seeds in used organic coffee grounds on our kitchen counter.

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They start out so little.

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Here is some dwarf kale.

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Cauliflower which loved the cooler, damp weather that we had until yesterday when the sun found us.

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This is a Gala Apple Tree. We got the seed from an store bought apple and started it in used organic coffee grounds on our counter. It’s two feet tall now. We have three of these started and have high hopes for adding to our fruit forest in our backyard.

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These wonderful Cherry Belle Radishes are almost ready to be harvested.

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Our first strawberry. Small but sweet and juicy.

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My favorite flowers of all time with the fuzziest leaves ever are back. Borage has reseeded itself and is now growing wildly in all garden beds. The start-shaped flowers are wonderful for bees as they refill with nectar every 2 minutes. Another great nectar producer is Comfrey which refills every 45 minutes.

The fuzzy leaves of this plant are very edible and when I’m out of spinach, I substitute borage leaves when making palak paneer.

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

All photography by Jane Grueber

 

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Want to Start your own Urban Garden? Get Inspired with These Essential Reads

When it comes to urban gardening and urban farming, it is clear that there is a lot going on.

“For the reasons of personal health, personal empowerment and the simple joy of growing, every person in every city needs the opportunity to grow at least some of their own food.” ~ Paul Peacock, author of The Urban Farmer’s Handbook

For those who are thinking about starting your own urban garden or even farm, here are a few books that are essential reads. They are filled with much inspiration and down right practical advice on how to get started and what to do with all those crops. I love these books. Our local library carries them and now they are a permanent part of my growing urban garden library.

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Our urban garden

In addition, community and non-profit groups are also essential for pushing change and working toward a more sustainable future.  Want to get involved or start your own? Here are some excellent examples of the food revolution:

  1. Food Secure Canada (foodsecurecanada.org)
  2.  Urban Farms/Non-Profit Organizations across Canada:
  3. Global Food Security (foodsecurity.ac.uk)
  4. Slow Food (slowfood.com)
  5. Global Eco-Village Network (gen.ecovillage.org)
  6. Transition Towns (transitiontowns.org)

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Essential Reads for the Urban Garden Revolutionary

Urban Farm Projects: Making the Most of Your Money, Space and Stuff

Urban Farm Projects: Making the Most of Your Money, Space and Stuff

“More of us are rethinking how and where food can be grown, leading to a surge in innovation and ingenuity. It;s a movement toward simplification and getting back to the land while incorporating modern technology to facilitate the process. The challenge is how to optimize this on a functional, daily basis. Modern life is too full-full of possessions, activities, news, and information. We have electronic screens in our homes, our offices, our cars, and even our pockets. Everywhere we turn, advertisements tout products that we ‘need’ to make us happy and fulfilled…More and more, people are seeking less and less-fewer objects, fewer activities, less (or at least better) news, more concise information.” ~ Kelly Wood, author of Urban Farm Projects: Making the Most of your Money, Space, and Stuff

 

The Urban Farmer's Handbook

The Urban Farmer’s Handbook

“Food should be free. If I do my part I should hope that this planet of ours will sustain me. Indeed, experience says that it does, particularly in a climate that is neither too hot nor too cold, and has plenty of water. But I can hardly take advantaged of it because I am poor, although in the west I am comparatively well off.” ~ Paul Peacock, author of The Urban Farmer’s Handbook

 

The Essential Urban Farmer

The Essential Urban Farmer

“Urban farming is a way for people of all income levels to eat fresh, local, organic food.  I knew that I didn’t have enough money to buy organic produce or meat, and so I decided to raise it myself…Due to low incomes and lack of access to grocery stores, urban people fail to get the healthy nutrition they need.  A few packets of seeds costing less than twenty dollars can produce enough vegetables for a years worth of eating.” ~ Novella Carpenter, co-author of The Essential Urban Farmer

 

The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities

The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities

‘Government has its role, but all deep change starts with changing our own thoughts and actions. We each make daily choices about what we eat, and we each have the power to change those choices. Governments, corporations, farmers, grocery stores, school cafeterias and restaurants all respond to the aggregated demand of individual people. When we change, they will too.” ~ Peter Lander, author of The Urban Food Revolution

The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities

The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities

The Food Activist Handbook: Big & Small Things You Can Do to Help Provide Fresh, Healthy Food for Your Community

The Food Activist Handbook: Big & Small Things You Can Do to Help Provide Fresh, Healthy Food for Your Community

Urban Agriculture: Ideas and Designs for the New Food Revolution

Urban Agriculture: Ideas and Designs for the New Food Revolution

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

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Growing Urban ~ Raised Garden Beds are Ready

Where we live, a shovel going into the soil does not make it far. The clang of rocks and a sudden stop don’t make the ground a hospitable place for growing food without much augmentation and work to get the soil conditions right. I am not the patient type.

RELATED: Read more about our Urban Garden Project here.

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Our front yard last fall

My wonderful husband was charged with creating raised garden beds for our front lawn so that we could start our urban garden all on a Colt 45 budget. He went to the local saw mill and purchased 36 – 1 by 6 inch rough-sawn red cedar boards and five 4 by 4 inch posts (dimensional posts). In a couple of days, he built six 4 by 8 foot garden beds at a cost of $42 dollars each. The average retail price is over $200 dollars each.

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Our front yard Spring 2017

Although I filled the first garden bed with our own compost as well as purchased organic compost, it took a lot of dirt to fill one garden bed. To fill the other five, we will order some organic manure and soil from a local supplier.

Starting a garden this size is certainly an investment in the future. We have done it with budget at the front-of-mind. Sourcing wood directly from a local saw mill (there are plenty here on Vancouver Island), purchasing half-dead annuals and perennials at hugely discounted prices and using saved seeds from last year’s gardening exploits.

Herbs for the Garden

I have to admit I invested in some amazing medicinal herbs/vegetables from a local farm – Hazelwood Herb Farm. They are mostly perennials:

  1. American Arnica
  2. Betony
  3. Bistort (Shakeroot)
  4. Burdock
  5. German Chamomile
  6. Hedge Hyssop
  7. Horehound
  8. Lovage
  9. Lemon Balm
  10. White Yarrow
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Herbs purchased from Hazelwood Herb Farm

Upon the suggestion of Hazelwood Herb Farm, I ordered a copy of Jekka’s Complete Herb Book and await its arrival so that I can learn more about the world of medicinal herbs. If I’m going to grow all this stuff, it behooves me to know what it’s for, right?

Jekka’s Complete Herb Book

 

All that money and effort will hopefully pay off over the next 5 to 10 years as the perennials become established and annuals reseed themselves. I am motivated by the hope and promise of fresh, organically grown produce, including culinary and medicinal herbs. My sense of joy and inspiration are renewed with all the possibilities growing (or about to grow) in our urban garden.

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First Raised Bed is ready to Grow

Sowing Seeds

Our first raised garden bed now contains the following seeds and plants started on April 5, 2017:

  1. Hedge Hyssop (plant)
  2. German Chamomile (plant)
  3. White Yarrow (plant)
  4. Gaillardia (seeds)
  5. Sunflowers (seeds)
  6. Radishes (heritage seeds)
  7. Carrots (heritage seeds)
  8. Kale (heritage seeds)
  9. Cauliflower (heritage seeds)
  10. Cabbage (heritage seeds)
  11. Spinach (heritage seeds)
  12. Lettuce (heritage seeds)
  13. Peas/Beans (heritage seeds)
  14. Cucumbers (soon to be transplanted)
  15. Various Squashes (soon to be transplanted)

I ordered heritage seeds from West Coast Seeds and Heritage Harvest Seeds.

~Grow~Share~Thrive~ 

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Growing Urban ~ Here We Grow

All photographs by Jane Grueber Copyright 2017

Here we go. Finally the time has come to get our food garden plans underway on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. It is so wonderful to see people sharing their joy of growing food on social media. Their joy and enthusiasm are highly contagious and fill me with inspiration for 2017. I am inspired by the principles of Permaculture (being fully aware that it is so much more than ‘gardening’) and appreciate Geoff Lawton’s inclusive invitation to his Permaculture Circle to those who are just starting out or perma-curious as well as those for whom it’s old hat.

Last year, we started growing our own food in our back and side yard for fun. It was a way to show our three kids where food comes from and how to grow it. After seeing and tasting the results of what benign neglect in a garden can produce, I was eager to grow more of our own. Our front lawn has a usable area of about 360 square feet (9 feet by 40 feet). We have planted fruit shrubs among the existing decorative bushes and trees and it is now time to turn the grass into a vegetable garden.

Read more about our Front Yard Urban Garden Project here.

This year, we have decided to conduct an experiment in our very sunny front yard which has thus far been a haven for weeds, dandelions and moss. The plan is to set up garden beds using  compost, yard ‘waste’ and mulch to grow vegetables, herbs and companion plants in semi-accordance with Permaculture principles that I have managed to glean from various sources.

On a side note, our fenced backyard is well on its way to becoming a self-sustaining fruit forest (tall native fruit trees, native fruit shrubs underneath, perennial herbs and flowers, etc.) where the deer and bears can’t get at them while still affording some room for three young kids to roam.

Read more about inspiring examples of Urban Agriculture here.

At the end of this experiment, I want to be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much produce can a roughly 360 square foot garden yield?
  • Can a front yard garden feed a family of 5 for an entire 22 week growing season and beyond?
  • Can we grow enough food to share with others?
  • Can growing our own save us money overall?
  • Can we set up a viable (and deer proof) garden with minimal investment of time and money?
  • Is the effort to grow our own food worth it? (or is it just easier to go to a store and buy)
  • Can we help other busy families and neighbours set up and grow their own food with minimal cost through sharing of resources, seeds, and skills?

Read more about Creating Food Security in your small circle here.

With six 8 foot by 4 foot garden beds to fill (to be built), we decided to start a few plants in the house now. We will start more in about 3 weeks in order to stretch the yield over a longer period of time. Last year, I put everything in at once and felt the consequences of feast and famine later.

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My hope is that once the weather gets warmer in April, these seedling will be ready to go.

We also have plenty of seeds saved from last year which will go directly into the ground.

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This is what we planted so far:

18 tomato plants

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  1. Money Maker Tomato – heavy producer
  2. Bush Beef Steak Tomato – great slicing tomato; sweet flavour
  3. Cherry Tomato Sweetie – plants produce sweet (1 oz) cherry red fruit throughout the summer
  4. Jubilee Tomato – in intermediate beefsteak variety that produces golden-orange fruit 1/2 lbs in weight

12 Zucchini/Squash

  1. Waltham Butternut Squash – a very heavy producer of bulbous shaped, creamy yellow smooth skinned fruit
  2. Golden Zucchini (C. Pepo)
  3. Yokohama Squash (C. Moschata)
  4. Dark Green Zucchini – easy to grow, plants mature quickly, heavy yield
  5. Spaghetti Squash – winter or storage squash
  6. Ronde De Nice Zucchini (C. Pepo)

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12 Cucumbers

  1. Beit Alpha Cucumber

3 Watermelon

  1. Sugar Baby Watermelon – a dependable, easy-to-grow variety that produces round, sweet, crisp melons.

3 Giant Atlantic Dill Pumpkins – produces pumpkins over 3 feet across weighing over 100 lbs

15 Nasturtium

  1. Single Tall Climbing nasturtium
  2. Alaska Mix – dwarf nasturtium with marbled foliage
  3. Empress of India
  4. Whirlybird
  5. Phoenix

6 Peas

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  1. Oregon Sugar Pod – Mild, sweet flavour, heavy yield
  2. Lincoln Homesteader Peas – good early crop, heavy yield

6 Beans/Legumes

  1. Tendergreen Bush Beans – great flavour and large yield
  2. Bush Beans – early starters

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

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Turbo the Dog sniffing Bush Beans

 

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Growing Urban ~ Progress on our Front Yard Garden

“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small-scale, in our own gardens. If only 10 percent of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.” 

~Bill Mollison, Founder of Permaculture

January is almost over, the snow bells are in bloom and spring is around the corner. It is so exciting to start working on our urban garden in earnest.

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This is our green (and somewhat weedy) front lawn. 9 feet by 40 feet. Soon to be a Vegetable Garden, a Bourgeoning Ecosystem and a Sensory Garden.

Growing Urban

  • How much produce can 360 square feet yield?
  • Can this feed a family of 5 for an entire 22 week growing season and beyond?
  • Can growing our own save us money or even make money?
  • Can this small garden also provide fresh produce for our neighbors?

Thinking & Acting Locally

If we think globally and realize our interconnectedness, we will realize how important it is to act locally. While working to change the political and economic situation which creates the causes of hunger in our communities and internationally, we must also cultivate grassroots food projects which help people build food security.

The most powerful grassroots force is communities coming together to take back some control over their access to a variety of nutrient-dense food.

Food security and the food system affect everyone in some way. As the world population increases (currently around 7.5 billion), new solutions to hunger including the maldistribution of available food and the cost of large-scale agricultural production (economic, environmental, physiological and social) will most certainly need to be addressed some time soon.

The terms local, sustainable, locavore and others are relatively new, at times, misunderstood and even ridiculed. But if we truly look at and honestly assess the impact that our shopping/consumer patterns are having on the entire system, we would walk away knowing that seeking out local, small-scale food producers or growing our own is an integral part of the solution.

“Grassroots projects in and of themselves do not change the forces that create  high unemployment and inadequate social assistance rates. However, people’s lives are improved immediately through these projects by reducing food insecurity and enabling people to experience the power of working in coalition with others. It then becomes possible for them to envision themselves as activists for social change, working to create a just society in which hunger no longer exists. It is their critical perspective and understanding of the food system ‘from below’ which can shape a compelling vision and effective action for change.” Laura Kalina, Building Food Security in Canada: From Hunger to Sustainable Food Systems: A Community Guide, Second Edition, pg. 19

A Garden Starts with Seeds

Planning this year’s garden brings a smile to my face. Growing our own food last year was a liberating and joyful process, but I didn’t really have a plan. Last year was an experiment to see what would grow and where (in the different microclimates around the house) and what we actually used in the kitchen. We used a lot of tomatoes, kale, lettuce, spinach, sorrel, carrots, cucumber, borage (both the fuzzy leaves and the beautiful edible flowers), pumpkins, summer and winter squashes and zucchini.

Fresh herbs are essential in our kitchen and this year I am growing them using ‘hugelkultur‘, which is growing food on a mound or what I call my ‘herb hill’. Basil, oregano, verbena, thyme, marjoram, flat leaf parsley, cilantro, dill and lemon balm are some of my favorites.

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Dazzling purple borage flowers and sunflowers in our garden last year. Borage refills with nectar every 2 minutes, no wonder the bees were all over it. Photograph by Jane Grueber Copyright 2016

Although I saved many seeds or shook dry seeds directly back into our already existing garden beds, I ordered some new Heritage seeds for our front yard urban garden project. My goal is to save most, if not all, seeds that grow well in our climate each season.

List of Heritage Seeds (vegetables & herbs):

  1. Hopi Red Dye Amaranth – this ancient grain grows well in pots and dried seeds can be easily ground into flour
  2. Calabrese Broccoli
  3. Chieftan Savoy Cabbage
  4. Scarlet Nantes Carrots
  5. Beit Alpha Cucumber
  6. Lacinato Kale
  7. Crisp Mint Lettuce
  8. Black Hungarian Peppers
  9. California Wonder Peppers
  10. Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach
  11. Yokohama Squash
  12. Ronde de Nice Squash
  13. Golden Zucchini

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~Grow with the Flow~

Resources

Kalina, Laura (2001).  Building Food Security in Canada: From Hunger to Sustainable Food Systems: A Community Guide, Second Edition.

 

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Talking Urban Gardening on the Radio

The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything…or nothing. ~Lady Astor

I am a lover of all things sustainable, local and organic. I am a nature enthusiast, gardener, photographer, writer and hiker. My passion lies in connecting or re-connecting people with the power of nature and the earth.

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On The Radio

I was invited to do a short spot on the Dr. Theresa Nicassio Radio Show on Healthy Life Radio Network – All Positive Talk Radio on January 2, 2017. Theresa asked me to come on to talk about the various urban gardening projects that are going on around the world – some of which I have been reading and writing about.

There are so many people growing their own food and their stories need to be shared. These urban gardeners are revolutionaries in their own right and are certainly an inspiration.

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The Urban Agriculture Projects I spoke about on Theresa’s show have several things in common:

  1. they strive to reduce the environmental impact food production
  2. they promote and encourage self-reliance or some degree of independence from the current agriculture system (whose practices are destructive to the planet)
  3. they strive to reconnect communities and bring people together, connect people to nature and teach about stewardship – get people outside and active
  4. most importantly, by growing food in the public realm, they provide food for anybody who wants access to fresh, nutrient-dense food that has been grown without any chemicals

Growing food in the public realm seems, in this day and age, a subversive and revolutionary act. Millions of people in North America are doing it.

Simple food choices we make on a daily basis are revolutionary.

Listen to the Show from January 2, 2017 here.

(My bit comes in at the 30 minute mark)

 

The featured guest on January 2, 2017 was Eyoalha Baker. She spoke so eloquently on the show about the impact of sharing joy through her amazing murals.

JumpForJoyPhotoProject.com

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~Go on. Be Amazing~

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Creating Food Security in Your Community – Is it on Your Vision Board for 2017?

“Food is a profoundly social urge. Food is almost always shared; people eat together; mealtimes are events when the whole family or settlement or village comes together. Food is also an occasion for sharing, for distributing and giving, for the expression of altruism, whether from parents to children, children to in-laws, or anyone to visitors and strangers. Food is the most important thing a mother gives a child; it is the substance of her own body, and in most parts of the world mother’s milk is still the only safe food for infants. Thus food becomes not just a symbol of, but the reality of, love and security.”  ~ Robin Fox from Food and Eating: An Anthropological Perspective

Why write about food security (having access to enough and good quality food) at this time of year?  As many people set about creating goals, vision boards or targets for the up coming year, it is my hope that in addition to focusing on the refinement and re-genesis of ‘me’, we also include ‘me’ as part of a larger community and incorporate goals that support and enhance that community.

One of my goals for 2017 is to grow and/or glean enough fresh fruits and vegetables to provide for my family and for those in our community who do not have regular access to fresh produce.

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Why would people living in countries where food is ‘cheap’, available in mass quantities, and sold in convenient supermarkets, super-centers or wholesale club stores, often disposed of before expiring, want to grow their own food or glean food from a neighbor’s yard?

The reasons are varied: food contamination (pesticides/herbicides), food modification, food insecurity, increasing prices of produce that is shipped into local stores due to drought conditions in food producing regions such as California, and the increasing cost of shipping.  Carolyn Herriot, author and local farmer in Central Vancouver Island, defined food security as ‘making sure your neighbour is fed’. Her words resonate deeply with me.

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Food security and safety elicit a particularly strong reaction in me. I grew up in eastern Europe in the 1980’s. My grandparents and parents grew their own food due to food shortages. We often reminisce (still 30 years later) about ‘standing in line for toilet paper’. The reality was, people in communist countries ‘stood in line’ for everything.

We immigrated to Canada in late 1986. In those early days, we used the food bank several times when income was tight. We picked up day old food at a local grocery store every Saturday on behalf of a local church. The food was distributed to those in need and we were lucky to get a share.

Although it has been many years since I’ve had to visit a food bank, I am compelled to contribute in some way and to pay-it-forward.

According to Canada Without Poverty:

  • 1 in 7 people in Canada are currently living in poverty.
  • These people are our neighbors, persons with disabilities, single parents, Aboriginal persons, the elderly and racialized communities.
  • 540,000 children across Canada live in conditions of poverty.
  • 20.4% of children in British Columbia live in poverty.
  • 1 in 8 Canadian households struggle to put food on the table (2.4 million households and almost 1 million children).

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The United Nations Economic and Social Council noted the following in Article 11 (May 1999) on the Right to Adequate food:

“The Committee observes that while the problems of hunger and malnutrition are often particularly acute in developing countries, malnutrition, under-nutrition and other problems which relate to the right to adequate food and the right to freedom from hunger also exist in some of the most economically developed countries. Fundamentally, the roots of the problem of hunger and malnutrition are not lack of food but lack of access to available food…”(1)

Could food insecurity and limited access to high nutritional quality foods be alleviated (at least in part) by growing and/or gleaning fruits and vegetables instead of green lawns and colorful flower beds?

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Would growing your own – on a balcony in a bag of dirt or in a raised garden bed – provide a passive example to neighbors and strangers alike of how easy it can be? Check out this 4 minute video and get inspired.

Make some of your New Year’s goals about how you can be a part of the food security solution in your community. Here are some resources to get you started:

  1. Start your own Food Is Free Project: (a) Collective Evolution: How to start a food is free project & (b) Food Is Free: How to Start a Food is Free Project Guide
  2. A Farm in a Shipping Container: Wouldn’t it be amazing if whole neighborhoods and/or school districts got together (and perhaps acquired government funding) to purchase Green Leafy Machines to grow their own food with a low carbon footprint all year round? Since publishing my article about Tamara Knott’s Shipping Container Farm, I have had many inquiries about it. It is inspiring to see how many people are re-thinking food and consciously choosing to have a direct hand in what they eat and how food is distributed.
  3. Gleaning: Let’s manage what we grow and be responsible with the food that is already available. Here are some organizations that can pick fruit and distribute it to those in need. Perhaps you can volunteer or start your own such organization in your area.
    1. Farm to Cafeteria (Canada) – Farm to Cafeteria Canada (F2CC) is a pan-Canadian organization whose vision is  “vibrant and sustainable regional food systems that support the health of people place and planet.” F2CC works with  partners across Canada to educate, build capacity, strengthen partnerships, and influence policy to bring local, healthy, and sustainable foods into all public institutions.
    2. Zero Waste Canada – The Fruit Tree Project rescues fruit from backyards. They have volunteer organizations all over Canada, including Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal as well as in smaller communities.
    3. Cowichan Valley FruitSave Program (Central Vancouver Island, Canada) – the FruitSave Project is a local gleaning program that organizes volunteers to harvest backyard fruit that would otherwise go to waste.  This naturally grown fruit is shared between the homeowner, the pickers, and the Valley’s many emergency food providers.
    4. FarmFolk CityFolk (all over British Columbia, Canada) – Fruit Tree projects enlist a great group of volunteers who will assist with the picking of fruit in your backyard, fruit tree care, and preserving workshops. Fruit is distributed among homeowners, volunteers, community groups and food banks.
    5. Gleaning Abundance (Kamloops, BC, Canada) – Home owners with too much fruit on their trees or vegetables in their garden contact us to share their abundance.
    6. Food Secure Canada – check out their Relocalization Network Project proposal so you can start your own
    7. Village Harvest (US) – This website provides a list (in progress) of groups which glean, harvest, collect, rescue, or recover fruit or produce for charitable purposes in the US.
    8. FeedBack (UK & Europe) – The Gleaning Network coordinates volunteers, farmers and food redistribution charities to salvage the thousands of tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables that are wasted on farms every year across the UK and Europe, and direct this fresh, nutritious food to people in need.

 

Resources

(1)  Substantive issues arising in the implantation of the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights committed on economic, social and cultural rights; Twentieth session Geneva, 26 April-14 May 1999, Agenda item 7 pp. 2-3)

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Be A Part of the ‘Re-Generation’ – Inspiring Examples of Urban Agriculture Today

Example isn’t another way to teach, it IS the way to teach.”

~Albert Einstein~

Urban agriculture, urban farming or urban gardening, according to Wikipedia, is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city. Urban agriculture can also involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban beekeeping, and horticulture.

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Urban agriculture, where food is produced and consumed locally, with minimal to no input (pesticides, herbicides) is the way of the future. Here’s why: food security, food safety as well as ecological and human health depend upon it.

True revolution – that is change in the current food system – will occur on the plate.

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Each time we buy food, we vote. Voting is not just an every-4-years-phenomenon. It is a daily reality. We vote to either keep the current and unsustainable status quo or we vote for change in the food system by purchasing local or growing our own.

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Here are some amazing examples of people banding together and voting (with money, attitude, and action) for change. What affects one, affects everyone.

Inspiration for the Gardener’s Soul

Use the Soil

There are many reasons to grow your own; climate change is one of those reasons. There are 880 gigatons of carbon floating in the atmosphere right now throwing the earth out of balance. One of the ways that we can bring this basic building block of life back into balance on our planet is to grow. Simply put, the plants we grow take carbon out of the atmosphere (using photosynthesis), turn it into sugars and starches and put it back into the soil.

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December 5th was “World Soil Day“. Watch ‘The Soil Story’ below – take 4 minutes to watch, learn and share what you can personally do to be an active part of the climate change solution and a part of ‘regenerative agriculture’.

“On World Soil Day, I call for greater attention to the pressing issues affecting soils, including climate change, antimicrobial resistance, soil-borne diseases, contamination, nutrition and human health.” — UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

 

Get Growing

It is exciting to read about the various community organized food growing projects and food growing initiatives that are happening around the world today. These are the people who are part of the climate change solution. They are paving the way for a vibrant ecological future now.

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The purpose of these projects is to get fresh and organic produce to as many people as possible.

The amazing thing is that they center around and involve entire communities of people. Together they are setting the example: the positive actions of a few are benefiting larger communities and addressing significant needs.

Here are just a few examples of what collectively conscious communities can do:

1. Food Is Free Project

This project started with one front yard garden. Now, over 300 cities around the world have started a Food Is Free Movement.  The idea to grow gardens and community began to spread after three months and hasn’t stopped. Check out these Food Is Free Websites:

Start Your Own Food Is Free Project with this Guide.

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2. The Female Farmer Project

Audra Mulkern is a cook, writer and photographer. She writes about and photographs “The Female Farmer Project”   – a chronicle of in-depth stories about the rise of women working in agriculture around the world.  Check out her “Visual Story Telling from the Farm” project. Inspiration abounds here.

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3. Green Lawns to Urban Farms in Florida 

Chris Castro is the founder of Fleet Farming. He believes in growing food not lawns. Chris, along with a group of volunteers, are on a mission to turn Florida’s perfectly green laws into urban farms. Check out his amazing website and his visionary mission statement.

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4. An Urban Food Street in Australia

What started out as planting and growing lime trees due to the high cost of limes in 2009, has now become an 11 street urban agriculture project. This ‘Urban Food Street‘ produced 900 kilograms of bananas and 300 cabbages in 2015. Although not everyone grows food on their lawns in this neighborhood, everyone contributes assets and/or skills for the greater good of the community.

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5. ‘Agrihood’ in Detroit

If you need an alternative neighbourhood growth model, here is one for you. The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) has created a two-acre garden with trees and a ‘sensory garden’ for kids. MUFI, a non profit organization, hopes to tackle issues such as ‘nutritional illiteracy’ and ‘food insecurity’ in Detroit.

 

6. A Planned, EcoFriendly Neighborhood with integrated Agriculture

This Davis, California neighborhood is located close to downtown making walking and biking easy. It features solar powered homes equipped with led lighting, tankless water heaters and other energy saving features. It also has a 7.4 acre organic working farm that grows and sells organic food to its residents.

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7. Re purposing with Real Impact

What can be done with abandoned schools or other such buildings? Caroline Hadilaksono designed an all-in-one urban food center. She dreamed up a space where the local community can come together to grow, harvest, prepare, sell and eat food, all in an abandoned school building. Her idea centers around the notion of community building and won the GOOD Competition which called for ideas on how to re purpose old, abandoned school buildings across the US. This is something all communities could get behind.

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Call to Action

Dear Reader, write to me. Share your urban gardening stories and innovative food security solutions – I would love to compile and feature all such stories here with all credit given.

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Featured photograph and vegetable harvest photograph by Jane Grueber

Other photographs courtesy of pexels.com