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Great article about growing local food here.

(and don’t forget, if you want to get on the garden listserv, see post below for address).

The urban gardener

Kingston Whig-Standard (ON)
Mon 05 Nov 2007
Page: 1 Section: Front
Byline: Jennifer Pritchett – Environment Reporter

A Queen’s researcher has found that if Kingston residents grew some
of their own fruit and vegetables, they could reduce greenhouse gas
emissions annually by up to 14,000 tonnes – or the equivalent of
taking 4,700 compact cars off the road.

Sunny Lam, who recently completed his Master’s thesis on local food
production, spoke about urban agriculture at Kingston’s first Local
Food Summit, held over the weekend at St. Lawrence College.

“There just aren’t enough farmers out there to meet the demand for
food,” he said, in an interview.

Lam’s answer to the shortage is growing fruit and vegetables in
backyards, parks, green spaces, community gardens and even vacant
lots instead of trucking it in from other places. Not only would this
help meet the demand for local produce and reduce air emissions from
transportation, but would create up to 800 jobs, he said.

He also said Kingston has a total of 2,000 acres of accessible land
on which to grow food.

Kingston citizens spend around $325 million each year on food and
most of that is spent on items that are brought into the city from
somewhere else, states his research.

Local residents consume about 11 million kilograms of 39 common fresh
fruits and vegetables that could be produced locally, according to Lam.

Those items that are currently trucked in but could be grown here
include apples, beans, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, cheese, corn,
garlic, tomatoes and peas, to name a few.

He said only about seven per cent of those items are currently
produced locally.

He proposes that the number could be much higher if local residents
grew more of their own food and if an emerging brand of farmer called
the “urban farmer” would grow such produce on donated or leased land
and then sell it locally in farmer’s markets and in grocery stores.

“They wouldn’t be like your typical farmer – they wouldn’t need a big
tractor [because they work on such a small scale],” said Lam.

The urban farmer, said Lam, is the answer for many working families
who want locally grown produce but are simply too busy to grow their
own.

“Urban agriculture will contribute to Kingston’s ability to adapt and
thrive in a changing world where expensive energy and dwindling
natural resources are becoming pronounced,” states a summary of his
research he presented to Kingston’s city council earlier this year.

About 28 per cent of Kingston residents currently have some kind of
edible garden, according to Lam’s research.

If more people had a fruit and vegetable patch on their property, he
said, the city’s environment, health and quality of life would improve.

Lam, who is also a volunteer with the Food Down Road project, which
organized the food summit, used Statistics Canada data to determine
how much food is trucked into Kingston on an annual basis and how
many kilometres it has to travel to get here.

Based on those figures, he calculated that cutting the amount of food
transported in could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 14,000
tonnes, or the equivalent to 4700 compact cars driving over 18,000
kilometres per year.

Peter Dowling, an organic dairy farmer on Howe Island and a local
representative for the National Farmers Union, which was also
involved in the summit, said the event was a big success with all 18
workshops selling out on Saturday and more than 300 people – mostly
local farmers – attending.

“As we look forward, we’d like to see a community council on a more
permanent basis developed for guiding the process [to develop a local
food system] and become a sounding board,” he said, in an interview.

Plans to develop such a community council will take place in the
coming months.

Dowling said the whole idea of promoting community gardens was a
common theme during the weekend conference.

“People can connect with their food by actually growing it – you
can’t get any more local than that,” he said. “If you have a
community garden, people can learn from each other. It’s all
possible. We’re all quite optimistic about what we can accompish as a
community.”

jpritchett<at>thewhig.com

© 2007 Osprey Media Group Inc. All rights reserved.

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links

There is so much discussion and attention on food issues these days.  Finally, fortunately, and necessarily.  Here are a couple websites that are worth checking out.

First, the UN has a Food and Agriculture division.  This year, on October 16th, they will celebrate World Food Day with the theme, Right to Food.

– The Right to Food is the right of every person to have regular access to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and culturally acceptable food for an active, healthy life. It is the right to feed oneself in dignity, rather than the right to be fed. With more than 850 million people still deprived of enough food, the Right to Food is not just economically, morally and politically imperative – it is also a legal obligation.

Ideally, a bunch of us write articles for the local papers and programs for radio connecting local initiatives with global movements to continue to educate ourselves and the masses about food security.  For more info, check the website:  www.foa.org/righttofood.

Another idea that I have been hearing about repeatedly is SPIN farming.  Basically, as I understand it, SPIN (small plot intensive) farming is an economic and strategic framework that entrepreneurs can use to grow food in urban areas in an economically successful way.

SPIN-Farming is a very powerful tool for validating the economic viability of urban agriculture….The big opportunities I see for SPIN-Farming are that it provides a farming concept that can be learned and practiced across all economic classes and geographical boundaries, and that it will foster engaged, rather than escapist, agriculture, whereby farmers return to cities and towns and rebuild local food systems that are human in scale and joyful in spirit.

The idea is finding recognition in science and sustainability journals, such as the one the above quote is taken from.  This article is contains a good summary of the key concepts of SPIN farming, about halfway down the page.

More soon…

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Well, the beds are planted, the fence is up, some paths are mulched, the bulletin boards are up, our rainbarrels have arrived, and the university is engaged.

The garden has seen some lovely help in the last week, and is looking well loved for the efforts. Thanks to the transplant donations from Ted Hutton and Alex Denicola (beloved organic market farmers) and the help of the super-fun folks who have been coming out Thursdays and Saturdays, the beds are planted with brazilian snow peas, scarlet runner beans, lettuce, chard, carrots, cherry and beefstake tomatos, celery and celeriac, leeks, radishes, basil, cabbage, parsley, onions, broccoli, and chick peas. With the warm weather, things are really starting to gro.

In an effort to make the site look adorable and loved, we mulched some of the pathways with newpaper and sawdust, which also keeps the weeds down, adds some organic matter to the soil, and clearly denotes the walking areas.

The beds are all mulched with straw, thanks to Kim Thompson and Kyla whom left it there last year. If there was only one key to ecological gardening, it would be mulch. Mulch mulch mulch! It protects the soil from getting rock-hard and crusty, it protects and feeds the soil flora and fauna, it helps the soil retain moisture, and it builds soil rather than see it erode. In nature the soil is always covered with leaf ‘litter’ or plant cover; exposed soil is wounded soil. So our beds -even our pots- are mulched, giving the garden a cozy feel. (For more great info see Ruth Stout’s book, How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back).

Riverview Herbs donated a flat of herbs to us this week. The sweet folk gave us arnica, rue, angelica, lovage, hardy sweet marjoram, mother of thyme, betony, lavender, lime mint, and roman chamomile. The herbs are planted up in a sweet new bed made of glass bricks that wraps around the signpost and in a coupld other lucky spots around the garden. Having perrenials in the garden helps to give it a much more stable feel. Huge thanks to Riverview for being generous and appreciative of the value of collective gardens.

And our rainbarrels were delivered on Friday by Steve Spinney and Steve Trim of Acadia Seaplant, accompanied by a sweet note saying how much joy it brought to see our effort. Four huge rainbarrels delivered, free of charge, complete with traces of organic nutrients, and sent with a blessing.

The next step for the rainbarrels is putting them together. Earlier in the season a great guy who is a plumbing apprentice came through the garden. He said he would be interested in figuring what we need to connect three barrels together and put in a tap we could connect a garden hose to. I am hoping to hear back from his this week, and to connect the barrels together on Saturday. If you have any knowledge in this realm, have done it before, or have any gear you could donate to the mission, please email garden@nspirg.org. It would be great to have a discusion around the best methods, tips and tricks. And if you want to learn these skills for yourself come on by Saturday around 11am. (I will post an update friday afternoon to say if we are on for this project or not: hopefully someone of knowledge gets back to me so that I can make sure we have all the gear and tools we need to).

If you hear rainbarrels and are not interested, you think they are irrelevant to you, perhaps pause for a moment and think about water. Drinking water, washing your face, rinsing your lettuce… now remember what happens when the power goes out. Yup, there goes the water. As Alex says, “Doom is certain, gloom is optional”.

And, the university is wishing further engagement with the site. This is coming in a few forms: facilities management is organizing and paying for soil tests to be done on the site to find out is the soil is contaminated. While this means we cannot dig into the soil or eat anything grown directly in earth (but things in the raised beds are fine) until the soil tests come back negative, I think this a wonderful opportunity to dialogue about the future of urban agriculture. If the soil tests do come back indicating contaminated soils then we have an opportunity to learn about which vegetables uptake which contaminants, if those toxins are passed on to the animals who eat them, and methods of bioremediation. My perspective is that urban agriculture is going to become more and more popular in the near future, more out of necessity than fashion perhaps. Food will be grown in yards and balconies all over the city, and not all of us with have the priviledge of uncontaminated soils. With the resources and fine minds of Dalhousie University we have an opportunity to build a body of local knowledge on how to safely create and urban food supply.

If you have any comments, ideas, suggestions, or energy around any of this, know this is your garden and website too. Write a post, go hang out in the garden, share these ideas, come to the garden Thursday or Saturday…

The time of the lone wolf is over. Let what we do now not be in struggle or in the name of chore, but done in a sacred manner of celebration. “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility”. Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

A stitch in time saves nine.

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Here are a bunch of tasty tidbits that have passed through across my screen lately that may be of interest.

First up, Spin Farming. Small Plot INtensive farming is a business model out of Saskatechewan to do successful organic market gardening in urban environments.  Here is a lovely article about it.

Second, SeeMore Green made the newspaper already.  Here is the link to that cute article.

And, out of BC, Every Lawn A Garden.  Hallelujah.  “The objective of “Every Lawn A Garden” is to help persons increase their capacity for gardening so that everyone can reach the stage of growing some of their own food supply”, because when the borders close and grid fails the Superstore is no longer so super.  This site is a fantastic compilation of resources.

I recently bought the book Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto! (What a juicy read.  The author, David Tracey speaking in Vancouver for Necessary Voices.

Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto 

"The term "guerrilla" may bring to mind a small band of armed
soldiers, moving in the dead of night on a stealth mission. In
the case of guerrilla gardening, the soldiers are planters, the
weapons are shovels, and the mission is to transform an
abandoned lot into a thing of beauty. Once an
environmentalist's nonviolent direct action for inner-city
renewal, this approach to urban beautification is spreading to
all types of people in cities around the world.

These modern-day Johnny Appleseeds perform random acts of
gardening, often without the property owner's prior knowledge
or permission. Typical targets are vacant lots, railway land,
underused public squares, and back alleys. The concept is
simple, whimsical and has the cheeky appeal of being a not-
quite-legal call to action. Dig in some soil, plant a few
seeds, or mend a sagging fence -- one good deed inspiring
another, with win-win results all around.

Guerrilla Gardening outlines the power-to-the-people campaign
for greening our cities."

And, last but not least, here is a link to an interview with Derrick Jensen in Common Ground, titled Mayday For the Planet.

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