Urban agriculture is proliferating

Taking the Long View with Gord Stewart


Seems strange to be writing a column about gardening in the “depths” of winter, but that’s the whole point really. Except for the occasional cold blast, much of the country is blessed with weather that allows for year-round gardening.
No need to bring in “summer” vegetables from somewhere else, when we can grow what we need right here – even in our own backyards.
Winter vegetables are just one part of a local food systems movement gaining momentum
everywhere. It’s a movement supported by people looking for fresher, tastier, and more nutritious food. Some are in search of whole, not processed, foods. Others like the idea of knowing where their food comes from and how it is produced.
It’s a system that supports nearby growers and farmers and makes for resilient local economies.  It doesn’t rely on long-haul trucking and it helps cut carbon emissions.
There are many component parts to the system. Growing your own is a start. Urban agriculture is proliferating, with rooftop gardens, lawns turned into vegge plots, and empty industrial sections converted to productive community gardens.
Community allotment plots and vegge gardens on school and church properties are part of it. So are the farmers markets that are popping up everywhere.
Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a key part, too. CSA takes many forms, including fresh produce direct from farm to door, raw milk “clubs” with convenient pick-up points, and organic milk from dispensing machines – all of which support local farmers committed to sustainable agriculture.
My own introduction to CSA came some twenty years ago, long before we shifted to New Zealand.
We were city dwellers on the West Coast of Canada and recipients of a weekly box of vegetables and fruit from Kildara Farms, a small organic operation just outside the city owned by Brian and Daphne Hughes.
Our garage was a drop point for a dozen or so similar boxers for other families in the neighbourhood.
Every Wednesday around 3 p.m. – I could just about set my watch by it – Daphne would back their truck into the driveway with the weekly bounty.
I really appreciated this connection with Kildara Farms and the regular reminder of how the land provides for us. As Brian said, “When you live in an urban area, it’s easy to forget where your food comes from.”
Now-a-days we live in the country and are growing much more of our own. Summer and winter, there is always something going on in the garden. My wife, Sandy, is the brains of the operation and I’m the brawn (well, it’s the best we can do!).
Always interested in learning more, we recently had a tour of one winter garden with others in our local Transition Towns group. Master gardener, Dick Edwards, showed us what he was up to. Now in his mid-80s, Dick has lived in the same house in town for nearly seventy years.
It was a rainy, cold and windy day, which made the whole thing even more real and impressive. The orange trees were groaning and ready for harvest. Half the garden was in a cover crop, “resting” before summer planting. The other half was sprouting the likes of celery, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks and parsnips.
The preserves cupboard and root cellar were nearby. The fizz boat with 40hp was parked near the smoker, which is put to good use after a day on the water.
Dick strives for self-sufficiency and has a real connection to his land. One orange tree was moved three times before it was happy. “I like to experiment and I’m always learning,” said Dick. “If something doesn’t work out she goes.”
My own connection to local and community agriculture was cemented through our involvement with Kildara Farms. To this day I can still picture Daphne harvesting plants, chugging down the rows on her recycled skateboard.
I remember Kildara’s blackberries and how much I enjoyed them on my cereal. And I remember being thankful that during picking season, Kildara’s three Labrador retriever helpers, snuffling about in the bushes and picking berries off the vine, didn’t get them all.
Gord Stewart is an environmental sustainability consultant. He does project work for government,
industry, and non-profit organisations.
Resources & Sources
Hand over a hundy (www.handoverahundy.org.nz) – Get help in starting your own garden, then pay it forward
Ooooby (Out of our own backyard) www.ooooby.org.nz – Local produce straight to your door
Solutions: Creating a sustainable and desirable future – Bimonthly magazine (current issue has two great articles on local food systems) and website (www.thesolutionsjournal.com)
The Emergent Agriculture: Farming, sustainability and the return of the local economy, by Gary
Kleppel, New Society Publishers – The book title says it all
[Photos provided/possible captions]
Caption for all three together – The home garden
Individual photo captions
Preserves – Stocked up for winter
Garden – In full summer bloom
Photo credit
Photos – Sandy Stewart

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