Using Our Land to Give— Urban Food
In fall 2019, I worked as a Climate Change Mitigation Assistant for The Town of Wolfville (Nova Scotia). The main project our team worked on, alongside some amazing volunteers, was interviewing our community members on their knowledge and emotions surrounding climate change. We went door to door, asking community members if they had a moment to participate in our survey. There was one conversation I will never forget. We knocked on a door and an older man answered. He welcomed us into his home and we had a peaceful chat with him and his daughter; he had a calm presence and a softness to him. I glanced over to the mantel, and saw that he had some birthday cards reading ‘Happy 90th birthday’. We went through the questions as we did with every other Wolfville resident. When asking him what actions he took to lower his impact on the environment, he responded nonchalantly “I grow potatoes in the backyard instead of growing grass. Why would I want to grow grass when I can grow food? It’s less work to grow potatoes than to keep up with cutting grass!"
“I also grow flowers and let the wildflowers grow... For the birds and the bees” He added with a small grin.
A sense of warmness from his words and presence arose through both me and my friend who were interviewing this man. It just seemed so simple to him—as if what he was doing was not a big deal. Ever since that day I’ve had a totally different perception about home properties. How can we use our properties for good? What this kind man was doing wasn’t complicated. We can all learn from his wisdom and the simplicity of doing good for the environment. On his very own small property, in an urban setting, he was able to grow his own food—in a way that was simple as can be.
When we think back in history, according to anthropologists, what made our population grow so quickly was the uprise of technology in agriculture, amongst many other moving parts. When we were able to intentionally grow our own foods, we could do much more than live to survive, we could further develop our societies, our knowledge, and reallocate our human resources. The farmers then worked to feed the people. With this, we as a human race were able to have a steady growth in our population. Most of us have moved on from hunting, foraging and gathering—to growing a system of intentional food growing to feed communities, cities, and countries. Along with the help of our advanced intelligence as a species, we have been able to create the world we know today.
Farming has been constantly developing and adjusting for centuries. We have learned so much about growing food. When we think back to approximately 100 years ago, farming was immensely different from what it is today. Small scale farms were plentiful, and many families had their own food gardens. Up to date, we have now industrialized much of our food system. I think it is safe to say that most of us have stepped away from our traditional seasonal diets, and now have the luxury of buying pineapples and avocados in the dead of winter—this is great for our bellies, but not so great for our environment, and in many cases, for human rights (within our food system lies many examples of modern-day-slavery and neglect of human rights).
On a positive note, what we have been seeing in recent years—especially within this last year given the free time many of us had during the pandemic, is a big interest in having home gardens once again. Food gardening is on the rise. It is bringing so much good to our health and wellness, to our communities and to the environment.
With all of the technology, resources, and abundance of knowledge we have today, we are all able to grow our own food. Food gardening is not just for those who have lots of land and live on the outskirts of town. It is for everyone! With just sunlight, soil, compost, water and seeds we can observe and support the growing of a given plant. It is just a matter of learning how to balance all of it, and of course with unique adjustments for every unique plant.
We are living in a community that in the springtime, we walked past our neighbours houses and many were out preparing their gardens. We smell fresh flowers, soft rain, and look ahead to people and plants out in their yards. When we walk by our neighbours, we say hello, we wave, maybe even chat a little. As the season grows, so does our food, and so does our relationships with our neighbours. We grow our own food, and when we’ve grown too much, we give to our neighbours. We can buy spinach from our neighbours or enjoy our own growings!
Growing food is not just about feeding ourselves, it is about giving—to the environment, to our neighbours, and to our families. It’s a connection like no other. When we have meaning and connection to the things we do in our lives, it enhances our wellbeing, our purpose, our sense of belonging—our lives. It can’t get any better than that!
Do you want to see more of this in the Hampton community? I do too. Here are a few questions to ponder, and some actions that you can take to help make this happen.
Do you want to have your own food garden on your own property? Would we like to see our neighbours and our community filled with an abundance of local food? Do we want to see the Town of Hampton be a leader in personal and commercial food production? Are we motivated by our desire to try and move our Town along a path of appropriate climate action and response? How can we use our land for good? That is all for us to decide!
Luckily, we are working toward seeing that change in our community, but we need all the support we can get to make it happen. A lovely group of passionate food growers of the Hampton community are working on an Urban Farm Policy for the Town of Hampton—this is a broad statement of intent, used to guide regulations and decision making. The Urban Farm Policy is working to encourage our locals to take up farming, and be a leader in New Brunswick on urban farming. Let’s use our land for good—for ourselves, the environment, our neighbours and our community.
We need a green revolution, and we can be a part of that revolution.
P.S. If this article and topic has sparked interest in you, and has you wanting to see change in your Hampton community, please reach out to either The Lupine Market or myself, Gillian Cormier, so we can add you in on working on our Urban Food Policy for The Town of Hampton!
We will be releasing a survey next week to gather the thoughts of fellow Hamptonians, and use that information as a guide to wether or not we would like to see a change like that in our communities.