Wednesday, January 26, 2011

School Gardens Get Kids Excited

Maeve & Josh help harvest grapes. Photo by Fiona Gilsenan

Here's a great story from Oceanside, California. Teacher Mark Wagner started an organic gardening club. In a spirit of entrepreneurship, the school started selling their produce.

Harvest from the garden provides snacks for the pint-sized gardeners, as well as a lucrative lunchtime business. Fruit is sold during the lunch hour, for about 25 cents apiece. Kids all over the school know where Mr.Wagner's room is and know that he's got what they want: tangerines, apples, figs, fruit! The Garden Club has done so well that they've been asked not to set up on Ice Cream Day because the fruit is more popular than the ice cream!

Now, because this school is in Southern California they are able to sell figs, oranges, pomegranates, and other exotic fruits that we can't grow here in Victoria. But planting fruit trees and bushes is an essential part of the Fairfield Community Garden plan, including in the Commons area.

In fact, the list of fruits that we can grow in Victoria is pretty significant. Grapes, kiwi, apple, plum, berries of all kinds, figs, cherries, pears—certainly enough for the kids to make a few bucks.

Kerin Van Hoosear writes more about the organic garden at Palmquist Elementary school here.

-Fiona Gilsenan

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Children Learn to Eat What they See

Contemplating the imminent demise of a heart-shaped, homegrown strawberry. Photo by Fiona Gilsenan.
George Ball, owner of Burpee seeds, has written a piece for the WSJ called 2011: The Year of the Vegetable. In it, he explains how children learn to love eating vegetables.

Liking vegetables is not a given: Every food other than breast milk is an acquired taste. But children can easily learn to enjoy eating their greens. It's simply a matter of education and familiarity—as in "family." Children will happily eat squash, artichoke or broccoli, to the delight of the parents who taught them to do so. As for fruits, children can gobble them up, but like vegetables, they must be at the ready, at least as available as all the junky alternatives.

The current childhood obesity crisis in the US (and close behind in Canada) is certainly due to the combination of poor eating habits and lack of physical activity. Ball talks about how to tackle the problem.

Yet no single institution is sufficient; fighting a problem of this sort requires a multifaceted effort. Churches could do much more to inspire families to grow vegetables. Public and private botanical and community gardening groups should augment efforts to lure neighbors into their educational demonstration gardens. Most families, whether in the city or suburbs, can plant at least a "starter garden"—involving pre-teen children in the planting, tending and harvesting.

We believe that every community garden should be a place of learning, for children and adults alike.

-Fiona Gilsenan

The Gift of Community Gardening

Nan Steman writes in her blog of a question she received from two adult children about a thoughtful gift for their mother, and her even more thoughtful response.

His mother, it seems, had suffered some financial setbacks and no longer had access to the fresh fruits and vegetables she’d once had. He and his sister had discussed it and decided that for Christmas, they’d like to get her a community garden plot. They’d also thought about giving her a subscription to community supported agriculture (CSA), but a community garden would get her out and socializing as well.
In an era where we often feel pressured to buy a gift - any gift - here were two adult children thinking about what their mother could use the most: fresh food, physical activity, social interaction. Even if none of it comes to pass, it is a lovely, lovely thought.

You can read the entire post here.

-Fiona Gilsenan

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Community Garden Policy

Michigan Street Gardens, James Bay

Did you know that the City of Victoria has had a Community Gardens policy in place for over 5 years? It was released in Sept, 2005 and has the following policy goals:

  • To recognize the need for community gardens
  • To establish community gardens throughout the City on public or private lands, where feasible.
  • To recognize the value of community gardens, as a public amenity, in land use redevelopment.
  • To encourage backyard, rooftop and workplace gardening to complement community gardens, as ways to promote more greening of the City.
  • To maintain existing community gardens and protect local food production.

Somebody wrote up a bit of background information for the policy. Here's what they have to say about Victoria, worth reading in full.

Population projections of Victoria suggest growth and interest particularly in the older age groups (baby boomers) who like to garden. Gardening is the top leisure activity for 80% of households according to Statistics Canada. More households will be living in multiple family housing which generates great demand for community gardens. In addition, the CRD's Regional Growth Strategy promotes increased densification of the core municipalities and de-emphasizes single detached housing. There in the future there will be more demand for gardens and less land available, as fewer residents will not have their own backyards in which to garden.

Although this may not be comfortable reading for everyone (baby boomers are now in the older age group?), it's just a fact that the future of urban life means more density--and that's not a bad thing. Single-family homeowners are by far the minority in Fairfield-Gonzales. Can we say that the neighbourhood public spaces are a good reflection of that? What do you think?