Farmers on 57th: growing living food
Gardens are a natural way for a community to come together: at the farmer’s garden on 57 and Cambie, people come to picnic, exercise, commune with the stars, learn about gardening, sit in the garden, suntan and even the coyotes drop in at dusk. Gardens are a dimension of our lives that affirm life for all things.
Five women started this organic market garden last year on land at the George Pearson Centre in Marpole. This year it became a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) program. CSA is a group of people who pledge to support a local farm with a monetary investment. They pay the farmers at the start of the season so the farmers have an income that enables them to grow food for the CSA members. Members get a box of food every week from June to September. Other benefits are newsletters with recipes, direct contact with the garden and experienced gardeners, as well as work parties, workshops and celebrations.
Part of the experience is sharing the risks as well as the benefits of live food production. It is the real experience of eating locally, seasonally and organically. Ultimately, nature decides what the members receive and when.
With the CSA share price, members are investing in an alternative food system. It is one that is focussed on a fairer wage to the people who grow food and focussed on growing good quality food locally, making it the freshest and most nutritious food around.
Katherine Oblock, “It is different this year. Every year is variable. The tomatoes and cucumbers are small. It has been slow and late but we are still producing a nice bounty.
It’s always nice to have more but you can’t always have what you want. I’m incredibly grateful for how well the kale and chard are doing this year.
I garden because I enjoy it, being able to connect with nature, being outside, connecting with the plants. My selfish reason is I want to be self-sufficient and I get closer every year.
We started the CSA because the farmer’s market last year was not consistent for us selling our produce. The waste was disappointing. CSA is a nice way to build community, to help people feel welcome in our shared spaces. I host workshops on sprouts, juicing, and living kitchens. It’s important for people to feel empowered so they will grow their own food. There is nothing better than to be able to grow the highest quality, living food for yourself.”
Katherine with her edible bouquets: calendula flowers, parsley, chard, kale
A CSA family coming to pick up CSA children helping
their food box & to be in the garden.
Volunteers dropping by to help Companion plants: cabbage & leeks
Mixed baby lettuce & peas growing up Good compost guidelines
mesh with compost bins in background
Karen Ageson,”It’s harder than last year. Last year things just grew with no problems. This year we had the pests. One whole seeding of peas rotted with the wet weather and was gutted by wireworms and slugs so the whole crop had to be re-seeded. I see this year as a learning year and there is nothing bad about it. Next year I will plant earlier seedlings at home to transplant into the garden. This year I am doing succession planting for more efficient use of space.
We are doing CSA this year so there is no waste of food and so we get a baseline income. We also get to know our members and they are getting involved in the growing of the garden.
It is wonderful to have our farmer, Jess’s, two-year-old child here. He interacts with us and walks freely and safely in the garden as part of this community. He already knows peas and raspberry plants and when they can be eaten.
I garden because I want to learn how to garden well for my own well being. I am also interested in helping others learn how to grow food rather than buying it. Our current ways of growing food are not sustainable. Food farmers need to be given respect and a living wage so they can do well in the world. We are presently encouraging people to do things that are harmful to us all. When consumers buy food without questioning how they’re able to buy things so cheaply or what decisions farmers must make so food is available at such a low price, they have unrealistic expectations of our food system. The food produced is not living food.”
Karen with radishes Jess Henri, the flower farmer
Karen & Katherine picking food Snapdragons & spinach
Cloches for tomatoes Tomatoes & basil in a cloche
Tess Wetherill,”I do this because it’s what I love to do most in the whole world. I like to be outside all day every day, to feel connected to the food I eat, to feel the cycle as things grow, and the food is so good that we grow here.
It was hard at the start of this season because the weather was rough. The first year we were blessed with no pests. This year was shocking because we lost crops. The hot and then cold weather meant whole carrot crops disappeared. Then the slugs ate anything 1” high. 50% of the bean crop was lost.
This garden is the most peaceful place in Vancouver and any garden is like that. Joy is seeing the miraculous changes every day of something new happening like the radishes coming up. Gardening means being connected to the weather in a different way because I am connected to the entire life cycle of plants. I not only see the effect on myself but on the plants as well and that’s magical.”
Tess and friends preparing lettuce for the boxes
Jen Rashleigh,” I like to wake up every day and be connected to the seasons, to have the weather meaningful for me because I depend on it for food growing. I like to think about how important growing food in the garden is to the health of us all and the planet. In being part of the living cycle of food from seed to harvest, I realize that cycle is part of larger cycles that are critical to our health like the annual cycle of the soil.
I love to connect with families around food because I am only interested in food as part of relationships. I only like to eat food when it involves connecting with people, talking about how things are growing, and swapping recipes. Food is about relationship and culture. The latest addition to this garden is a pathway we are creating that allows the residents at George Pearson Centre to come out in their wheelchairs to be with the garden. (Raised gardens were created last year so the residents could garden.)
The garden gives back in surprising ways. I and others are drawn to it and we relate to each other through the experience. The garden is a place of curiousity and story telling. It is very peaceful. It creates community. We’re living creatures on this planet and we want to feel connected to the planet. We are currently disconnected in so many ways. When we see a living garden and all those different personalities and characters growing together, we’re drawn to it in a wordless way. We all have memories of gardens and, in the garden, we look for what’s familiar to us from our past. We come to the garden and we learn something new every time. People are insatiably curious. I have never met anyone who was not drawn into the garden.
Being around living growth is very primal. The sun shines, the plants grow, the food is created, and we eat it.”
Children learning about raspberries Jen picking borage & nasturtums
Herbs for the boxes: chives, Two complete CSA boxes
basil, oregano, chocolate mint
Ahhh! The best of peas: living food direct from a local garden
Jen starting the garden on 57th with a sod cutter in spring 2009