Since we've moved to the suburbs of Ontario, my family has grown fruits, herbs and veggies in our very own garden every spring and summer. One of the benefits of living in the suburbs is having the space to have your own garden. So the past few years, I've been learning how to grow our ethnic herbs, and how to spruce up our rose bush and fruits, how to cover the peach and cherry tree every winter so they bloom the following year. So far, they're looking pretty good.
The past couple months, I've been doing extensive research in urban agriculture and how to implement the growth (no pun intended) of food in the city. I have interviewed various stakeholders and I have to say, it's been quite a journey. I'm impressed with the feedback I have been receiving from all sorts of positions, but if it's one thing that I strongly believe is that education plays a vital role in the growth of urban agriculture.
It's important to note that there are significant factors and challenges involved in making it a successful feature in the urban environment, but many of the underlying points boil down to one thing: education. Whether it's our professional planners who are academically specialized in the matter, or if it is the lack of sufficient understanding or education within our local communities.
For those living in the suburbs, we tend to be ungrateful of what we have: space. Before you take this the wrong way, I understand that having a garden can be time-consuming, especially if you're juggling mortgage, children, car payments, and mundane everyday life tasks. It's also dirty, and not particularly fit for everyone. But if you do have an interest in pursuing your own garden, by all means, go for it! Space is a critical issue in accommodating food in the city. And no, it's not a matter of growing veggies and fruits in our backyards to provide us food for the rest of our lives, because let's get real, Ontario doesn't have the greatest weather to accommodate for a year-round edible garden. However, there are many benefits to having our own edible garden. I don't think it makes much sense to have a communal garden in the suburbs of York Region, for instance, but I do think that having an edible garden is a sustainable way to maintain a green city and a way to control the quality of food we produce and consume. I am, however, guilty of purchasing a box of delicious yellow mangoes, or watermelon sized papayas in the wintertime, but since the start of this dissertation, I've got to thinking that it's really bizarre to have a tropical fruit such as mango or papaya (very bland in flavour, by the way) available to me in the midst of winter in Ontario. I wonder how young this freshly bloomed fruit was before picking, what methods of preservation it endured, and how long it's been on the road long before it ended up in my fridge. That doesn't make sense to me. Frankly, it's kind of disturbing. Oh, and the fact that there's a little sticker that says it's 'organic' definitely raises a few questions.
The point I'm trying to make is this: don't buy fruits or vegetables that aren't in season. Well, yes, but no. Education. That's the point. Education can really alter the quality of your life, and food, is something that comes so naturally to us so why not take full control over it? Why not use it to our advantage and change the way we interact with our environment? Do you know your neighbours? Well, if your next door neighbour saw you tending to your garden every evening, I'm sure that you'll eventually get to know their kids' name, and by the end of the summer, you'll be invited to at least ONE barbeque. I'm not even exaggerating because now I know all my neighbours. Unfortunately, my tomatoes were slow bloomers this season, but at least I got to trade my Persian basil leaves, parsley and leeks with their delicious cherry tomatoes and mini cucumbers.
I can go on and on about this, but I really have to get back to writing my dissertation. I'll be providing more efficient solutions for those living in the city because I'm sure that many older style apartments lack the proper infrastructure to accommodate for a rooftop garden or a full balcony filled with tomatoes.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop them below.