Flash from the past – Canadian Press 1982 – “Cultivate veggies not grass”
First head gardener, Catherine Shapiro, working in City Farmer’s Demonstration Food Garden in 1982.
City Farmer promoted urban agriculture in 1982
By Canadian Press
March 20, 1982
Vancouver (CP Canadian Press) – An urban agriculture group is urging Vancouver residents to save money and reduce Canada’s dependence on foreign farmers by digging up lawns, parks and boulevards.
Michael Levenston of City Farmer estimates 26 square kilometres of arable land in the city are not growing food. And he suggests some of the effort that goes into creating lush lawns would be better spent on producing vegetables.
City Farmer sprouted with a 1978 grant from the federal Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. The original members were not gardeners but people hoping to cut 12 to 15 per cent of Canadian energy consumption devoted to producing food.
The energy crisis faded and the grant ended, but City Farmer continues and Levenston says growing your own still makes sense because of the possibility of food shortages caused by bad weather in California, Florida or Mexico.
He says alternatives to imported produce are getting more important every year, and unless some plan is organized, society won’t be ready when a crisis comes.
Levenston cites an article by Keith Wilde of Agriculture Canada which says Canada imports $400 million worth of vegetables and $800 million worth of fruit and nuts each year.
“Replacement of $500 million of this total by homegrown produce would be the equivalent, in balance-of-payment terms, to one-fifth of our average grain exports,” says Wilde.
Gardening is growing in popularity, Levenston says, pointing to burgeoning seed sales and a recent U.S. survey suggesting gardening is fourth among domestic activities (after watching TV, going to movies and sewing).
To ensure every new gardener doesn’t have to learn the hard way, Levenston and his group are compiling detailed information about local gardening conditions.
Levenston, who was not a gardener when City FArmer began, now has a 100-square-metre backyard patch producing peas, beans and tomatoes.
“The garden isn’t a treasure trove, it isn’t the whole freezer,” he says, and gardening is hard work.
“I’ve learned that food production isn’t a one-minute thing. There’s a lot of learning.”