Brad Dunks still remembers his great grandfather’s reaction to his mother’s garden. He looked around and remarked “all these flowers and nothing to eat.” His grandfather grew up during the depression and knew the value of growing food. Brad feels the same way. “Why do we put food on ships and send it half way around the world when we have so much space right here?”
He takes full advantage of his rooftop in downtown Vancouver BC. He finds it’s way easier to grow food than people realize and advises new gardeners to keep it simple. “Be practical, use whatever space you have and grow whatever is easiest. Don’t force it.” He likes growing greens: lettuce, kale, and chard. He’s found that kale gets sweeter in the winter and is fine even with 2″ of snow. Herbs are also a good plant to start with –you can’t kill mint– according to him. He also says the food he grows tastes way better than what you can buy. His wife always hated beets till they grew them and his daughter likes vegetables way more now that she helps care for them.
Brad also advises new gardeners to pay attention to the soil. “It’s really all about the dirt.” He composts his kitchen scraps and cuttings and when a plant becomes too rooty he adds it to the compost too. He rotates the compost out every six months or so–keep the soil moving he says.
Emily Jubenvill at The Edible Garden Project at Second Wave in Vancouver, BC
Back when Emily Jubenvill was studying environmental science she got an assignment to find a positive story. “There was no good news,” she said. But then she found urban agriculture. “Here it was, a way to make a difference.” The assignment led to her first garden at a community garden which led to an internship with the Edible Garden Project that turned into her current job as community coordinator.
The Edible Garden Project was started seven years ago to use garden space to grow food for the needy of North Vancouver. The project started small but has grown exponentially ever since its start. They depend on volunteers at every level. Volunteers donate space and time growing in backyards, and along boulevards and in community gardens. Businesses to donate garden space like the back lot I visited behind the Second Wave Skate shop in Northern Vancouver.The tiny productive plot had everything from beans, corn, tomatoes and squash and even potatoes.
Emily she said the project had netted 3,000 lbs of produce in 2011 and they had since then doubled their growing space. They get their funding from grants and donations and the food goes directly to the needy in the community. They started Loutet Farm in an underutilized park ane they even involve kids with their Fed Up program in local schools.
The Edible Garden Project uses a native american growing technique called “three sisters.” Beans that enrich the soil with nitrogen, grow on the corn. Squash grows as groundcover below.