The Long Form - 'Small Victories' Gardens
"The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway." - Michael Pollen
As creeping urban development swallows the last views of green from our condo balconies, backyards become laneway housing, and the waiting lists for shared city garden plots stretch on for decades, there is still an immense amount of pleasure to be derived from the small victories of an urban garden.
Far from the Victory Gardens of WW2 or the 'Relief Gardens' of the Depression, we abandon any pretense that our tiny modern personal plots will completely save the world, reduce all the pressure on the local food system, or dramatically change the amount of global food transportation, but there's one common garden denominator that remains: the morale and pleasure derived from a few moments playing in the dirt every day.
The thing about a garden is that unlike joints, private jets, and jewelry, size doesn’t matter. Whether it’s three little plants on your window sill or the entire square footage of your yard, you will derive much enjoyment from whatever time you spend there. There’s always a little puttering to do - the kind of activity where your brain is mostly free to roam.
Now, if you want to think about big gardens and the big picture, there’s room for that too. Most large cities have or are developing Urban Agriculture plans - Calgary, St. John’s, Edmonton, Montreal, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Moncton, Victoria - they all recognize that farms and gardens are an essential tool for cities. They’re a Swiss Army knife of tools, really: community-building activities; use of all that city compost from the tons of organics we throw away; plant education for all ages; a better food literacy (i.e. - knowing what you could make for dinner from the sad looking veggies in your fridge or why 400 calories of veggies will take you much further than 400 calories of sugar); and preservation of green spaces.
It seems that cities (ahem, looking at you, TORONTO) are all cranes and condos in development, they are still concerned about how food gets to your table - or doesn’t:
"Our concern is about food security in the broadest sense," Dr. Stahlbrand explains. "When we say 'food insecurity,' people think about hunger and lack of access, but food security is a much broader concept of having a food system that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable – and urban agriculture is a great way of addressing that.”