There was a time, when I was growing up in Vancouver, where it seemed that all the produce was grown locally. With the exception of oranges and lichees … granny and her friends grew all the fresh produce in our old backyard… and a bit in our front yards too…
It was a much simpler time, it seemed everyone grew their own food in their own back yards. All our neighbours’ backyards were a ubiquitous patchwork of wooden planks, leafy plots and recycled wood posts staking in tomatoes, pole beans and makeshift scarecrows. In fact, I’d say 99% of all the backyards in the old Vancouver neighbourhood of Strathcona, were all vegetable and fruit gardens.
Our own backyard was full of every vegetable my granny could lay her hands on – bok choy, guy lan, peas, beans, squash, pumpkins, potatoes, carrots, cloves, cilantro, watercress, goji, and many, many other plants. And to this day, I still have no clue on what some of the other veggies were.
The family took turns every day to water the plants – granny in the morning, kids’ during mid-afternoon, and older family members’ turn after dinner.
I loved the fruit trees – our peach, apple, cherry and plum trees were magical. It taught me a bit of patience – watching the spring blossoms morph over every summer into sweet, juicy treats. And the apple pies and other desserts that resulted from the fruits reminded us all what a fabulous dessert chef grandpa was.
I loved guarding the trees against caterpillars, ants and other bugs. The most exciting event every summer was the lighting of the torch to rid the fruit trees of the nasty tent caterpillar. This particular chore was often handled by my Uncle or by my granny. I could only watch as there was something the adults didn’t like about mischievous boys (like myself) and fire!
All our neighbours would trade produce amongst themselves. Even though many neighbours grew the same veggies, the families would still trade their abundance with each other because everyone loved to give. It was a very generous community I grew up in.
This is perhaps the best thing about backyard gardens – the building of community by sharing ideas, chatter and produce over the fence and around the block.
So when I read the following article this morning, it brought back a lot of fond memories. Here is a portion of the article from Toronto’s NOW Magazine | June 10-17, 2009 | VOL 28 NO 41 (Link here):
Munch on this…
Strange to say, but people still claim they can’t afford the switch to healthier and more sustainable foods. Well, time to blow the cover on that well-worn alibi.
A few weeks back, attending an academic food conference in rural Pennsylvania, I came upon the amazing research findings of Hugh Joseph, a food security expert at Tufts University, home of one of North America’s leading public health schools.
Here’s his bottom line: it only costs about $10 extra a month to eat local, sustainable food. That’s all. Considering the extensive social and economic benefits, what a bargain.
The discovery suggests a pretty inexpensive way (compared to bankrolling an auto behemoth into bankruptcy, for example) for governments to support people who want to adopt a recession-fighting, health-promoting, global-warming-averting diet.
But more about policy implications later.
Joseph makes his case with calculations from U.S. stats, but adapting the methodology to Canada takes little more than the simple substitution of donuts for Twinkies.
There’s a lot of American data, because government there provides detailed costings of some 58 categories of over 4,000 foods, all the better to make sure that publicly paid food stamps and meal subsidies for the poor aren’t wasted the way bank and auto bailouts are.
Thus, the U.S. Department of Agriculture publishes a Thrifty Food Plan that identifies the cheapest foods on offer. Joseph and his students simply tweaked it to come up with a shopping list strong in local and sustainable as well as healthy and affordable items. They tested their case on an ideal shopping list for a woman aged 20 to 50.
Joseph quickly found that a shopping list angled to favour local and sustainable food choices almost inevitably steered people to foods that ranked better for calories and nutrients.
“Eating sustainably is inherently a better diet,” he told me. “Sustainable white bread is an oxymoron.”
Please see NOW magazine’s on-line for the rest of this article. (Link here)