I have been asked to participate in a City of Edmonton The Way We Green Speakers Series called Closing the Food Gap. I will be one speaker on a panel of four. The other speakers are:
- Mark Winne, food policy expert and atuhor of Closing the Food Gap (Beacon Press 2008) and Food Rebels, Guerilla Gardeners, and Smart Cookin’ Mamas (Beacon Press, 2010)
- Kevin Kossowan, local food expert and urban homesteader, videographer and award-winning blogger at www.kevinkossowan.com
- Kathryn Lennon - Volunteer Organizer, Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op
The panel will be moderated by Mack Male, social media expert and community action organizer
You can still register, it's free.
In preparation for the panel discussion, I am going to pop up some photos and some talking points. I won't have a slideshow presentation tonight, but many people in the audience will be holding their smartphones at the ready. I will likely touch on a few of these photos / points, but it's a free-flowing discussion. In other words, I'll post something more coherent here in the next day or so.
The point of the above photo is that Edmonton has a long and successful history of urban gardening, both on a homescale and a commercial scale. Donald Ross sold his Edmonton-grown veg at the city market (he was an urban farmer, though he would have called himself a market gardener in 1902).
And Edmonton has a century-long history of urban food production on a homescale and on vacant lots. During WWI and WWII, home food production and preservation peaked. And it remained "normal" to have a kitchen garden through the 1970s and 1980s. It's only in the 1990s that food gardening really dipped. It is now swinging back. The Edmonton Horticultural Society acted as the city of Edmonton's agent administering the vacant lots for food gardening from 1916 to the early 1990s. Here's a touch of the history and the staggering numbers of food gardens in Edmonton in those early years before the 50s. (Keep in mind the population of Edmonton was considerably lower than now, so the person-to-garden ratio was quite high.)
Until well into the 1950s the renting of vacant lots was one of the EHS's major programs. By 1924 the EHS had hired a full-time secretary to administer the program and, by 1930, the number of lots rented each year had increased from 200 (in 1916) to 2200. During the Great Depression hundreds of lots each year were allocated rent-free to citizens on relief. The EHS, in conjunction with the City's Special Relief Department, set up competitions for relief gardens which ran during the worst years of the depression. In the 1940s it was not unusual for the EHS to administer the rental of over 4000 lots per year but, over the next few decades, the numbers of lots available dwindled; in 1978 120 lots were rented.
--Kathryn Chase Merrett, http://www.edmontonhort.com/about/historyexpanded.php
And finally here's the cover of my maternal grandmother's copy of Victory Backyard Gardens (1942). It was a US government (Department of Agriculture) manual that was a standard reference even here in Canada for the Victory Gardens movement. In the 1940s, 40 percent of domestic fresh vegetables and fruit were produced in household victory gardens in the United States.