By Randy Shore
A new generation of vegetable gardeners is transforming the urban environment and the way we are thinking about food. They are planting on boulevards, digging garden plots in city parks, tearing the sod out of their back yards and even their front yards and filling their balconies with pots full of herbs and greens. It’s the young, the urban, the cool. And the rest of us, too.
“I’ve been serious about gardening for about three years,” said Rebecca Cuttler, a more-or-less landless Strathcona resident. Cuttler, program manager of the Praxis Centre for Screenwriters at Simon Fraser University, lucked into a plot at the Cottonwood Community Garden near her home after joining a work party organized by the Cottonwood group last fall. She also has a garden at a home owned by her family in Kitsilano.
“We are going to get more ambitious with that [Kitsilano] space this year because it’s an entire yard, so you can do a lot of stuff there,” she said.
Cuttler, 28, has spent countless winter hours sketching her garden space and planning crops by the square foot using the methods she gleaned studying permaculture design at Amherst College in Massachusetts. She has joined forces with a group of seven friends and neighbours to form a Transition Town, essentially a group of people who work together to maximize their productivity and reduce their carbon footprint, using the principles of permaculture to create a sustainable urban ecosystem.
Sophisticated gardeners such as Cuttler and her group are the urban agriculture vanguard, dragging the rest of us along in their jet stream. Evidence suggests there are a lot of willing passengers on the vegetable gardening bandwagon and you don’t need a PhD to get aboard.
The number of households that report having a vegetable garden is now 53 per cent in the United States, according to the 2010 Summer Gardening Trends Research Report, issued regularly by the Garden Writers Association Foundation. That’s up from 38 per cent in 2009 and Canadians appear to be in lockstep with their southern neighbours.
Sales of seeds, garden equipment and gardening books have doubled since 2008, according to Jeanette McCall, owner of B.C.-based West Coast Seeds.
“Three years ago, seed sales really took off and took everyone aback,” she said. Many seed companies struggled to meet the sudden demand.
Until then, the seed business had been steady but not spectacular for several decades.
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