Growing the food we eat has always been very much a part of my life. We spent our summers helping to plant, weed and harvest the large vegetable garden that fed us through the winter. Later, as a young farmwife, I proudly lined my cellar shelves with jars of home grown fruit and vegetables. Now, Robert and I spend part of each year in Zambia, helping small farmers become food secure.
So I was pretty excited to see and hear about the Edible Landscaping Program my home town of Fort St. John, B.C. began in 2010. The City is taking food security seriously and has created demonstration gardens to show that edible plants can be both beautiful and delicious.
Last summer I saw the brilliant colours of Northern Lights swiss chard and kale grow among sunflowers and other annuals beside the entrance to Peace River Regional District Office. Another demonstration garden was flourishing in front of the Water Treatment Plant. Bright red geraniums and copper marigold were interspersed with kale, broccoli, cauliflower, parsley and other plants. Planted around a tower across from the Treatment Plant were raspberries and currants, under cropped with lettuce and flowers.
A large sign by the garden read:
…This program was created as part of the City’s commitment to a more sustainable community. By providing residents with new concepts in gardening we can show that gardens can be beautiful as well as delicious…This garden…provides ideas for those interested in creating their own sustainable food sources (and)… is just a small portion of the City`s planning towards a community that is energy efficient, economically viable and a vibrant place to live.”
Below was a long list of the fruits, vegetables herbs and edible flowers growing, and their nutritional value, and an invitation to pick some of the plants for eating.
The City encouraged citizens to visit the gardens, which were grown at several prominent places, the largest being at the Pomeroy Sports Centre. I spoke to Lori at City Hall today, and she told me that many people, especially seniors who don’t have their own gardens, were grateful for the invitation to gather some fresh produce. When she went with her daughter to get some cauliflower towards the end of August, most of the produce had been picked.
Much of it probably went to the kitchen of the local Salvation Army. On August 12, over 55 pounds of produce were delivered to the shelter’s kitchen. More would come later.
People are excited about the program. They are planning to run it again next year, and add components like preserving and canning workshops.
We enjoyed the stir fry of greens I picked at the Water Treatment Plant. I’m sure you’ll hear me telling others about the Fort St. John concept of gardening. Actually, it’s the same concept we kids used in our WI (Women’s Institute) competition gardens. A row or two of flowers planted among the rows of peas and carrots and potatoes. So what comes around goes around.