There are wonderful things to designing and growing a garden. There’s such a range of benefits from all that effort; from looking beautiful in its own right to providing a beautiful bounty of healthy, fresh produce.
If you ever had the privilege of eating herbs, fruits or veggies fresh from a garden, you know that what is available in chain grocery stores is a pale imitation of the real thing. It’s hard to acknowledge a store-bought tomato when you’ve bitten into the red, ripe, succulently delicious fruit that’s been warming on the vine only a few feet from your kitchen door.
You have a greater appreciation of the collaborative effort you and Mother Nature made, you know where your food is coming from and you know your produce hasn’t been sprayed with all manner of chemicals.
There’s a huge sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, and with a little forethought, you can provide you and your family with fresh produce virtually all year-long. Your health improves, and your grocery bills get a little trimmer as well.
Gardening teaches you all of this. In the case of growing vegetables, you develop self-sufficiency. If you have children, you can – by literally getting their hands dirty – teach them some powerful life lessons.
This incredible experience is, however, in jeopardy. The right to grow your own food is threatened by many out-dated property by-laws enforced in municipalities across Canada.
This flies directly in the face of Canada’s supposed committment to protect the rights of its citizens to accessible, affordable food on a regular basis.
This committment is in the form of an agreement made along with the rest of the UN General Assembly in 1966 (yes, 46 YEARS ago), when they adopted the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This covenant has been in force since 1976, which Canada ratified in May of that year, and began to enforce (supposedly) 3 months later.
Amongst other points, this covenant defined the right to food as, “The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or for its procurement.”
Given that the use of food banks has risen by 123% nationwide since their inception in 1989, successive federal governments’ actual committment to providing its citizens with this basic human right is questionable.
Food Security has become the catch-phrase heard in mainstream media in recent times, and has at its foundation, the right to food – as stated by the ICESCR.
But other recent news items should give us pause. The US Department of Agriculture reports that almost two-thirds of the contiguous United States is in a moderate to severe drought. Concerns have been raised worldwide as to the threat of soaring global food prices. A July 25th article in the New York times reported that the US government has warned of impending food price hikes – particularly on milk, beef, chicken and pork.
Another news item, this time from Quebec is related, although it may not seem so at first blush.
This month, a Drummondville, Quebec couple have locked horns with municipal officials over the fact they have converted their entire front lawn into a vegetable garden.
(Photo source from CBC News – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2012/07/18/drummondville-vegetable-garden-fight.html)
A beautiful, and well-tended vegetable garden, I might add!
This couple has run afoul of local by-laws that state that front yards should be made up of at least 30% grass. Their’s has none – as you can see by the picture.
After increased media attention, including a John Lennon-Yoko Ono-styled sit-in called, aptly, “Give Peas a Chance”, municipal authorities have given this couple until September to remove garden beds from the very front of the property for city infrastructure access.
Here’s a link to the full story at CBC’s website: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2012/07/18/drummondville-vegetable-garden-fight.html
There are other examples in the news of over-zealous municipal officials enforcing what amounts to violations of a Canadian’s right to (grow their his/her) food – including a man in Mission, BC who was fined $5,200 for, wait for it, growing cucumbers in his basement! This poor fellow got caught up in what he and other Mission citizens claim was an illegal search for marijuana grow-ops.
Truly, I don’t mean to sound like an alarmist, but I do believe we all need to pay more attention to how this is starting to unfold across Canada. It’s subtle, and we need to be diligent about protecting one of our basic rights. And we need to keep an eye on what’s going on in the world; more often we hear about the need to become more self-sufficient.
Maybe that’s not a bad idea. Here in BC, we get about 75% of our produce from the US. Ironically, we live in a province that has the longest growing season in all of Canada, and we’re getting 75% of our produce from the US???
Don’t despair, there are lots of things we can do.
Here’s a suggestion. If feasible, why not invest in getting a shelf or two in your freezer stocked with meat? Costco’s a good way to go. And it will keep.
And if you’ve got yard space that gets enough sunlight for produce (minimum of 6 continuous hours), start growing your own veggies. Sure, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but that’s a rather small price to pay to be more self-sufficient in the growing of your own produce.
For you busy types (and who isn’t these days), check out community shared agricultural programs like they have at Metro Vancouver City Farms (www.vancouvercityfarms.com).
Or hire someone to design it, set it up for you and teach you how to earn those two brown thumbs.
In reading the comments left after all the articles I’ve read about citizens running afoul of antiquated municipal by-laws, easily 90% of them voice support for front (and/or) back yard vegetable gardens while conveying their anger and frustration at these seemingly nonsensical by-laws.
If local governments are truly interested in saving money, the provinces and Ottawa truly want us to be healthier, and everyone wants to be more respectful of the environment, what better way than to turf high maintenance-high cost sod and put in its place lush, low-cost, non-polluting, healthy, life- giving food crops?
Remember, the right to food is enshrined within the International Bill of Human Rights. So get out there and stand up – by digging down – for your rights!
Be defiant – go grow some herbs!
Nancy Glover, Head Nanny