Among the condo’s and parking lots, roadways and laneways, are little patches of unused earth perfect for undermining our concrete surroundings and planting a little bit of nature.
One little unused patch in the Beltline is slated for just such a devious transformation with the establishment of a community garden.
Lindsay Lunhau, chair of the parks and public places committee is starting the garden on the west side of the baseball diamond at Victoria Hall.
There will be 20 plots available to residents of the Beltline to grow flowers, plants, or their own food and herbs, with seven of those spots already reserved.
“You can put whatever you want in, but it will be a pesticide-free, herbicide free, a chemical-free garden,” said Lunhau.
There are a few reasons for establishing a community garden, including bringing members of the community together, to act as an educational tool for children and adults alike, and food safety – finding places to grow food in our urban environment, said Lunhau.
Some of the people already signed up are going to be growing potatoes the first year to ensure nice nitrogen rich soil.
Community gardening, or urban agriculture, is gaining in popularity around the world, as more and more people move into cities, particularly in developing countries where food production and stability is a major concern.
According to the U.S. National Research Council, it is estimated that by 2030 there will be 4.1 billion people living in urban areas, while 3.1 billion will be living in rural areas in middle and low-income nations.
In our own country, it is important to maximize land use and work towards local production of food, offsetting CO2 emissions from transportation and large-scale production, and improving our understanding of food issues.
According to William E. Rees from the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia, transportation generates approximately a third of global CO2 emissions.
“In the industrial world a typical mouthful of food travels 2000 km from farmgate to consumer, “ he said in a paper presented to a forum in Vancouver.
At this point in the Beltline garden it looks like there will be a mix of uses, from the growth of food, to enjoying the sight and smell of flowers in our neighbourhood.
“Lots of people have just expressed interest in growing herbs, for their salads and stuff like that, and other people just want to come and grow flowers,” said Lunhau.
Users of the plots are expected to tend their garden once a week.
A community garden is any piece of land gardened by a group of people. It can grow flowers, vegetables or community. It can be one community plot, or can be many individual plots (ACGA). The Calgary Horticultural Society describes a community gardens as
places where people grow food and other crops. Generally the focus is on food, with a common area that may have ornamentals, a seating area, tool shed and compost bin. A community garden may have as few as six plots, each rented by individuals, families or groups for the season for a nominal fee. Members are involved in the initial spring and fall cleanup and have a responsibility to maintain their plot and share in the upkeep of the common areas.
However, there is more growing in a communal garden - friendships and a sense of community sprout as quickly as radish seeds! Whatever the reasons for joining, many community gardeners find that they get to know neighbours and develop a feeling of belonging that they hadn't expected when they first rented their plot. Community gardens are also great places for educating others about the environment, learning growing techniques in our climate, and experiencing multiculturalism from a fellow gardener.
Community gardens have been established in many communities around Calgary however, there are currently none in the Beltline.
The Beltline is the most densely populated community district in Calgary and is in desperate need of a meeting place and garden. The community garden will help to build community spirit and to encourage Calgarians to choose the Beltline.
The idea for starting a community garden in the Beltline is collaborative effort from Rob Taylor, president of Beltline Communities, and Lindsay Luhnau, chair of Beltline Parks & Public Places. They believe it is viable to open the garden in May 2008.