a day with city farm boy

City Farm Boy

A Vancouver backyard bursting with bounty.....planted (and tended) by City Farm Boy.

"Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens."- Thomas Jefferson

I find it more than a little surprising (and embarrassing) that, at the ripe old age of 40, I have never grown a vegetable garden of my own. Sure, I love to visit farms and farmers any chance I get.....and I am always keen to experience just about anything grown locally, yet I remain hopeless at doing for myself. And I’m not the only one. Last spring Nicholas Read (age 51), columnist for The Vancouver Sun, was ashamed to find himself still unable to grow a carrot. Driven by his resolve to do something about it, he offered up his volunteer services to Ward Teulon, owner and operator of City Farm Boy, in exchange for some good, old fashioned, hands on learning. As a companion to his experience, he has written a series of blog entries documenting his weekly gardening sessions.

City Farm Boy

Beets fresh from the soil in downtown Vancouver.

Clearly, there is a growing interest within our society around what we eat and where it is from. And my spidey senses are telling me that there are many adults in our communities who have never learned how to grow their own food, but are keen to learn how. I believe there is a strong need (and potential small business opportunity) for workshops and courses. Imagine knowledgeable, passionate teachers who could empower us with the skills, resources and ability to build raised beds, assemble pots, prepare soil and compost, plant seeds, grow seedlings, irrigate, harvest and, finally, save our seeds for the next planting season. Whether in our own backyards, balconies or community and school gardens.....we have so much space, so much potential to be growing (at least some of) our own food. I'd sign up. In fact, I did.

My own new found success this past summer, growing my own planters of tomatoes, peppers and basil, had me down right giddy.....and wanting more. As luck would have it, last August brought an answer to my prayers. A professional agrologist since 1989, Ward of 'City Farm Boy' was offering an all day workshop on how to grow food in your backyard, your neighbours backyard and even on a downtown rooftop. Count me in.

Ward started 'City Farm Boy' in 2007, growing vegetables in 4 Vancouver private backyards (all within a five kilometer bicycle ride from his East Vancouver home) and selling his produce to the public at both the Riley Park and West End Farmers Markets. Though he is not certified organic, all of his food is grown using only organic methods. The media is fond of Ward’s growing business…..and not only does it make for a great story, it has gotten the word out. He has received literally 100’s of offers from homeowners wanting him to cultivate their properties. At last count, he was up to 14 gardens, including a rooftop garden in Yaletown (the only exception to his 5 km rule).

City Farm Boy

Resurrected roof top garden in downtown Vancouver.

His one day workshop was developed to teach anyone interested not only how to grow food in their own backyard, but also how to emulate his model of growing on other people's properties and organizing to sell at local Farmers Markets. I wasn't that ambitious.....but I did learn a great deal during our day together, as we toured through 4 of his gardens and received oooodles of useful information and resources. Six hours later I left with a clear and ambitious vision of my (spring 2009) project. As I am blessed to live in a house with a south facing backyard that is simply begging for TLC (Tender Loving Cultivation), my edible garden will include 3 raised beds, heaps of new soil and a timer-set irrigation system. Totaling about 60 sq feet, it will be a big project; one that will probably cost me more in time and money than if I were to buy my produce from Farmers Markets throughout the entire growing season. But that’s simply not the point. I already have a ‘night before Christmas’ excitement for next year’s garden. I can’t wait to find out what I will (successfully) grow and, most important of all, what I will learn. Ward's next workshop will take place on Saturday, October 4 and he still, at the time of this post, has a few Farmers Market dates left.

1 comment:

Ownah said...

Good for people to know.