Metro column: Community gardens: Utopian and utilitarian

Nearly five years and counting.

That’s how long I’ve been waiting for my patch of communal garden in Metro Vancouver.

A half-decade ago, before the popularity of high-minded movements like organic eating, food security or the 100 Mile Diet, I had registered for a shot at green-thumb glory at the North Shore’s Lower Lonsdale Community Garden.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my enthusiasm for urban agriculture. To my chagrin, it turned out there were no plots available.

So I was told by an organizer that I would be put on a waiting list. And from that queue, annually, a few lucky folks would be selected for garden membership by lottery.

Year after year, I’ve been waiting for some good news about my new patch of green. But it has yet to arrive. Two weeks ago, I found out that, once again, I was a loser in the annual garden plot sweepstakes. I wouldn’t be growing carrots or cucumbers this summer.

It’s not just this one patch, mind you. There are waiting lists for community gardens across Vancouver. The supply of plots just can’t meet the growing demand.

And it’s the same story overseas. An article in the U.K.-based Economist recently noted that in London, “a new enthusiasm for homegrown produce had swelled the waiting lists for plots” — with 100,000 would-be gardeners there awaiting their turn.

Never mind the beach or ballpark, this spring and summer it seems the community garden is the hippest place to be.

Let’s face it: Small-scale city farming is an idea whose time has come. Find a parcel of discarded urban space, reclaim it for the community and divvy it up for the locals so they can grow vegetables, fruits and flowers. It is utopian and utilitarian all at once.

Last Monday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and members of his Greenest City Action Team recommended the creation of an organic garden at City Hall.

And south of the border, U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama — with the help of area children — have planted a vegetable garden on the White House lawn.

In the spirit of President Obama, I’m not giving up hope. On the recommendation of a helpful city bureaucrat, I’ve since placed my name on the wait list for another urban garden opening later this month.
With any luck, I’ll soon be enjoying some, ahem, salad days of my own.

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Filed under Environment, Food and Dining, Green Space, Neighbourhoods, Parks, Urban Planning

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