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Urban agriculture 101.

September 29, 2009

Today I want to talk about urban agriculture.  Urban agriculture, as the name suggests, is agriculture within the city.  This can include backyard gardening, community gardens, rooftop gardens, and raising livestock in the city among other things (think carrots growing next to freeways).  In Regina, formalized urban agriculture has been in effect for about 15 years through Grow Regina (http://www.growregina.ca/), although I think it is safe to assume that backyard gardens (independent urban agriculture) have existed much longer.

As I am sure a lot of people remember, Grow Regina started (with the help of the City and the Regina Food Bank) by occupying a plot of land near the corner of Broad Street and College Avenue across from the CBC building.  This was a very popular location and attracted many community growers (e.g. 127 plots in 1994, expanding to 275 plots in 1997).  This location was in use as a community garden until 2005 when it was sold for development which caused a lot of upset.  I thought it was particularly unfortunate because until late last year (2008) I didn’t see anything being done on the site.

However, Grow Regina did not fall apart because of this.  Instead, they worked to find a more permanent home and increase the presence of community gardens in the city.  They partnered with the North Central Community Association to create the first North Central community garden plot, which received an award as one of three top community gardens in Canada from Recreating Eden/Vision TV in 2007.  From here they expanded and now have four garden plots in that community!  There are many other community gardens in Regina, in fact, before writing this post I had no idea Regina had so many – yay for us!  For a list of the community associations that have plots, just check out the Grow Regina website.  Their latest endeavour is the creation of a community orchard in McLeod Park in South Regina… very cool.

Now, green roofs in Regina are another story.  In 2007, a demonstration green roof was started on the Strathdee Building in the Warehouse District and the news article I found (http://www.canada.com/reginaleaderpost/news/story.html?id=5a362813-8535-49d5-a359-b838e789772d) lists it as the first one in Saskatchewan.  I have heard about this project for a few years, however, I can’t seem to find current info about it.  Is it finished?  How did it go? How long has it been running?  I want answers!  I also haven’t found information as to whether or not there are more green roofs in the city.  If you know of them, please email me.  (UPDATE: For answers to these questions and more, see this post: http://reginaurbanecology.wordpress.com/2009/10/22/regina-and-the-green-roof-question/)

Last, and certainly not least, is the topic of urban livestock.  Earlier this year, Regina City Council put a ban on raising small livestock (e.g., chickens) within city limits (included in this new bylaw: http://www.regina.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=3211).  While the arguments for this move include health and safety issues, and potential noise disturbances, it still strikes me as odd and pre-emptive considering that a lot of cities are starting to promote urban livestock as a secure food option and are able to address these potential concerns.  For a more in-depth, and humourous, look at this topic I point you to a recent article written by Nikko Snyder for Sasquatch Magazine: http://sasquatchnews.com/whats-the-big-clucking-deal/

There are also people who have made a more intensive committment to urban agriculture.  Re-Nest recently posted an article about urban homesteading (http://www.re-nest.com/re-nest/food-and-cooking/urban-homesteaders-the-new-normal-popular-mechanics-096373).  I highly recommend checking it out.

Are you homesteading in the city?  Write in and tell us about it!

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