Today I was going to talk about the many great ways that we as urban individuals can access local food within the city, and grow our own food here in Regina. The idea seemed great, until, I woke up on Tuesday morning, looked outside, and saw this:
SNOW! Now?! In October?! Regina really has ultimate weather mood swings! But, my plan of encouraging you all to think about home produced food will continue anyway!
While Regina’s weather can be somewhat unpredictable, there have been many initiatives and programs here in the city to encourage people to produce, grow, and learn about food right at home year-round. The idea of growing food in the city is referred to as Urban Agriculture. Simply put, urban agriculture is:
“an industry located within (intra-urban) or on the fringe (peri-urban) of a town, an urban center, a city or metropolis, which grows or raises, processes and distributes a diversity of food and non-food products, reusing mainly human and material resources, products and services found in and around that urban area, and in turn supplying human and material resources, products and services largely to that urban area”.
Mougeot, L. (1999): Urban agriculture: Definition, Presence, Potentials and Risks, and Policy Challenges. Paper presented to the International Workshop “Growing Cities, Growing Food”, October 11-15 1999, Havana, Cuba.
This form of modern agriculture has been implemented in many cities, and is particularly common in larger cities in the United States. While I was researching this idea, I found some amazing creative concepts and projects that different organizations were working on to promote urban agriculture in cities like New York and Chicago. The ideas range from simple windowsill gardens, to much more extravagant rooftop gardens. There is even the possibility of expanding urban agriculture to create skyscraper gardens! The projects are really exciting and some great ideas have been developed to combine agriculture and cities.
Looking at urban agriculture at a smaller scale, the city of Regina has some great programs that already encourage gardening and local produce. And while this is on a much smaller scale than some of the projects described above, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Educating people about these initiatives is important and hopefully as the city grows we will start seeing more projects like rooftop gardens (which exist in the city, but are hard to find and are not very common), and maybe even skyscraper gardens in our city.
So what does Regina offer in terms of local food and urban agriculture?
To begin, the Regina Farmer’s Market is focused on supporting local food provision in our city, but I think it is a primary step towards promoting urban agriculture. The market is set up in downtown Regina, and provides locally grown produce and baked products that have been grown in and around Regina. The farmer’s market brings together urbanites of the city with rural producers and growers of our food to create a really special exchange. While most of the food at the market is produced outside of the city, I would still consider it a ‘peri-urban’ type of agriculture.
Something similar to the farmer’s market is the ‘virtual’ farmer’s market, or what is commonly known as Community Supported Agriculture. There are many farmers in Regina who have developed sites where you can see what the farmer has to sell, order online, and get your basket of goods delivered to your home – it’s like shopping online, but for local food! One example of this is Farmgate Food – a local, sustainable, and family owned and run farm that sells pork, beef, chicken, and eggs directly to the consumer. This is a great idea as it provides consumers with a direct way to contact and support the farmer, avoiding the profit driven corporations that run our food system.
Aside from simply supporting local producers, you can become a producer yourself! Organizations like the North Central Community Gardens, and Grow Regina Community Gardens provide individuals within the city with tools, information, and land to grow the food that they want. The nice thing about community gardens is that they also create a sense of connectivity between the people involved in the process. So in addition to growing your own food, you create a relationship with individuals who you are gardening with and it gives the sense of one family working towards one goal. Another great thing about community gardens is that they take vacant lots, and beautify them into a luscious green heaven of food, that everyone can share in. North Central Community Gardens are hoping to take the community garden movement one step further by starting up a program to distribute gardening toolkits to families and individuals living in North Central. They hope that this will help people start their own backyard gardens, once spring comes rolling around.
But as we are all too aware of, once summer comes to an end we are welcomed with delightfully cold weather that is here to stay for another few months (take this week for example). That being said, all hope is not lost when it comes to gardening in the wintertime. I stumbled upon a great site that gives you ideas of 66 things you could grow at home in regular flower and plant pots. So, while there may be a blizzard outside, you can still enjoy fresh herbs, various leafy greens, and surprisingly even some tropical fruits and seasonal vegetables that you can’t always find at the grocery store!
Urban agriculture is really a creative and inspirational idea and although it’s more extensive manifestations have yet to reach Regina, we do have some great organizations here that are working to encourage, promote, and provide people with the opportunity to grow and produce food in a highly urban environment. It’s a great way to bring agriculture into the city, and re-establish the connections we have lost with our food, and the land.
My vision for Regina in 10-15 years: transforming Regina’s downtown twin towers into urban farming gardens! Who’s with me?