Centralizing the Food System for Resilient Communities
Cowichan Green Community’s (CGC) farm intern Laura Boyd-Clowes leaves the office on this sunny morning, riding a beautiful trailer-equipped bicycle to KinPark. This is where she gardens, tending to fruit and vegetable crops along with a dedicated group of volunteers in the very heart of Duncan. Located on Alderlea street, KinPark is home to an urban farm, as well as a greenhouse and community gardens for people wishing to have their own personal plot. Since 2013, the KinPark Youth Urban Farm has been producing vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers and grains for sale with the Cow-op Online Farmers’ Market, as well as CGC’s Garden Pantry Store. KinPark also makes a variety of value-added products like preserves and pickles, and much of the fresh produce is used for CGC’s Kid’s Summer Camp which has been running every summer since 2014. With an eye to local food security, Laura always keeps a part of her harvests for the Food Bank, located right across the street, and shares with the volunteers participating in this beautiful project with her.
It does take a certain vision to start this kind of project. The garden was created with the wonderful determination of Judy Stafford and Heather Kaye, who brought together the city council, six youth facing barriers to employment and the community to create this space, while seeds, soil, horse manure and tools have been donated by various community partners like Queen Margaret’s school.
Using sustainable and organic farming practices, inspired by the principles of permaculture, Laura does not use any products that do not meet organic standards. Of course, growing food in a public park has it’s challenges: the compost pile might generate undesirable odors, affecting the surrounding neighbourhood; the vegetables are often stolen during the night or even in broad daylight; the soil is very sandy (the result of the playground that once stood there) and the vegetables are sometimes trampled, leading to products that may not have the aesthetics that consumers expect. Still, Laura is passionate about urban farming.
Laura believes farming within city boundaries is paving (or should we say “greening up”) a new way of including urban-dwellers into the local food system they might have otherwise been disconnected from after decades living in a city while outsiders take care of feeding them. By farming in their own backyards, city folk can appreciate the value of their food while reducing their global footprint. With the kids camp hosted at the park every Summer as well as multiple school work parties, and tours throughout the year, Laura realizes that youth education is crucial for any paradigm shift. While taking part in the whole food process, from the tomato seed to the bruschetta, the new generation discovers the path towards community resiliency, and indirectly influences older generations through its vibrant speech and actions.
Laura hopes that this project encourages Duncan residents to convert their lawns into productive spaces and to meet their neighbours, both young and old, for sharing knowledge, tools, and… perhaps a dinner!