More dreaming big

A couple of weeks ago on this blog, “Dreaming big with Arzeena Hamir” introduced Arzeena’s realistic dreams with a large photo of Arzeena in action in her home office. Today, a comment about the “Sustainable Food Park” post right below this one asked a key question: “This is wonderful. What can we do to help make this a reality?” Well, Arzeena’s “Dreaming big” ideas answered that in one way by suggesting that the new agriculture-themed urban park can adapt from the successes at the Terra Noval Rural Park. The earlier post just referred to Arzeena’s ideas, and this post is providing them. Over to you, Arzeena!

During a recent presentation to Richmond council, I was surprised to hear that there was still some concern that the city was paying $59.2 million just to grow blueberries or cranberries. I guess since I’m surrounded by news and examples of innovative urban agriculture projects, I’m surprised to hear that people haven’t heard about the diversity of activities that can take place on an urban farm. I could give examples from all over the world but I think the best example of what could happen on the Garden City lands is right here in Richmond, in the jewel of a park called Terra Nova.

On any given day in the summertime, here’s what you might see happening at Terra Nova Rural Park:

  • school children harvesting vegetables, learning how to cook them, and then actually eating them;
  • young people working on the Sharing Farm, getting vegetables ready for the food bank or community meals;
  • seniors in the greenhouse potting up seedlings and harvesting greens;
  • farm school students practising the art of hoeing and learning how to breed beans;
  • community gardeners harvesting vegetables that traditionally grew in their homelands of Russia, Japan, Greece or China;
  • First Nations youth growing their own food for the first time and teaching others about the traditional healing uses of lavender, calendula, and chickweed;
  • a corporate group volunteering to turn the compost pile and building team relationships as they weed a row of carrots;
  • and a whole community of walkers, bikers, and joggers who enjoy the pathways that bisect the park, stopping to smell Nancy’s heavenly sweet peas along the way.

Can you imagine something like this for the Garden City lands? I hope so, because now is the time to dream big. We have the luxury of time to plan and to dream.

I could give another example of urban agriculture making a huge impact in people’s lives. In this case, citizens had to scramble in order to feed themselves and their families. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba lost its primary source of oil. Like us, Cuba’s food, transportation, and entire economy depended on oil. In a matter of weeks, stores shelves were bare and the country had to begin rationing basics. Everyone lost 20 pounds. The government had the foresight to empower its citizens to begin growing food on any empty land possible. The urban farms and garden plots that sprung up all around Havana now account for more than 50 per cent of the city’s fresh produce.


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