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Good Reads 1 – Urban Food Revolution

November 4, 2011

That thump you heard was the arrival of Fall books, ready for the gift-giving season – and there are a few by local authors worthy of attention for those interested in the topics found on Price Tags.

First up, Peter Ladner’s Urban Food Revolution:

Why did I write this book?

As a former politician and business owner, I couldn’t help seeing urban agriculture as a sort of miracle cure for a vast array of 21st-century ailments: it improves public health, balances diets, reduces health care costs, alleviates poverty, gets people outdoors and exercising, creates local jobs, builds community, excites people, makes cities safer and more beautiful, helps integrate immigrants, reduces our carbon footprint, creates resiliency and self-sufficiency in the face of peak oil, water shortages and soil erosion, and provides environmental education.

So I’ve spent the past two years chronicling some of the best success stories in what amounts to a handbook for the urban food revolution– no recipes, hardly any gardening tips, but lots of great ideas and examples of how people, neighbours and cities are bringing more local, fresh, affordable food into their lives.
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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Tessa permalink
    November 4, 2011 1:29 pm

    I think I feel a little slighted that they put Toronto on the cover of a book by a Vancouver-based author. But who knows, maybe there’s something in the book to explain. =P

  2. Ron permalink
    November 4, 2011 1:50 pm

    Go to any East Vancouver neighbourhood and look in the backyard – chances are you’ll find a vegetable garden.

    It’s not revolutionary – it’s not novel, and people have been feeding themselves and their families for generations from backyard vegetable patches.

    It’s just a matter of perspective – if you live on a tree lined street on the West Side you’re unlikely to have a vegetable garden – not only because the trees block out the sun needed to grow the vegetables, but because it’s not “cost-effective” to put the work required into the daily task of watering, etc. (and people “delegate” the task of cooking to restaurant cooks and chefs). The residents may also “value” leisure time (sipping drinks by the manicured garden or by the pool) moreso than the functional utility of growing vegetables (a bit like how the waterfront industrial lands have given way to recreation in the form of seawalls and bike paths).

    Urban gardening joins the ranks of other re-discovered means that have become trendy – composting, cycling, pickling, preserving, baking, …

    My prediction for what’s next? Sewing….

  3. Fed up permalink
    November 5, 2011 6:29 pm

    I come from a family of gardeners, grew up gardening, and now have a community garden plot. I’m as pro-garden as they come.

    One thing I wish those who go on about urban “agriculture” would face up to is the constant thievery and vandalism, sometimes reaching extreme levels, that hits community gardens.

    We have a productive garden plot, yet we have “shared” just about half our produce this year with the weekly thief. Other years, the vandals have simply trampled on plants – in indignation, I guess, that there was nothing in the plot worth stealing. Other people in our garden who have healthy, productive plots suffer similar losses. Yet in all the media coverage of community gardens and urban agriculture you don’t read anything about this problem. It’s as if it’s censored. As if talking about it would be “negative”, would put a damper on the “movement”.

    Somehow we’ve got to figure out a way of dealing with this criminality – which is what it is – if urban “agriculture” is to contribute anything substantial to the “food security” its proponents are always going on about. Otherwise capable growers will simply get fed up and give up.

  4. Peter Ladner permalink
    November 10, 2011 2:45 pm

    Hi Tessa: the “Toronto” graphic is meant to be a generic cityscape, albeit the Toronto icon makes people think it’s all Toronto. The book is about cities all over North America, not just Vancouver.

    To Ron: dare to visit the west side sometime and you’ll see front lawns converted into gardens, tended by young entrepreneurs from all over the city.

    Of course there is nothing new about growing food locally, but most people gave it up a few decades ago, and the way they’re coming back to it is different– online hookups between buyers and sellers, new indoor growing technology, aquaponics (fish and plants growing together), school gardens to help combat today’s levels of obesity and diabetes, survival instincts based on whole new levels of corporate concentration, monoculture risks, oil price threats…

    To Fedup: I’ve only recently been hearing more about theft from community gardens. People growing food all over the city are working on coming to grips with it. I don’t have any easy answers.

    To Gord: Thanks for the plug

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