One who plants a garden,  plants the seeds of hope

Have you ever visited another country and found inspiration to start a new venture based on what you learned on your journey?  Do you read about urban agriculture topics and sustainable development issues without having your own personal experiences with innovative projects here in the Lower Mainland?  Would you like your own children or the children in your life (family members or students, for example) to learn more about sustainable agriculture?

If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions you have landed at the right page.

Multicultural Urban Agriculture in the Lower Mainland

Tricia Sedgwick, founder of the World in a Garden project,  travelled to Central America in the year 2000. During her trip she saw how unsustainable development was having an negative impact on the countries she was visiting.  She could see that this was a direct result of North American industry and influences when  she found imported plastic items such as wrappers, bottles, bags and containers on the scenic beaches and in the streets.   It was clear that recycling wasn’t an option as the local residents did not have the financial means or educational background to deal with the waste.   She concluded that in order to treat problems such as malaria or water borne diseases, society should look at the root of the problem – cleaning contaminated and stagnant water sources and sustainable urban planning.

Tricia returned from her trip and continued her post secondary studies.  Her disillusionment with the wasteful ways of North American culture continued throughout her student years. Eventually she was able to reach an understanding that change can be created with assets from wealthy societies and that this change can create a valuable gift: the reallocation of financial resources to developing communities.  If we invest in people they will be better equipped to become self sufficient.  Access to food and meeting basic needs is a human right. This idea supported Tricia’s goal to work with community members on a cultural level, honouring our origins and who we are individually and collectively.

In order to support this goal, Tricia founded the World in a Garden (TWIAG), a multicultural urban agriculture project.  Youth and participants from the community learn about the nutritional, cultural, social and environmental benefits of a just and local food system.   The long term goal for TWIAG is to build ten gardens around the world.   The first international project to be developed is a partnership with Project Somos in Tecpan, Guatemala where TWIAG will work with orphaned and abandoned children as part of an eco-village.

Here are some of Tricia’s thoughts on the World in a Garden project.

A Just and Local Food System

The participants in our programme promote and learn about a just and local food system.  This means that there is fair access to local and healthy food for all. It’s a system that invites everyone to participate and provides nourishment mentally – both physically and socially – at a community and social level.   This type of food system invites and engages people of all backgrounds and all ages by providing the knowledge and the skills to grow, harvest and prepare healthy food.

Food is a basic need and we should all know how to meet that need. Many people in developing countries have lost agricultural skills and are without the resources to provide for themselves. They often live in overpopulated and polluted cities where food is available to those with the money to buy it. Additionally people go hungry not from a lack of food on the planet but because it is poorly distributed – it is a distribution problem, not an issue of abundance.

In our local economy and in North America, millions of pounds of food gets wasted every day in restaurants, homes, grocery stores and large scale farms (see related Good.is video).

Seed to Table

The Seed to Table process is an integral part of our programme.  Seed to Table is an organic process that brings food to your plate.  You start by planting seeds, maintaining the garden and the growing plants, harvesting and then preparing the food.   People, children, youth, adults and the community at large are able to experience the important and rewarding process that brings healthy, delicious food to your plate. At our garden we also let many plants grow until they produce seeds so that we can save the seed and plant again in the spring or when the time is right again.

Inspiration for the World in a Garden

Other examples of urban agriculture and community gardens inspired the TWIAG project.  There are a few projects in California that I came across once that inspired my interest in urban agriculture and community gardens.  I came up with the idea to build the garden and started doing some research. I had the idea but not the “know how””.  Watching videos that featured successful projects inspired me to move forward. Soon afterward, I got involved with Landed Learning, a wonderful intergenerational and educational school project at UBC farm (see related video).

No matter where we come from or what we believe in, we all have the same basic need to be accepted, nourished and honoured.   We are all human beings and I think it is important that we understand the simple idea that we have greater tolerance and understanding for our differences while we celebrate the diversity and similarities that exists between nations, communities and cultures.

What if You Don’t Live in a House?

If people live in condos, apartments or townhouses with limited garden space, they can grow herbs and greens indoors or on their balconies, which provide a fresh source of food and numerous health benefits.   Programmes such as BiggestLittleGarden.com help to explain this process.  Food can be grown on patios, in small raised beds, and many city residents do this.  In Vancouver we are able to grow a lot of food year round including lettuce, kale (my favourite!), broccoli and cauliflower.  There are many organizations that work within the community to help people grow food. Some examples are Environmental Youth Alliance, Vancouver Community Agriculture Network and City Farmer.  For people who would like to have a community garden plot, there is a city wide wait list for Vancouver.  Our garden has 42 raised beds and only 9 of those beds are allocated for Community gardeners. The other beds are used for educational purposes, food bank donations, selling at the market and to restaurants and harvest celebrations.

Opportunities for Diversity

Since we have a variety of different plants, trees and flowers and a water garden, we have created a space where bees, bugs, insects and birds can hang out. We plant for variety with over 5 different types of raspberries growing, 6 different apples and 4 different pears.  We also look for a wide variety of plants to ensure genetic diversity and biodiversity. We also have different types of raspberries that ripen through to November, thereby ensuring that if one crop fails another is sure to come. This is a great example of being self sufficient and “food secure”.

What is Heirloom Gardening?

A heirloom plant is an open-pollinated cultivar that was commonly grown during earlier periods in human history but is not used in modern large-scale agriculture.  Since most popular heirloom plants are vegetables, the term heirloom vegetable is often used instead.   Before the industrialization of agriculture, a much wider variety of plant foods was grown for human consumption.   In modern agriculture in the industrialized world, most food crops are now grown in large, mono-cultural plots owned by corporations.  In order to maximize consistency, few varieties of each type of crop are grown.

These varieties are often selected for their productivity, their ability to withstand the long trips to supermarkets, or their tolerance to drought, frost, or pesticides.  Nutrition, flavour, and variety are frequently secondary and tertiary concerns, if at all a concern.  Heirloom gardening can be seen as a reaction against this trend.

Taking the World in a Garden Project to Other Countries

When we take this project to other countries, we will have the opportunity to learn from each other’s cultures and learn from the wisdom that is found in other societies.   Most traditional cultures from the Mayans to the Aztecs, and our First Nations cultures here in Canada, have much to teach us about the cycles of nature, our food and harvest.  Traditionally these indigenous cultures ate healthfully because they were connected to the land.  There was no nutritional science behind their understanding of food but an inherent wisdom that came from following the cycles of mother earth.  When we study native cultures we see that their food is quite simple and their diets were healthy by default.

Our vision is to have 10 gardens around the world is so that we can connect with people from different cultures.  We would like to have them understand and celebrate their cultural uniqueness and compare the similarities between different cultures that connect us. In Autum of 2011, we will be holding a harvest celebration at the garden that will be in honour of many different cultures and celebrations including Succoth ( Jewish), Thanksgiving and the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.

These celebrations are about connecting people without borders with a common thread that we share -  food. It is about providing people with the tools to feed themselves and help developing or struggling communities to feed themselves. It’s about providing an opportunity for greater acceptance of humanity by honoring who we are as individuals and celebrating who we can become as responsible global citizens.

Growing the World in A Garden Project Across the Lower Mainland

Income generated by the TWIAG project is helping to build a self sustaining enterprise.  Income is generated from market sales (plants, produce & flowers), responsible entrepreneurship programs, garden tours, food & gardening workshops, summer camps and value added products.

We do have some plans for expansion and have just taken on a new one garden plot project near our current space that is about 2,200 square feet.  The World in the Garden has partnered with the Vancouver Montessori School.  Any interested school in the Lower Mainland is eligible to get involved with the programme.  For more information about TWIAG – School partnerships, please contact us at TWIAG.

Challenges and Rewards

There have been many challenges connected to the creation of this garden such as knowing what to do next, finding the right support or getting funding. Project expansion can be scary and implementing new ideas can seem daunting but the learning curve and personal expansion is more than worth it!

The rewards are countless and immeasurable.  It is heartwarming to have children hug me and tell me how much they love their gardens.  The other day we had a small ceremony at our new native garden with a First Nations Shaman to bless the land, the plants and the harvest.  It was so inspiring to watch the community and family members who were there and see how moved they were.

Some of the everyday pleasures include watching children plant seeds, seeing them smile with kale in their teeth and the thank you hugs I get for helping them grow the garden in which they take such pride.

My favorite year was the year we grew different grains from around the world in The World in a Garden.  The children harvested the rye, hulled it and rolled it into flakes to bake with it. I loved watching them discover the complete process of making flour to bake. Even better was that it was a whole grain alternative to wheat.

The most inspiring aspect of the garden is the community who have come together to build it.  The numerous community partnerships and supports that have stemmed from the vision are infectious and the innovative ways we educate on the benefits of local food are exciting! When times are challenging this community lifts me back up, showing me that it is through the cracks that the light shines.

Children and the World in a Garden Programme

We get children involved in the process of gardening and the appreciation grows as they get more deeply involved with the seed to table cycle and they are able to eat from the garden or eat food from the seeds that they planted!

Please check out our website for more information about how your children can take part in this programme, or how you and your family can benefit from our other programmes.

Tricia Sedgwick is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with a background in Environmental Studies. In 2007 she spearheaded “The World in a Garden”, an Urban Agriculture Project designed to enable youth and community to experience the cultural, nutritional and environmental benefits of local, organic food systems from seed to table. Her global vision is to build gardens and connect cultures around the world through food, our one uniting thread. Tricia is also the founder of ‘Seeds of Plenty’ – the sprouted cookie company which offers organic, artisan cookies, treats and ethical gift baskets.  Seeds of Plenty is built on ethical business practices and a fund raising model that gives back to edible garden projects across the globe. Nothing makes makes her happier than a healthy cookie and a little bit of earth on her hands. You can check her out at www.seedsofplenty.com and theworldinagarden.com.

Related links:

The World in a Garden: Website

* on Twitter

* on Facebook

Contact Information:

Tricia Sedgwick (e) tricia [at] seedsofplenty.com (p) 778-329-3509 (c) 604-340-2562

Other:

Intergenerational Landed Learning on the Farm (UBC) project

Project Somos: Children’s Home

From Seed to Skillet:  A Guide to Growing, Tending, Harvesting and Cooking up Fresh Healthy Food for People You Love*

Grow Great Grub: Organic Food From Small Spaces*

Urban Homesteading Belongs to All of Us (Facebook page)

*BCFamily.ca takes part in the Amazon Associates programme

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