Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gardens Where People Grow

Hello Everyone,

How are you?  Well, I hope.  What's your weather like?  Are you having a functional heat wave, like we are here in London, Ontario?  All the snow melted away with some real downpours of rain.  But the temperature is going back down again tomorrow.

Perhaps it's the too fast weather change that had me feeling really down.  For once, I took my own advice and looked to City Farmer website (, where I found a wonderful video about the Martineau Gardens in Birmingham, England.

‘Gardens Where People Grow’ is a cheerful, positive 6 minute film that really lifted my spirits and I'm sure will lift yours! 

This film focuses on Martineau Gardens near Birmingham, UK. It explores how community gardens benefit public health and increase resilience in a community, with particular focus on the impact of the garden and gardening on the mental health and well being of the people of Birmingham. Commissioned by the National Health Service Midlands and East (UK).

This is a must see!!

Director: John Hill-Daniel Camera: Carl Jorden, Peter Austin
Martineau Gardens website:

I hope you enjoy the video!  I'm going to browse the Martineau website now.

Very best regards to you!

Why's Woman

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Remember to keep an eye on City Farmer website

Hello everyone.

I hope you are bundling up well during the cold weather we're having (if you are in Southwestern Ontario, I mean ... -18C for London overnight!).  And if you are cocooning inside, I hope you have lots of seed catalogues.  I just received two from Vesey's out of PEI.  The one is of bulbs and plants - and has a gorgeous poppy on the front.  I'm actually afraid to look inside it and be tempted!  I love poppies. 

(In case you want a list of good sources for seeds, check out the resources page of Community Gardens London - - where there is a list that includes a place from most of the provinces.  An alter ego of mine maintains the website.)

I hadn't meant to start talking about seeds.  I was just looking over the City Farmer website ( and was excited by the variety of topics that turn up there: urban agriculture ideas and projects from so many different places.  The dozen or so articles most recently posted (thursday evening) by the amazing Michael Levenston are:

Seeds of Change®, a U.S. seed company (heritage and organic focus) and maker of nutritious organic foods just awarded twelve (12!) $10,000 grants to community groups to carry out community based gardening or sustainable farming projects.

There is a proposal in Detroit to by a group called RecoveryPark to turn a 3 acre site into an urban agriculture [social enterprise] project to fund its addiction treatment programs.  

Cultivating Community, Harvesting Health – Community Gardens to Urban Farms is the positive title of The American Community Gardening Association's annual conference to take place in Seattle in August.

A film about food in Austin, Texas explores the idea of what it would be like if an entire city could feed itself with healthy, local, organic food.  A big dream and people are trying to make it reality.

A beautifully illustrated calendar - all vegetables! -

National Center for Appropriate Technology, together the [U.S.] National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) are calling for papers on Innovations and Trends in Sustainable Urban Agriculture.  There's going to be a special issue on "Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems."
National Sustainable Agriculture Infomormation Service: ATTRA -
National Centre for Appropriate Technology: NCAT -

Barry Thomas Becht and Binah Godisall are a writer- artist team writing children's books in a series called Seven Kind Kids.  They've just done one titled The Community Garden.
   (I'm looking for their own website, so I don't put in a link to the Amazon conglomerate)

from Local Food supported by the Big Lottery Fund. It will use it for its Islington Combined Harvest project to try to produce high quality local produce for people in the area. The café will host tastings and children will be invited to learn about food production and agriculture.

Linked by Michael Levenston
The Canmore Community Garden in Alberta has plots for 100 gardens.  There's a new video out (from Verge Permaculture, I think) about the garden and one of its founders, Crystel Vultier.  Vultier also started the Farm Box project which sources local and organic food right from the farmers and distributes to 130 families weekly.
the video is right on City Farmer:
Information about Canmore Community Garden:

At the Moritzplatz in Berlin, a busy roundabout in the centre of bustling Kreuzberg, well over a thousand supporters have helped the site to grow “from an ugly vacant lot to a paradise”. Over 500 different types of herbs and vegetables are growing here.

Linked by Michael Levenston
St Werburghs City Farm is 34 years old
Two popular lion-haired rabbits have been returned to St Werburgh’s City Farm after they were stolen in a New Year’s Eve break-in. Vandals damaged animal pens, CCTV units and security lights at the Farm’s charity centre during the raid at 9.45pm. Following an appeal for information in The Post, police say they received an anonymous tip off from the community. The rabbits were then recovered from an address in Easton where the suspect was arrested.

The Badger Rock Middle School currently has 100 sixth and seventh-graders but will expand to 150 students next year. Students learn in a state-of-the-art building on Madison’s south side. The Center for Resilient Cities hosted a grand opening celebration on Sept. 18, 2012.

Makers and Eaters Unite: 100 farmers, 1 city
Fresh City is a city farm. We incubate farmers that change lives by farming the city for a living. Heading into our third growing season we are confident that our model is scalable. We want to expand our member farmer program so that each neighborhood has a farm and a farmer. We are confident that we can have 100 farmers growing 1,000,000 pounds of produce in Toronto within the next two years. But we need your help.

National Conference “Enhancing Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture for sustainable livelihoods”
14-15 February, 2013
Planning for the Business of Growing Food in BC’s Towns and Cities
Complete Report on-line. ...written to help planners, engineers, and administrators ... to gain a better understanding of the potential, pitfalls, and best practices for growing, potentially raising, and selling food within town boundaries. Strategies and approaches outlined in the Guidebook provide local governments with tools to proactively plan for urban farming. This resource has been developed in collaboration and consultation with urban farmers, municipal staff, academics, and advocates.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

From Hope and Stephen Lewis, to Bill McKibben, to Willing Things to Not Happen

Hi everyone,

I hope you are all well.

Last week I listened to Michael Enright in conversation with Stephen Lewis.  They talked about a lot of things. After all, it was not long after Lewis' 75th birthday and the two men have known each other for over forty years.  Stephen Lewis' main work these days is with his foundation, which, since 2003, has funded over 700 mostly women-run initiatives to support women and children living with the effects of HIV/AIDS in African countries.  Here in Canada, an incredible Grandmothers to Grandmothers network has developed, in support of these projects.

The conversation turned to environment issues and climate change.  Lewis said that he does expect that the world will have an environmental crisis sometime between 2030 and 2050. He also talked about the difference between optimism and hope.  He said he is not optimistic.  However, he said he maintains hope. 

I've heard this sort of comment before, and I always have trouble wrapping my mind around the difference between optimism and hope. 

"Optimism" seems to be the word used when people are talking about making predictions based on the concrete information available. In the case of climate change and the possibility of major environment collapse, if we start looking at the climate science, CO2 and methane levels, lack of environmental action at national and international levels ... well, there's not a lot to be optimistic about.

"Hope" seems to be a word that refers more to our internal, feeling mind.  We see good people around us trying to make the world a better place, and we have hope, because there are communities of people in one area - and worldwide - who are trying.  Hope is the spark that keeps us going.  Hope is a word of personal connection.

Hope might just have a meaning that takes it side by side to "Faith" which, leaving aside any specifically religious meaning, I like to use as "believing in something when common sense tells you not to" .  This meaning is spoken by Fred Gailey in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street,  written by Valentine Davies. (and if you ever want to read the book version, I hope you find the 1984 version with Tomie de Paola's perfect illustrations!)

Over the last week I was thinking a lot about this hope-optimism-faith and today I listened to Bill McKibben's talk to the October 2012 Council of Canadians annual general meeting (there are about 8 talks on-line from this).  McKibben showed slides of people from all around the world who've done something to bring awareness about the dangers of climate change - about levels of CO2 above 350 parts per million - to their community and country.  The website apparently has something like 40,000 pictures from around the world on its Flicker account!  Even the two dozen he showed - caring and concerned faces from all 'round the world - were enough to have me in tears.  Sometimes there seems to be such a chasm between what people want for themselves and their families, and the relentless destructive march of the corporate. 

And that's were my husband came in, and I told him all the stuff I've written above.  He said that he lives and thinks in two versions of the world.  There's a science version, which fits with the gadget, fix-it, how-does-that-work guy he is.  Then there's the magic realm, the Terry Pratchett side.  This is the side that should be reality ... and oftentimes we just have to go ahead and do things as if that's the one side there is.

It's on this magic side that comes the willing things to not happen. 

Not wishing that something will happen. Willing things to not happen.  There is a stronger personal and collaborative act involved in this willing things to not happen.  And will in this sense includes both the thinking about things and the doing.  Setting mind and attention to all the ways in which something destructive can be stopped, and setting physical self to making sure something destructive is stopped.  Using will so something does not happen.

This is as far as I've managed to get with this train of thought today.

I'll leave you with best wishes, as always, and some websites to explore.

Why's Woman

Council of Canadians. Speech to Annual General Meeting by Bill McKibben. October 2012.

Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.

Stephen Lewis Foundation. 

The Sunday Edition. Stephen Lewis interviewed by Michael Enright. The Sunday Edition. January 6, 2013.   Building a global movement to solve the climate crisis.

Friday, January 4, 2013

There are enough brilliant people on this earth to do everything that needs to be done

"There are enough brilliant people on this earth to do everything that needs to be done".

Hello everyone,

I hope you are well.

I've just listened to Peter Sellars' lecture, Social Practice, for the Edible Education course.

His wide-ranging talk answers the question of why an artist and theatre person should come and lecture on food and food systems, and I recommend listening to his entire talk.

He offers some light, to contrast with the darkness and depressing things that will be explored in the series (and he gives examples of some serious issues).  He assures those in the class or listening to the tape that through sharing what we do, and by being mindful of the sentience of ... well, everything ... that we have power.  We can act in ways that are apart from the belittling, industrial system that has developed, and that he says is collapsing like a defeated dragon (slowly and with a lot of noise and display).

Sellars points out that we are here now to prepare for what comes next.  We have an opportunity to be ready, and an obligation to others to do what we can (because we are all connected).

I appreciate his bravery in using the word "evil" to describe the behaviours of big corporations ... and his assertion that evil is not sustainable.  Evil always fails.

He states that food justice is important because food is mind and that every child has a right to healthy, organic food; it is not an option.

With conviction and enthusiasm his talk combines spiritual philosophy from several traditions with practicality, something I've been trying to do for a long time ... not always successfully, clearly or without the trying adding its own stress.  I appreciate his reassurance to start small, and with other people. 

He mentions the 4 imeasurables of Buddhism: love, compassion, right effort and courage.

He reminds that "democracy" is not static.

He notes that Indigenous peoples recognize that everything is alive: human, animal, plants, water, rock.

He quotes from the Indian Upanishads (and I may be mixing its text with his own words):

...  the finest quality of the food we swallow rises up as mind.
The finest quality of the water that we swallow rises up as life itself.
The finest quality of the light we swallow rises up as speeech.
We are beings of light.
The more light you take in the more powerfully and beautifully you speak.

Food and sharing food is central over cultures.  Growing food small scale is going to be essential and a saving grace on the path forward.

There's a lot in this talk.  The older you are and the more you've been to workshops that combine spirit and practical, or the more you've tried to reconcile the diverse aspects of your complicated life, the more you'll sit -head in hands - nodding.  You'll think.  And that's important.

I hope you'll listen through. It's a good start for the New Year.

Best regards, as always.

Why's Woman