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Thursday, 18 September 2014

THE COMMUNITY VEGE GARDEN

This is the first in a series of alternative ways to get your hands on healthy, affordable food when you're on a tight budget.  Being broke is no excuse not to eat well!

Nestled behind the old St Columba church in Grey Lynn is a garden bed bursting with the lushest vegetables you've seen.  Each gardener proudly labels their patch with a wonky, hand-painted sign and the handmade scarecrows almost look too friendly to be a threat. Nevertheless this suburban community garden is clearly thriving and its caretakers are bound to harvest the freshest organic crop in town.

As vegetables become increasingly expensive and laden with toxins, people are readily getting their hands dirty again.  They are looking back to how their grandparents planted gardens and grew vegetables, and they're re-learning vital skills that have been lost to more recent generations.  All over the world grassy sidewalks are turning into tomato beds, free roaming chickens are moving into abandoned urban carparks and apartment balconies are dotted with pots of dark, leafy kale.  It's not a new concept, and it's certainly not a new trend, but an age old form of self sufficiency.  In fact it's hardly surprising that people in (particularly Western) nations are often at their healthiest when they're left to fend for themselves.

When WWII broke out and food supplies grew scarce, every country from the United States, to England, to Germany encouraged its citizens to turn their backyards into Victory Gardens.  These vegetable gardens provided a steady flow of nourishing food to both soldiers and civilians. When Cuba was shut off from the rest of the world in 1989 they were forced to turn their cities into vegetable gardens.  Every spare patch of grass was transformed and used to feed the people.  Unable to obtain the chemicals and pesticides that are normally used on crops, Cuba had little choice but to go organic. 

These days the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow, as does our disassociation with the food we eat.  Child poverty is being tackled by providing school kids with high sugar breakfasts that have almost no nutritional value (which please don't get me wrong is still better than an empty belly), and all the while the opportunity to grow great food is all around us.  There are some utterly amazing people such as Garden to Table who are getting involved with schools and children, teaching them where their food comes from and how to grow it.  In America, unlikely food activists like Ron Finley are attracting the attention of young kids with his Guerrilla Gardening in LA's  food desert.  By turning side walks and abandoned lots into thriving vegetable gardens, he's teaching kids how to grow rival tomato plants rather than join rival gangs.*

There is such a vast array of healthy eating options that span well beyond your local supermarket.  Most of us can't afford to just shop in the organic section so we need to think outside of the box.  Almost every suburb has at least one community garden tucked away somewhere and they're always happy for new participants (after all you can never have too many hands for pulling weeds!).   Yes it requires a little more effort, but the taste will be so much more rewarding in the end!

You can find out more about community gardening here.
*I read about Ron Finley in the latest Peppermint magazine.  Please go and check out this article to learn more about him, he's kind awesome!

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