We’re being left in the dust, when it comes to good dirt, by our progressive coastal neighbours.
A mid-August day trip to Powell River to attend the third annual Edible Garden Contest really opened our eyes to the possibilities of food gardening. Whether one’s property is at 750 feet or down at sea level, whether the land is carved out of a clearing in the deep forest or a perfectly groomed display in a posh residential area, it is possible to produce remarkable amounts of nourishing foodfor the family table.
I have been following Powell River’s progress online since 2006 when this gutsy little community of 18,000 announced it’s intention to begin a 50-Mile Eat-Local challenge. My daughter, Kathie Klassen, and I were eager to see what they had achieved since that radical idea of eating local was first launched. Checking the map, the only other shopping area inside the boundaries of that circle is the Comox Valley. But at almost $30 roundtrip for a foot passenger on the ferry, shopping for food outside of Powell River doesn’t make economic sense.
The garden contest covered as far out of town as Lund so we were fortunate to have Kevin Wilson, an avid member of the town’s garden community, to act as driver/tour guide. What interested us particularly was the fact that three out of the four properties we toured were literally carved out of clearings surrounded by deep forest. One stop was at Pete Tebbutt’s site. He was one of the shareholders in a six family acreage known as the Craig Road Co-op. The veggies were thriving despite a healthy supply of rocks that were being removed one by one. What really amazed us was that he was growing greens and tomatoes on property that was sited 750 feet above sea-level.
In a future column I will share more details about specific gardening techniques used by Powell River residents that will be inspiring to readers. Meanwhile, I want to list the number of organizations that have renewed themselves or sprung to life since this amazing community embraced the “radical” idea of growing and eating local food: The Edible Garden Tour, The Community Resource Centre which organizes the Winter Farmer’s Market, A Good Food Box which has set up a bulk produce buying program, Kale Force which meets every second Wednesday of the month in the Community Centre to share a potluck and conversation about food and gardening, P.R. Food Security Project, Skookum Food Co-op, the Skookum Gleaners which was formerly known as the Fruit Tree Project and lastly, the P.R. Food Literary Council.