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Posts Tagged ‘Urban

City Farmers and Locavores: Free Food in the City

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This was a Jane’s Walk I attended called City Farmers and Locavores: Free Food in the City.

The premise of the walk was to visit a number of local-urban venues rich in urban-agricultural potential, and learn about their roles in supporting neighborhood nutrition.  The walk was concentrated primarily along Queen Street West, starting from Trinity Bellwoods Park and concluding at the The Drake Hotel.  Sarah Elton (Locavore) and Lorraine Johnson (Author) lead the tour with really great information about specific urban-agricultural topics at each of the 5-stops along the walk.

Meeting at Trinity Bellwoods Park Gate

Walk Leaders: Sarah Elton (Left) and Lorraine Johnson (Right)

Our first stop was in Trinity Bellwoods Park, at a native Carolinian tree with edible pink blossoms!  Both Sarah and Lorraine described how edible blossoms comprised a small source of Urban Foraging, which could include collecting from city owned fruit, nut, berry and weed plants. Lorraine described how you could use the flower blossoms in salads, and recently I discovered a whole set of recipes for flowers, which makes me wish I had actually tried a few blossoms before our next stop (I felt a little bad though watching all of the walkers suddenly attack the tree and eat a whole bunch of the blossoms).

Lorraine explains how you can eat the blossoms right off the tree!

Once told the blossoms are edible...the tree was attacked!

Our second stop, still in the park, was the Trinity Bellwoods Greenhouse.   Here Lorraine and Sarah described how community Greenhouses offer a real advantage for city-dwellers who may not have access to a backyard, or even sunny window ledge to grow some of their own small plants or herbs.  The Greenhouse is fully functional in the winter, with a small heater and water tap.  A “walker” described how someone in the city was developing a travelling Greenhouse, and how it would move between neighborhoods distributing veggies and serving as a moving classroom for people.  Sarah described how farmers in Maine (mostly lead by the pioneering of Eliot Coleman) are developing the Four Season Farm, which is a system of placing a greenhouse type addition onto existing agricultural fields to make them perform all-year round.  These four-season farms sound kind of like field prosthetics! (I hope to find out more about them, and include them in the Agri-Tech Catalog soon).

Lorraine describes how the Greenhouse works all year round.

You can see the heater and water hose for 4-season growing capacity.

Our third stop was at a plot of (what seemed) un-kept greenery at the intersection of Queen Street West and Crawford Street.  In fact we learned that it was a an area dedicated to growing native grasses.  In fact along any boulevard (according to Lorraine and Sarah) you are allowed to grow any kind of grass species, whether it be the traditional lawn grass or productive crop-grasses!

Here you can see the local edible tall-grasses

Our forth stop was up along Shaw Street (close to Queen Street West).  Here we learned about the Kentucky Coffee Tree and how it is actually quite a rare tree in Ontario. The tree has some of the longest leaves of all Ontario trees and produces a type of legume which could be used as a coffee substitute, but also how it can be poisonous.  As an original native tree to Virginia, it was described how Kentucky Coffee seeds were used as gambling chips during the time of Canada’s discovery by European settlers, by both aboriginals and Europeans alike.  The seeds traveled as bargaining chips (and planting seeds) up along the Mississippi until they reached Southern Ontario.

Lorraine describes the story of the Kentucky Coffee Tree.

Our final stop was at the back of the Drake Hotel, where Sarah and Lorraine described that one of the best fronts in promoting local foods is through restaurants and their chefs.  “It is hard to convince 300 people to eat local for dinner, but it is easy to have 1 chef use local foods for his restaurant of 300 people at dinner”.  And we learned how the chefs at the Drake are using a small garden plot at the back of their property for growing herbs and spices.

The Drake Hotel's back-lot garden. Didn't know you'd be eating a posh culinary dish and supporting local food did you?

Overall, the walk was a lot of fun, and it opened up quite a few new research topics in local farming and food resources.  A map of the walk route is linked below.

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Written by Matthew

May 8, 2010 at 20:35