Urban Farmer Update, Spring 2009

This is a guest post by Ron Berezan. He is Edmonton’s Permaculture pioneer. I highly recommend taking a course from him or otherwise viewing his yard – it’s amazing how much food can be grown in the middle of the city. And how beautiful an edible landscape can be.

His website is http://www.theurbanfarmer.ca/ (see “100 Foot Diet” on this website).

Spring Greetings from The Urban Farmer!

In This Issue:
I. Message from The Urban Farmer
II. Upcoming Permaculture Workshops
III. Urban Chicken Update
IV. Rain Barrels
V. Farms for the Future
VI. GO Organic Cuba 2010
VII. The good Food Project
VIII. Permaculture in Edmonton and Alberta

I. Message from The Urban Farmer

I hope you are managing well in this unseasonally cold weather and that the build up of energy that comes from waiting will serve you well in the planting of your gardens. Hopefully we will soon see some much needed rain and warmth to bring our yards and gardens to life.

This is a very exciting time to be engaged in the promotion of food gardening. Everywhere we turn, there are more and more people enthusiastically embracing the idea of growing some of their own food. Vegetable seed sales are up by 25% this year in Canada and I have personally never had more requests for food gardening workshops throughout the province (double that of last year). The opening of the downtown Farmer’s Market in Edmonton this past Saturday was overflowing with people eager to reestablish connections with local farmers and there are new Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) and SPIN farming projects underway. There are many new community and school gardens in the works throughout Edmonton and I will be developing a food garden at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital over the next couple of weeks. Could it be that we have reached a “tipping point” in the way that we think, feel, and act about our food?

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Joanna Macy, visionary deep ecologist and engaged Buddhist teacher, reflect on what she refers to as “The Great Turning” – a global shift she claims to be as significant as the dawn of the agricultural and industrial eras; our transformation into the “ecozoic era”. Joanna suggests that there are three main elements to this deep change emerging around the planet: resistance to the further destruction of eco-systems and the diversity of life; creation of alternative ways of living in harmony with natural systems (from energy to housing to food to economy) and; a deep re-visioning of how we perceive ourselves in relation to a living, dynamic and beautiful planet.

I believe that organic gardening and permaculture practices can lead us deeply into all three elements of this “great turning”. Our gardens can become places that nurture and regenerate personal, community and eco-system health while connecting us intimately to the living systems around us. Our gardens can also be powerful models of how we can re-orient our cultural patterns towards a sustainable and healthier future on a much wider scale.

I am pleased this year to be working with Carissa deJong who is moving towards a livelihood in permaculture related activities (“Idle Hands Design Consulting”). Carissa and I will be collaborating on a number of workshops and installation projects over the summer.

I am happy to share the following information/opportunities to support you on your own path in “the great turning.” Please be in touch if you have any questions, comments or feedback whatsoever.  May your garden provide you much beauty, sustenance, and wonder over the coming months.

Warm Regards,

Ron Berezan
The Urban Farmer

II. Upcoming Permaculture Workshops
There is still space in each of the next three workshops in our “Urban Permaculture” series:

Edible Forest Gardening
Saturday, May 23, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: 10926 93 Street, Edmonton
Cost: $90.00

Forest gardening is an ancient approach to creating multi-tiered perennial food gardens that are patterned after natural forest eco-systems. With carefully selected and placed fruit and nut trees, berries, edible and medicinal perennials, vines, ground covers and self-seeding annuals, these gardens become largely self-sustaining and highly productive, as well providing excellent habitat for other species. This workshop will explore forest gardening models for urban environments and will include work on the installation of an urban forest garden.

No-Till Vegetable Gardening
Monday, May 25, 6:30 -9:00 pm
10926 93 Street, Edmonton
Cost: $45.00

Growing food without digging soil may seem like a contradiction in terms, but no-till methods can achieve great results with far less effort. By continually layering up organic waste materials, soil fertility and soil structure are greatly enhanced. This workshop will offer a mix of theory and hands-on no-till preparation and planting at an Edmonton urban garden site.

“Creating an Urban Oasis – An Introduction to Backyard Permaculture”
Saturday, June 20, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
10926 93 Street, Edmonton
Cost: $90.00

Tired of Living in the concrete jungle? Your own yard can become an oasis that feeds your body and your soul. Permaculture is a revolutionary approach to working with nature in the design of living systems that provide for human needs such as food, shelter, energy, and health in environmentally sustainable ways.  This class will provide an introduction to the wisdom of permaculture and the possibilities for its application in the Edmonton area through a dynamic interplay of theory, site visits and hands-on activities.

For more information or to register, please contact The Urban Farmer, 780 221-4800, http://www.theurbanfarmer.ca, theurbanfarmer@shaw.ca. (A full listing of workshops for the 2009 season is also on our website).

III. Urban Chicken Keeping Update

A group of Edmontonians (“River City Chickens”) has been working over the past year and a half to legalize urban chicken keeping in Edmonton. I am happy to say that we have been making excellent progress on this issue and are moving ever closer to our goal of having a pilot project launched within the city. Recent positive outcomes for similar movements in Canadian cities such as Vancouver have given our local cause a great boost. Please send me a note if you would like to get involved in working towards permissible chicken keeping in Edmonton.

IV. Rain Barrels

I have been working with a local plastics manufacturer towards an improved design for larger rainwater harvesting barrels (i.e. 1000 litres). I am happy to say that these barrels are now in production and will be available for purchase throughout the spring and summer. If you would like a price list and description of these barrels, I would be happy to send you a spec sheet for 2009. Email me at: theurbanfarmer@shaw.ca .

V.Farms for the Future”

The BBC has recently produced an inspiring and compelling short documentary highlighting the fragility of our current global food system and some very positive directions that alternative farmers around the world are now undertaking. Through the experience of a young woman about to inherit the family farm in England, the film takes one on a journey of discovery and possibility. I would highly recommend viewing this film on line: http://www.viddler.com/explore/PermaScience/videos/4/

VI. Go Organic Cuba 2010

I am pleased to announce that I will once again be offering a two week trip to Cuba to explore the incredible organic farming, permaculture and urban agriculture movements happening throughout the country. This past year, 20 Alberta farmers, urban gardeners and food security advocates joined it what turned out to be a very inspiring, informative and fun experience!. Tentative dates are February 22, to March 8. I will have the updated brochure available by the middle of June so please send me a note if you would like to find out the details for next year’s trip to Cuba, theurbanfarmer@shaw.ca.

VII. The Good Food Project

Here is some exciting news about a new local food initiative based on the Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) model.

The Good Food Project is a non-profit pilot program to increase access to local food for citizens in our region.  We will deliver weekly boxes of mixed produce. It will run a minimum of 6 weeks, starting in late July.  

One of our goals is to make “Local” easy.  We can deliver to your home, your office or your business, whatever is easiest for you.
The Good Food Project is a   multi farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  This CSA will buy  produce from local farmers in NE Edmonton and, if required, from local farmers in the surrounding area.

The Good Food Project is a social enterprise with a social purpose.  That means at least 10% of our revenue will be used to reduce the cost of a Good Food Box for low income families.  

To find out more, or to sign up, visit the project web-site at http://www.eatlocalfirst.com/the-good-food-project.php.

VII.  Permaculture in Edmonton and Alberta

Over 100 Albertans gathered for a “permaculture convergence” in Olds, Alberta this past April. In addition to workshops and speakers, the event was a terrific opportunity for permaculture enthusiasts in the province to meet and network with each other. There are plans for the next province wide convergence to be held in Edmonton in October.

In the Edmonton area, there is now an active group sharing permaculture activities and learning. We are connected together through a list serve group (now over 60 people) that enables members to post activities, questions, resources or needs. If you would like to be part of this growing community, please join the list serve group by following this link: <http://groups.google.com/group/edmonton-permaculture/sub?s=nNfjWggAAADtON20V1iq52wLry1D4OV8&amp;hl=en> .

This summer Alberta will host our first ever full Permaculture Design Certificate program. This is an intensive  two week program that follows the essential Permaculture design curriculum as conceived by found Bill Mollison. The course is being coordinated by Ravis Sustainable Consulting and will be held in the Gull Lake area with visits to several sites around Alberta. This course has only a few spaces left. To find out more or to register, visit: www.ravissustainable.com <http://www.ravissustainable.com> .

For any additional information regarding consulting, workshops, design, garden installations, or product sales, please visit The Urban Farmer web-site at www.theurbanfarmer.ca <http://www.theurbanfarmer.ca> , or email theurbanfarmer@shaw.ca .

The Urban Farmer
Natural, Sustainable and Edible Landscapes
Edmonton, AB
780 221-4800

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I would like to keep chickens in my back yard. Do you think I could be part of the pilot project to legalize back yard chickens?

Regarding Edmonton Journal column today re 'river city chickens' - we definitely are interested in raising some hens - my husband grew up on a chicken farm - I love the calming effect hens make with their clucking - and we are definitely committed with regards to looking after them year round - we already do this with wild birds in the backyard. Where do I go to sign up for this?

Hello Chicken Lovers,

Most of the sites have been chosen, however it is possible we may need more. This all depends of course on whether the city accepts the proposal. You can become part of our group by going to ca.groups.yahoo.com and searching for “river city chickens” , then follow the prompts from there. We are having a meeting on Saturday, April 24 to firm up more details. You would be invited to attend.

Meanwhile, you can help this by writing a short letter to the editor of the Journal and to the city planning department expressing your support. See below.

To All Urban Chicken Supporters – Let’s Get Crackin’!

You may have seen the articles in the Edmonton Journal recently regarding urban chicken keeping in Canada, including the proposal we (The River City Chickens Collective) have submitted. The articles accurately indicated that the Planning Department of the City of Edmonton is on the verge of making a decision whether they will allow our proposed pilot project for a small number of Edmonton families to keep chickens in their yards for one year. The proposal outlines a very carefully thought out set of guidelines that reflect the best practises of municipalities throughout North America that allow chickens.

Given that this initiative has now become public, it is critical that people who support the goal of local food security voice their support for this proposal. In virtually all cities where chickens have been legalized, there has been a small, but very vocal, anti-chicken lobby (often including the poultry industry). We need to make sure that the Planning Department hears that the majority of Edmontonians support this proposal.

You can help by doing the following 2 things:

1. Send a brief email, attention John Wilson, City Planning Department to 311@edmonton.ca . Indicate that you saw the article in the Edmonton Journal and you think that allowing chickens in Edmonton would be a great thing to do. Feel free to elaborate on the reasons why. If you have not seen the article, you can see it at the address below. You may also choose to cc city councilors at Councillors@edmonton.ca .

2. Go to the Edmonton Journal at: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Edmonton+mulls+urban+chicken+coops/2... and post a brief comment following the article. This is also an important place to continue to show public support.

3. Write a letter to the Editor of the Edmonton Journal expressing your support for the idea of the pilot project and the basic principle of being able to grow your own food and keep chickens in your yard. Emphasize that this is a safe, healthy and very common practise in most other parts of the world. Of course add any other points you would like

Thank You!

If you are interested in getting more involved in this important work, you can sign up on the River City Chickens Yahoo group by going to www.ca.groups.yahoo.com and entering “river city chickens” into the “find a group” search. Follow the prompts from there. Information about group meetings is communicated through the group list serve.

Onward and Upward!

Ron Berezan
for the Rivercity Chickens Collective

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