MacKinnon Ravine Food Forest takes root. July 2014.

MacKinnon Ravine Food Forest Planting Blitz. July 2014.

Welcome back from the abundance that summer has to offer! I learned a tremendous amount of new knowledge this summer, and I’m eager to keep that momentum moving forward with other communities in Edmonton. As I mentioned in the previous post, the MacKinnon Ravine Food Forest project was just days away. And here we are at the beginning of September with no updates!  Good News! Phase 1 of the MacKinnon Ravine Food Forest is complete, the swales are dug and the plants are in the ground.

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Swale trenched along slope contour lines encourages rain water to move horizontally along the slope. Shrubs are planted 20-50 cm down slope of swale.

The event organizer and choreographer, Dustin Bajer, brought it all together and provided the design and layout of the 1.15 acre section of land, and the 2500 plants going in. Dustin worked every aspect of the project and provided friendly guidance wherever it was needed. The 100+ volunteers from all sorts of demographics and backgrounds eagerly worked together all day in the rain and sun to dig the swales, carry the plants up the slope, measure out plant spacing, and finally dig and plant the trees and shrubs into the ground.

It is amazing to experience people united in purpose and vision, working hard – there is no honking horns! Yet it all gets done. something to be learned there… All manner of people, young and old shared their smiles and biceps and lower backs and humour throughout the day. Strangers selflessly sharing the burden of the tasks at hand.

The City of Edmonton, through the Root for Trees program, provided 5 staff, 2 large tents, dozens and dozens of shovels, and gloves and, A LOT OF PLANTS! The City nursery provided saskatoons, high and low bush cranberries, currents, pin-cherries, beaked hazelnuts, raspberries, chokecherries, and elderberries.

The process that Dustin established with the City can now be adopted by other citizen groups, and I’m excited to help in that process! Contact Eco Evolver to start a community naturalization process in your neighbourhood or even a section of the River Valley.

LIVING Bridge Edmonton. A community-powered Food Forest in the heart of Edmonton, on a  bridge! July 2014.

LIVINGBridge Edmonton. A community-powered Food Forest in the heart of Edmonton – on a bridge! July 2014.

Finally, I was pleasantly surprised to find a hidden gem on the old rat hole overpass just a couple of weeks ago. The LIVINGbridge, a community driven project, is a small food forest located at the end (or start) of the bike trail that runs parallel to the Capital LRT line, on the bridge over 95st. Growing all sorts of edible plants from kale, lettuce and tomatoes to lavender and basil, it provided a small snack on my bike ride home and a lot of inspiration for what we’re accomplishing in Edmonton. LIVINGBridge has an upcoming event in their community so be sure to check them out for more details.

The Changing Climate

Inspiring as they are, these examples of community driven initiatives to increase biodiversity and access to healthy food are still subject to the local weather and changing climate patterns. The drought in California, the floods in Winnipeg and Saskatchewan, the hail in Airdrie are not only reminders that weather patterns are intensifying globally, but that those changes affect the availability of food here in Edmonton in a number of ways.

Drought is greatly impacting food prices, and according to the Wall Street Journal, food prices are expected to rise at least 7% over this time last year, with Statcan already claiming increases up to 12% for meat (See Statcan for details. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/cpis08a-eng.htm).

We already know that the cost of many food items is going up, which has the initial effect of pressuring producers to decrease product sizes in an attempt to hold costs down.  Another side effect of inflation, according to Irwin Kellner, occurs when producers use cheaper ingredients, which reduces nutrient quality in food and product efficiency in other products (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/inflation-is-higher-than-you-think-2014-08-12).

We also know that for many Canadians, median household income has not kept pace with inflation (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/famil108d-eng.htm), which means that many households have the same amount of money for food as they did last year and the year before. As the problem escalates, and cost volatility increases, families are forced to buy less and are challenged to budget accordingly because so much of the pricing is out of their control.

Indoor Gardens Have Many Benefits

Eco Evolver has shifted focus to supporting Edmontonians build indoor gardens in response to the changing climates (environmental and economic) of our times. We’ve partnered with Bright Agrotech LLC out of Laramie, Wyoming to connect passionate change makers with products and services that make indoor gardening achievable and productive.

Indoor gardening can ease the pressures mentioned above if you are savvy and dedicated. If you sign up for fixed energy rates with Direct Energy, you can predict your energy usage much further into the future. Once you build your garden, the on going expenses are predictable, the harvests become stable, and the ability to feed yourself and your family nutrient dense, living food provides peace of mind and nourished bodies.

The best entry level hydroponic solution I’ve seen is the ZipGrow Tower by Bright Agrotech.

Spring Vertical Tower

Spring Vertical Tower

 

I use the Spring Vertical Towers in my home, and I love them. If you have questions about incorporating hydroponic or aquaponic gardens in your house, contact Eco Evolver for more details on how you can get started.

With a little planning and a little saving (or reallocating money) you can be eating delicious microgreens within 14 days, and you can begin eating leafy greens within 2 months.

Indoor gardens are excellent learning environments for children, because each aspect of the garden becomes a teachable moment that can be spun into an inquiry-based project that children will eat up, literally! Indoor gardens and vertical gardens are also excellent, low-impact activities that individuals with limited mobility can engage in that promote hand-eye coordination and meaningful interactions with Nature.

Now is the time, sit down with your family or household and start the process of integrating indoor gardening today!