City Farmer Presents
The Best Food Garden In Vancouver Contest
Gardeners Who Get It Ripe
By Angela Murrills
'The Georgia Straight' September 21-28, 2000
Lawns are yawns. Grass is passé. That's the message coming out of a recent contest masterminded by City Farmer, a nonprofit urban agriculture group that set out this summer to uncover the best food gardens in Vancouver. The contest attracted only 26 entrants, but, organizers say, the idea came late in the season evolving from earlier efforts to organize a food-garden tour. Entries revealed that gardeners are modest folk: many competitors (including all the winners) were nominated by their neighbours. Gardeners are also proud folk: arriving unannounced, with only a street number to guide them, the City Farmer judges soon found themselves being guided through the greenery, says program coordinator Spring Gillard, and in one case they were even fed chicory, harvested on the spot, rushed to the kitchen, cooked, and drizzled with oil and vinegar.
How space was utilized, crop diversity, whether or not there was a composting system, overall health of the vegetation, and visual appeal, plus "an emotional response that's hard to grade", all influenced the marks allotted. Only the narrowest of margins separated the three winners: Rocco Calogero, Manuel Arruda, and Tarcisio Pasetto.
Filled with, at different times, chicory, radicchio, basil, tomatoes, kiwis, figs, grapes, prunes, pears, and corn, Calogero's garden occupies two back yards and much of the front yard. It produces something different every week, says his daughter Lucy: "[My father] has been growing vegetables since he moved from Italy over 30 years ago. My mother makes enough tomato sauce for the family year-round, and sends some to my sister in Victoria."
In second place was Manuel Arruda, whose garden includes an orangery with oranges, lemons, tangerines, and guavas all flourishing; three different pear varieties on one tree (many food gardeners graft); and a thicket of densely planted beans. The Pasetto garden includes, according to Gillard, "what looked like a field of radicchio. He eats salad twice a day, and says, 'Some people watch TV 16 hours a day. I garden.' " An honourable mention went to graduate student, farm activist, and UBC Farm caretaker Derek Masselin for his personal garden on the UBC campus. (Tours of his garden are available weekdays. Call 822-3560. Organizers hope winner's gardens will form a larger tour next year.)
Entrants spanned socioeconomic, ethnic, and geographic boundaries. A new Canadian family on the East Side raises the "three sisters" - beans, squash, and corn - all ripening companionably together. A doctor in Shaughnessy grows salsify, Jerusalem artichokes, and a guerrilla squash that climbs from his compost bin and clambers over the garage roof. A Kitsilano roof garden rewards its owner with cucumbers, chard, arugula, basil, and heirloom tomatoes, all grown in containers.
For many, moving away from the traditional grass lawn is a health issue; for some, it's a way of socializing. "A lot of gardeners use their front yards [for food gardens]," Gillard says. "They're not hidden away at the back." And a front yard bursting with tomatoes is a topic ripe for conversation.
Vancouver's food gardeners also get marks for environmental awareness. All entrants practise composting and organic growing, and many have water-collection systems. Conscious of the ongoing wheel of the seasons, all routinely save their own vegetable seeds for the following year.
For Immediate Release July 25, 2000
Do you have a food garden? Well, we'd like to see it. Until August 18th, City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture will be accepting contest entries from food gardeners in the City of Vancouver. Judging will take place in early September and winners will be announced by Sunday, September 24th.
What We're Looking For
If you grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, or nuts in your front or back yard, on a rooftop, balcony or boulevard, you qualify for our food garden contest. We are interested in exotic and ethnic food growing too. We are also looking for unique features in food gardens. For example, do you have an unusual compost bin or rain water collection system? Are you growing food in a bathtub or other creative container? Gardening prizes will be awarded in several categories.
How To Enter
Entries will only be accepted by phone. A short list of best gardens will be compiled from preliminary phone interviews. Final judging will take place in early September. Winners will be announced by Sunday, September 24th.
Entry Deadline: Friday, August 18th, 2000.
Call To Enter At: 736-2250
City Farmer has been working in the field of urban agriculture for 21 years. For more information on their projects, visit their web site at www.cityfarmer.org or drop by their Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden at 2150 Maple Street from Wednesday through Saturday, 9am-4pm.
Media Enquiries: or Michael Levenston at 685-5832.
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