I love it when people take their ideology and apply it practically. This is exactly what Curtis and Eve at Green City Acres have done. To quote from their website:
Our mission is to foster social and environmental change through the production of local organic food, with minimal use of fossil fuels, and to help, teach, and empower people to start growing their own.
Cool! So, I decided to spend a bit of time shadowing Eve and Curtis with my camera and try to capture some of what they do. I already knew Curtis from a number of environmental/sustainability groups around Kelowna, so I knew he was the real deal. What I wasn’t ready for was just how committed they both were and what they had achieved in a relatively short space of time.
The first morning I spent with them was to be harvest time. I followed Curtis and Eve around as they harvested and prepared their produce for the following-days farmers market. Of course, this would be a bit of a different exercise as they farm multiple properties in the inner-Kelowna area and do everything by bicycle. One of the main concepts behind Green City Acres is a technique called SPIN farming, which translates as Small Plot INtensive farming. Simply put, you find home-owners who are willing to trade their back (or front) yards in return for a weekly supply of fresh produce. You then plant a few different crops in each yard–and assuming you can find several yards to farm–you end up with a great selection of produce grown in an urban setting. Sounds easy, right?
Well, these two make it look easy, but at first glance they seem to do everything the hard way. To be true to their own mission statement — “minimal use of fossil fuels“– Green City Acres not only shuns the uses of petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides, they also totally avoid the use of petroleum based transportation. Everything is done by bicycle. Traveling between sites for harvesting, transporting produce and work tools (even the roto-tiller) is done by bike.
And so I arrived on my own bike, bright and early on what turned out to be a very dreary and drizzly day. I followed Eve around the garden as she harvested salad greens and radishes and carefully cleaned and bunched scallions ready for the market. It was great to see this going on in a location surrounded by a major road, an apartment building, and other residences whose yards mainly consist of lawn.
Then it was time to head off to the next backyard to see what was planted there. The photo at the top of this post is what I saw and I really was not ready for the glorious sight. It is a great example of what these two have done in peoples yards and I was totally blown away! I was in heaven with my camera photographing from every angle conceivable (at least angles that I could conceive of).
As I mentioned before, it was a dreary and drizzly day but we still went everywhere by bike. Really, it was not a big deal. We were dressed for it and were already working outside anyway. Curtis and I had a great time chatting away as we rode the side-streets of Kelowna traveling from one location to the other. Yep, we could have done the same in a pick-up truck, but it would have been somehow different. Sorry about the cliche, but there was something very “Zen” about the whole thing. By the end of our morning together, Curtis and Eve had harvested and prep’ed a ton of food. Curtis kept on exclaiming to me “look at all this stuff!” Yep, they have grown a lot of food in only a few backyards.
5:30 am on Saturday morning came pretty early for me. This was the time I had arranged to meet at the Green City base to follow our intrepid duo to the Kelowna Farmers Market. I did OK, but it was more like 5:45 when I got there. By that time Curtis and Eve had almost completed loading the bike trailers. All that was left to do was tie them down and make the journey of several kilometers to the market.
Everything is transported by bike and trailer. All the produce, the tent, display baskets, everything. It was really very cool to be cycling down the road next to the loaded bikes. With hardly any traffic on the road it certainly made photographing them a lot easier! I also love the fact the Eve changes out of her work jeans and and wears very stylish dresses to the market. You gotta dress for the occasion!
We turn into the Farmers Market lot and for a while stand in the line-up with the other vehicles waiting to be allocated our area. As I look around amongst the vans, pick-up trucks, and cars, I am not surprised to see that we are the only bicycles in the lot. Next, it is time to setup the stall and they are ready to go.
In a number of previous posts I have written about transition towns and the need for the re-localization of our food production. Curtis and Eve are showing us that it can indeed be done. It can also be done without tons of expensive machinery on huge acreages. Before I get criticized for being overly “pollyanna” about this, I want to add that these two work very hard to grow and harvest the vegetables they sell. Curtis’s enthusiasm for what he is doing only serves to punctuate the deep passion that drives him to do what he does. Someone else may not be as successful. And, it is still early days for Green City Acres. This is the first year of production and Kelowna has been blessed with an unusual level of early-season rainfall. The proof will be in the long term viability of the venture. However, whatever trials come their way, I expect Curtis and Eve will meet them head on and with a smile.
A big thanks to Eve and Curtis for letting me hang around and continually poke a camera lens in their faces. It was a total pleasure hanging out with you both!