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Green guerillas unite

Another front in the organic revolution grows at Pemberton Creek

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The Liz Christy Community Garden, New York’s first community garden, circa 1973, is named for gardening activist Liz Christy. Along with her fellow Green Guerillas, Liz was known for sprouting revolutions by planting random window boxes and vacant lots with “seed bombs”. Located at the corner of Bowery and Houston in Manhattan, the site was formerly part of a large farm owned by Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch governor of New Amsterdam (“bouwerie” is Dutch for “farm”).

The bohemian and brave San Francisco of the 1970s was famous for its free food given out by the Diggers as well as its community gardens, later organized by SLUG, the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners — another vein of hip, urban guerrilla-ism meant to fuel community, foil the military/industrial complex, and get people in touch with their roots — literally and metaphorically.

In Havana, huertos populares — popular gardens — were created after the fall of the Soviet empire and Cuba was short on chemical fertilizers, food, and just about everything else. These communal gardens are now a critical part of Havana’s food supply and a model for organic gardening known around the world.

Los Angeles has something more like a community farm in the 14-acre community garden right downtown on Alameda Street. Closer to home, Calgary, Richmond, Vancouver and Prince George all have their community gardens, all of them treasured by those who use them and those who view them.

According to Laura J. Lawson’s City Bountiful , the concept of people gardening communally where and how you might not expect them to be — community gardens, war-relief victory and liberty gardens, Depression-era relief gardens, vacant lot gardens and school gardens — dates back to the 1890s in the U.S. (sorry, couldn’t find any references to Canada’s own community gardening history).

And so it is that landless gardeners in Pemberton are joining this noble tradition at the Pemberton Creek Community Garden, now flourishing organically in its second year. With 40 plots — all of them, except two, are taken — and an enthusiastic community digging in, this endeavour has broken new ground, some of it political.

The idea sprouted a few years ago with Richard Gadoury and his wife, Oshun Seed, owners of Solstice Organics in Pemberton. They had been involved in community gardens for at least 10 years while living in the Victoria area.

“We bought a condo in Pioneer Junction and as we walked everyday on the dyke we always looked at this one vacant piece of property and said, that would be a perfect spot for a community garden because it gets full sun all day,” says Richard, whose grandma always had a garden while he was growing up in Montreal.

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