Veggie City 'in the hood'

Veggie City 'in the hood'
Veggie City crew members posing with Veggie Mastermind, Trevor Johnson in front of our newly painted banner! Thank you LIHC youth for creating such an awesome piece of art!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Profiling Two Of Our Amazing Resident Mentors

Veggie City has been very fortunate to have such amazing gardening gurus in our own backyard! Veggie City staff met with two of our mentors this past week, and one thing is for sure: our mentors are truly inspirational!

The first house we went to was Vince's. Vince belongs to the London Fanshawe Horticulture Society. He wanted to donate some heirloom vegetable plants to Veggie City, so we headed on over for a visit. What a garden Vince has! Vince and his wife love to garden, and we could tell! They had numerous varieties of lilies, blood root (named after the red colour that seeps from the roots) and many other prized plants. Vince indicated that he had over 90 varieties of hostas growing in his garden! The piece de resistance came when we headed down to his vegetable garden. It was quite the sight to see all of the onions, herbs and red and green leaf lettuce poking through already. And the raspberry cage- that was fun to see. Vince tells us that caging the raspberries ensures that there will be some fruit left for him and his wife, since the birds and other creatures love their raspberries just as much as they do! Vince shared many tips and tricks throughout our time, but his best advice? "Everyone thinks that belonging to a horticulture society is for people who are retired. But don't wait until you are retired to join! That way, you won't make the costly mistakes that beginning gardeners make. Every time I attend a meeting, I come out learning something new!"
Some of the yummy vegetables that Vince and the London Fanshawe Horticulture Society donated include garlic, onions, tomatoes and the hottest pepper ever, called Scotch Bonnet. Vince warned us to "make sure you wear gloves when you handle these peppers! They look so innocent and good to pick, but if you don't wear gloves, you'll be sorry!"
Many thanks to Vince for the wonderful tour in the rain, the gardening advice and the vegetable plants!

The second mentor that we paid a visit to was Pam. Pam used to tend a goat farm in Nova Scotia and her husband used to cultivate garlic. Ever since moving to London, Pam has kept garlic and  herbs close at bay. She grows many herbs for use as medicinal teas and felt at ease during our tour to share tips and tricks for herbal remedies from the garden. Pam also shared with us a fabulous way to grow tomatoes, that comes from her roots on the East Coast. Because the soil is so rocky down east, residents grow tomatoes on an angle and prepare the soil with some eggshells mixed with compost before planting. She shared a story with us about growing small tomatoes once right in a box of compost: her plant grew so high that it ended up in the neighbour's yard! "I never had so many tomatoes before!" she told us. Pam advised us to start collecting our eggshells now, to add vital calcium to our vegetable roots. Pam is also an expert when it comes to companion planting, which she confides is "the only way I plant". Pam told us that placing basil in between our tomato plants helps keep pests away. Before the end of our visit, Pam made sure we took home a huge bushell of garlic to share with our resident shareholders. Passionate gardeners are so generous when it comes to sharing knowledge and plants!

Thank you Pam and Vince for the great tours, the conversation and for being a part of this exciting project!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Eating Better - Organically grown vs. Certified Organic

One of the biggest questions that the Veggie City team has come across is what is the difference between organically grown versus certified organic produce?
What we have learned is, certified organic produce means that a produce farm has applied for and received special certification from the government of Cananda, indicating that the vegetables have been grown without the use of pesticides, synthetics and chemical fertilizers and do not contain genetically modified organisms. The vegetables (and fruits) are not harvested or processed using irradiation, solvents or nasty chemical food additives. Organic food production is a heavily regulated industry, distinct from private gardening. In order for a farmer to label their food as "organic", they must meet all of the regulations and standards set by our government and international organizations.
Organically grown means that farmers (in our case urban 'farmers') make a commitment to grow and harvest vegetables using organic methods, such as using compost that does not contain chemicals or synthetic fertilizers, using seeds and seedlings that have not been genetically modified and by using traditional weeding techniques instead of pesticides. Although we will not have the government certification to label our vegetables "certified organic", our shareholders can be assured that Veggie City is commited to using organic methods of growing and harvesting your vegetables.
So what is the difference between organically grown vegetables and conventional vegetables and what is the benefit of organically grown vegetables?
Conventional vegetables are vegetables that have been grown using synthetic inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Genetically modified seeds and seedlings have been produced to withstand certain diseases easier than non-genetically modified seeds. The farmer attempts to control the environment of the plant, so that it is not stressed very easily and can concentrate on growing nice and big, with no diseases to threaten it. The pesticides help to control the environment, so that the plant has a nice and relaxing journey towards full growth. That doesn't sound too bad! But...When a seed is not genetically modified, it must work twice as hard to resist sickness and disease and survive in harsher conditions, therefore, it contains more nutrients and is much healthier for us! Have you ever tasted the biggest strawberries at the grocery store, only to discover that they didn't taste like much? Bigger isn't always better, especially when it comes to things like strawberries and blueberries! Since the conventional vegetables didn't have to work very hard to grow, they lack the nutrients that make them taste as good as they should!
Organic farming and gardening has many more benefits and is less damaging to the environment in the following ways:
- Organic farms do not consume or release pesticides into the environment- some of which have the potential to harm soil, water and local wildlife
- Organic growing is better than conventional growing at sustaining diverse ecosystems (populations of plants and insects, as well as animals)
- Organic farming and growing uses less energy and produces less waste
- Organically grown vegetables tend to have more nutrients than conventionally grown vegetables, and taste better!
Do you have any stories to share with us, or any questions regarding the organic, local, or conventional growing debate? Share your comments with us!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

5 Ways Your Generosity Impacts Your Community

1. Giving youth a job
By supporting Veggie City, you will be giving 6 youth a job and the opportunity to learn valuable skills that will last them a lifetime! Such skills include marketing, contracting, customer service, creating, planting and maintaining vegetable gardens. Youth will also receive training such as WHMIS, Safe Food Handling and First Aid.

2. Fresh, organically grown veggies in your own backyard!
Shareholders will benefit from recieving a variety of fresh vegetables all summer long that are grown in their own neighbourhoods. The vegetables will taste extra amazing, as they will be picked when they are most ripe and will not be sprayed with nasty pesticides, or flown from the far corners of the globe.

3. Affordable!!!!
For less than $15.00 per week, you and your neighbours could have family-sized baskets of veggies every week during the summer months. Veggie City Mentors will also recieve a 'share' of  the collective harvest. What is better than helping your community to become environmentally and economically sustainable, while saving money at the same time?!

4. Relationships
The best places to live are in neighbourhoods where there are lots of things to do, and lots of friends to do them with! Veggie City participants will get the chance to meet and interact with their neighbours in a new way- building connections and relationships that span across generations and across cultures.

5. Saving the Environment
Veggie City is a green project aimed at protecting our environment. Vegetable gardens are good for our environment because they reduce greenhouse gases and noise pollution, use less water than grass, don't need mowing, provide habitat for insects, birds and animals, and promote pollinators. They also provide 'cooling' during the summer heat, as vegetables are better at absorbing sunlight and heat than grass. Vegetable gardens also FEED US, which lawns cannot do!