Food and Medicine Culture at the Neighborhood Level

May 15, 2008 § 3 Comments

On Tuesday night I came home to find a flyer on my front porch from the Whiteaker Community Council announcing a special presentation at their May general meeting: “Food and Medicine Culture at the Neighborhood Level.” The speakers were Charlotte Anthony of the Victory Gardens Project, and Tobias Policha and Nick Routledge, co-Founders of the Food Not Lawns collective. With the relevant topic being presented, I attended my first Whiteaker Community Council meeting (after living in the Whit for five years).

A couple of upcoming events were announced in the general meeting including, “Eat Here Now,” at the First United Methodist Church on Saturday May 17th from 6:30-9:00 PM. Cost is $5, and it’s a potluck. The other announced event for this month is Perma Jam II (directions at link) on Saturday, May 24th from noon to 4:00 PM. Cost is $10, and bike commuting to the event is encouraged.

Victory Gardens Seeing Success

Charlotte Anthony shared the success of the Victory Gardens project in Eugene and surrounding areas, with 75 gardens established within Eugene proper thus far.

“We want to help anybody put a garden in,” she explained. For a $50 donation to the group, the Victory Garden team will help you dig up your lawn and turn it into a productive garden space, and soil is not a problem.

“We are seeing amazing results from microbes in clay,” said Anthony. The group uses effective microorganisms (EM) to inoculate the soil which causes mycorrhizal fungi to attach to roots and these “till” the soil, making the soil nutrients in the clay available for plants.

And if the thought of digging up your yard and planting things seems overwhelming, that’s exactly what the Victory Gardens team is prepared to help you overcome. They bring in a team of teens from Network Charter School to help dig up the yard, and then provide a mentor that can help you determine what to plant, when to water, and how to keep your garden productive.

Their web site provides gardening tips and tricks to help anyone interested in gardening along the way. With the potential closing of the Lane County OSU Extension Office due to lack of Federal timber revenue and associated county funding for the agency, the Victory Gardens team is looking at the possibility of filing the void that the loss of the Master Gardener’s program would cause.

Food Not Lawns

Nick Routledge shared his enthusiasm and passion for growing locally-adapted seasonal foods. After starting the Food Not Lawns Collective, Routledge has been a suburban farmer in the Eugene area, and has done a lot of work with local growers on seed improvement. Routledge speaks the gospel of food ecology.

“In our efforts to steward the crops in an ecological manner, we step into the ecological territory that economics can’t get to. People in the business of making money can’t get to where we’re getting with our local germplasm,” shared Routledge. And the benefits of this local ecology is not isolated to the plants and crops they produce, but includes our larger community and culture and how we behave.

Tobias Policha responded to audience questions regarding the saving of hybridized seeds, explaining that if you want to save seed it’s best to grown open-pollinated or self-pollinating crops. This also gets you away from the “commercial interests” involved in growing seeds (some audience members raised concerns over Monsanto’s seed practices in the Willamette Valley: [1], [2], [3]). Other options include raising native “wild foods.” Policha suggested that instead of planting a pretty, nice shrub like daphne; and instead planting a currant, which has both edible and medicinal uses.¬†He¬†posited that in the event of a food crisis, these “subversive” food plants could be a boon to gardeners, as food scavengers wouldn’t recognize the plants in your yard as “food.” Big leaf maple is also quite edible, as are dandelions, and nany other plants (see books like Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in the Wild and Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape).

Another recommended read was Gaia’s Garden, which discusses homescale permaculture.

More information about permaculture and seed saving, and a chance to meet up with like-minded inviduals will occur at “Winter Gardening” workshop on May 31st at the Food For Lane County Youth Farm, starting at 3 PM. Seeds for winter gardens will be available, and you can learn what you can grow in this bioregion during the winter.

Other topics were discussed, and to keep this brief, I will endeavor to cover those in detail later.

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