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Grow your own dinner

Squamish CAN touts benefits of vegetable gardens

To get from the farm to your plate, most food travels 1,500 miles so growing food in your own backyard is a great way to reduce emissions while guaranteeing healthy, organic crops.

The Squamish Climate Action Network (CAN) has declared May food awareness month, and in light of this declaration, spent Thursday (May 13) afternoon teaching locals about the benefits of planting their own garden.

Squamish CAN president Ana Santos said it's crucial people become aware of what they're consuming since so many are oblivious to what they're eating and where it comes from.

The group has its own planting plot in the Rotary community gardens on Highway 99 and Mamquam Road, and the eight community members who showed were invited to help with the planting while getting a tutelage.

The idea behind the event was to give people the chance to learn a bit more about soil and how to plant healthy, organic food for themselves, even if they don't have a backyard, said Squamish CAN member and food group co-ordinator, Krystle tenBrink.

"If you have a balcony, you can do some hanging strawberries, hanging tomatoes or green beans," she said. "And even if you don't, you can still do some herbs in your window."

Paradise Valley's Good Time Farming owner, Stefan Butler, spent an hour and a half showing all who attended different techniques for growing their own food. He suggested limited soil turning, raised beds to allow roots to grow more extensively and growing crops very densely.

He also stressed the importance of varying the types of crops grown year after year.

"You don't want to grow lettuce in the same area more than once in three years," said Butler. "It's very difficult for any crop to grow in the same place year after year."

Despite his extensive knowledge in farming, Butler repeatedly reiterated that individuals should take what he said "with a grain of salt" because every garden bed is different and every person will develop their own techniques.

"Gardening is a very personal thing, and there's so many different ways of doing it that at the end of the day you adapt it to what works for you," he said.

tenBrink calls herself the keeper of the group's plot.

She is responsible for keeping the plot clean, planted and weed-free, but other group members are also invited to reap the benefits and help with the work.

"As soon as things start growing Squamish CAN members are invited to come and help themselves to food and help weed our plot and help with the communal weeding in the rest of the community garden," she said.

tenBrink wants to encourage as many residents as possible to begin growing their own food.

"I definitely have a passion for food and the energy to grow my own food," she said. "And I want to encourage other people to grow their own food because it's so easy. We should be able to feed ourselves to some degree."

Krista Besner agrees. The raw vegan has been involved with Squamish CAN for the past few months, mainly because of their food mandate. She has her own plot in the community garden and has started a group called Raw Dinner Underground a few months ago to advocate local and healthy food options.

"The reason I'm growing my own food is to help make the community aware of their options," said Besner. "Nothing compares to growing and eating your own food."

For those interested, garden plots are still available at the Rotary community gardens and can be rented for a one-year period for $15. Squamish Valley Golf Course donated the land for Rotary to organize the garden.

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