A Drummondville, Quebec, couple has succeeded in swaying their city’s stance against street side kitchen gardens. This year Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamp planted a vegetable garden in their front yard, violating city bylaws. They did it in style! What a gorgeous example of urban farming. My own, pictured above, manifests a simpler aesthetic. When the city ordered them to remove it, their story attracted international attention. 35,000 people signed a petition sponsored by Kitchen Gardeners International asking Drummondville Municipal Council to change its mind. This week the council announced Landry and Beauchamp could keep their garden, and invited them to participate in drafting a new city policy for approval next spring (read translated news article).
In response to the original story I recall one comment that if the couple wanted a garden they should have chosen to live somewhere else, rather than violating a neighbourhood standard. I disagree. Food scarcity is becoming a global issue, and will only get worse over the next few decades. The solution is social and political.
Change must happen at the local level. Everyone everywhere has the right and responsibility to participate in food production. We need a world where the sight of some tomato or squash vines does not undermine property values. Overcome squeamishness about getting your hands dirty. If you have never grown vegetables yourself, be assured there are few things more satisfying than eating a meal that grew from seeds you planted yourself.
Conversely, we also need to end unjust systems in which people (such as migrant workers) who produce food do not own it, earn marginal incomes and live in poverty. Food is one of our basic needs, more valuable than gold or petroleum. We must end an economic system where it is feasible for large populations to eat food produced thousands of kilometres away at little cost to them, but great cost to the environment and society.
A community is sick if it presents significant obstacles to growing fruit and vegetables. To fix this we need leadership from people like Beauchamp and Landry. They should be applauded for playing thorn in the side to misguided community values.