Barb Hinde grew up on a farm where she knew from an early age that food came from the ground, not the store. It’s interesting to see a seed sprout into a carrot and then eat it, she says.
She isn’t alone. Squamish is ripe with people who want to learn how to grow their food.
“People either consciously or subconsciously want to reconnect with the earth and being able to grow a bit of food in their backyard or on their balcony gives them gratification but also educates their children that food comes out of the ground,” Hinde explains.
“To see where a carrot comes from and to touch the land.” As the instructor of the first nine-month workshop held in partnership with Squamish Climate Action Network, Hinde was blown away at the initial turnout.
“There was standing room only, and people were up against the walls,” she says of the 60 who showed up to the library to hear how to grow in small spaces. People from all walks of life — from low-income, seniors, families, newcomers and singles — are interested in growing, says Michalina Hunter, urban farmer and chair of Squamish CAN.
The community garden waitlist is high, and Hunter says educators from all elementary schools are in talks about getting in the dirt.
Despite how fun it may be, Hunter says land costs are a big challenge.
“It’s getting harder and harder to buy or rent houses that have yards,” she explains.
“If you’re a gardener you know how much time, effort, and money is put into creating a growing space that you’ll just need to abandon... if you need to move.” It makes it hard for folks to put down roots. Most don’t realize just how much work it is, she adds.
Depending on where you live, the mountains can block direct light and the season isn’t too long, so some crops may not have enough time to ripen all the way. But people get creative, Hunter notes.
Stephanie Vigneux and Jordie Bulpit are part of the SOLscapes team, a landscaping company servicing the Sea to Sky Corridor made up of urban farmers and horticulturalists who create setups for growing food, not grass. Helping people grow their food is beneficial for everyone involved, Bulpit says. “Growing your own food eliminates pollution, ensures fresh chemical-free produce and reduces pollution created by shipping,” she explains.
“Helping people grow their own food is continually beneficial for everyone involved.”
There is a rich fabric of food resilience here in Squamish, Vigneux adds. “Studying human and plant ecosystems enabled me to tap into the cultural importance of food production and preparation as a tool for reclaiming meaningful connection,” she notes.
“It’s healthier, more affordable, educational, rewarding, therapeutic, sustainable, engaging and contributes to a thriving local ecosystem.” Vigneux also grows in her front yard and shares a plot in the community garden. “
The challenges remain time management and inconsistency in land available for cultivation,” she says.
Hunter notes the District of Squamish along with the regional government, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, have been working to strengthen the regional food system and combat land challenges, adding the Food Policy Council has been exploring the idea of land trusts where land can be affordably leased to growers. However, Hunter would like to see more efforts to keep farmland affordable.
“Farmland shouldn’t be a commodity; it should be used for growing food.” •