Friday, July 27, 2012

Le potager urbain- Growing Food Not Lawn

EcoYogini shares a bit of her Franco-Canadian news re: the war on urban gardening...

Although I have failed miserably at growing an uber urban garden, I believe that lawns are such a colossal waste of space and water. When we lived in the Okanagan Valley (British Colombia interior), I was shocked at the BROWNNESS of the non-human regulated nature-spaces. It is, however, a semi-arid desert (complete with tumbleweeds) so it was supposed to be brown. Everything except the suburban lawns. Green green green sucking up LOADS of water during the minimal rain summers.

And for what? It's not like anyone really USED them for anything (at least in Vernon). Hanging out on your front lawn just is kinda creepy.

That's why urban front kitchen gardens are so amazing. Why not use that space (especially if you live in a low-traffic suburban neighbourhood- less car fumes) to grow food?

Recently a Quebecois couple's small kitchen garden (called a "potager"- /poh-tah-zj-ay/- in French) have received quite a bit of international and national media attention. They have created an absolutely beautiful front kitchen garden complete with a gorgeous trellis this summer to try to supplement a healthy, more vegetable filled, diet. Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamps even received permission from the city to grow 'something other than lawn and flowers'. Except they didn't specify a garden. And now the city is kinda pissed.

(fantastic photos with Josée and Michel discussing urban gardening (in French) in audio)

Josée and Michel's backyard is shaded, so they thought- why not take advantage of all the beautiful sun in their front yard? They spent thousands of dollars to create a gorgeous garden (that seems to be doing very well) only to be informed by city officials that they are in violation of city by-law and must revert their garden to at least 30% 'regular' front lawn. Seriously??
(garden before)

(garden after- photos from Le potager urbain)

Interestingly, this story was picked up by an American, Roger Doiron-whom I heard interviewed on the French CBC and speaks excellent French- AND convinced Michelle Obama to have a kitchen garden in her yard. He has created a petition (bilingual!) asking the Drummondville City officials to allow this couple to keep their front yard garden AND a French letter to be sent to city officials.

Due to the International and National interest, the city has granted Josée and Michel until September 1st to revert their kitchen garden and supposedly the topic will be on the agenda at the August 13th council meeting. Although a reprieve and a good step, this beautiful initiative should not be punished, but encouraged.

In order to rethink and move forward with how we live and obtain our food, encouraging people to be more self-sustaining and growing kitchen gardens should become the cultural norm.

Take a minute, sign the petition, send the letter (even if you can't read it- I assure you it says exactly what you want it to :) ), and find out what your local city, town, municipality's by-laws are for front yard gardens.

The couple's website: Le potager urbain (in French)
The couple's own petition (in French)
Roger Doiron's petition (bilingual English-French)


Nicole said...

That is a beautiful lawn! Signing the petitions :)

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

That is an amazing garden. I would love to have that in my front yard. The no-garden-in-the-front laws kind of baffle me. But then a lot of folks here in the bay area have a dead front lawn or rocks as a front yard to conserve water. I don't think the city minds folks doing stuff to conserve water around here. We are moving to a home with a big front lawn -- although another big chunk of the yard is also xeriscape, or whatever it's called. I can assure you, my kids and I WILL be hanging out on the front lawn, even if it is a little creepy. I'm not a fan of a lawn for appearance only, but with small kids, I can assure you, a lawn gets a whole lot of use. I think it's neighborly to hang out in the front yard, no?

Émilie said...

wow, c'est vraiment un incroyable projet... J,espère que tout ira pour le mieux pour eux!

Eco Yogini said...

@Nicole: yay! thank you :)

@Betsy: totally neighbourly- i don't really understand it since I grew up in a small rural village.... I can understand how it's great for children to play on. The couple commented that their garden was used to educate children in their neighbourhood about different vegetables though, so that's fun too :)

@Émilie: moi itou j'espère que la ville changera ses réglementations ici septembre.... :S

Rosa said...

I know this is heresy, but front-lawn gardens (veggies or flowers) have gotten really popular here, and I have learned that planting right up to the curb is really unhelpful to the community. Those flat, walkable front yards are a sort of liminal space - they're private, but people expect to be able to walk on them, or let their dog walk on them.

I see they don't have sidewalks - that means that if there is traffic, people probably need to step up onto the yard. In my (urban) neighborhood, lots of people park in the street - and planting right up to the curb forces those people to walk in your garden, or try to tightrope on the edge of the curb.

We have laws requiring fences to be set back from the edge of the lot for the same reason - that space is owned by the homeowner but it's used by the community.


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