Wednesday, November 16th
by Daniel Green

Grain Gardens: Turning Lawns into Wheat Fields


Vancouver-based Environmental Youth Alliance’s Lawns to Loaves initiative aims to educate, engage and feed the community it serves, says Julia Thiessen, project co-ordinator for the non-profit.

As of May of this year, the EYA invited Vancouverites to participate in the initiative by replacing their lawns or unused spaces and transforming them into grain gardens.

In its first season, red spring wheat was planted and cultivated until October’s harvest where participants got a chance to share their experiences and the bounty of their crops in the form of pizza dough.

Thiessen says Lawns to Loaves gave her a sense of well-being that took her by surprise.

“I found it to be so deeply satisfying to listen to the different types of conversations that were happening amongst the people from the community who participated,” she said. “It was so heartening to hear people talking about things they don’t normally talk about, like what an oat plant looks like.”

The idea for the project came about when the EYA was holding a food security workshop at a local elementary school. Thiessen noticed how enamoured the students were with the presentation which featured a bike-powered wheat miller.

“There’s something about touching wheat and other grains that really speaks to the human kind of experience,” Thiessen said.

Although the primary intent and practice of Lawns to Loaves is to educate the community about grains through local and sustainable cultivation, it has still managed to attract some political opposition.

The Non-Partisan Association (NPA), has accused Lawns to Loaves of wasting tax-payer money, although they declined to elaborate on how this was happening.

Thiessen noted the NPA’s assertion could refer to the $5000 grant the city gave to the EYA as part of a project to make Vancouver the world’s greenest city by 2020.

Fortunately, Thiessen did not seem take these political attacks personally.

With rye being planted this autumn (it grows well in North America’s West Coast this time of year), and an ancient wheat strain, amaranth, being planted in the spring, Julia hopes Lawns to Loaves will ultimately contribute to the evolution of people’s notions of land use and community.

“I think it’s about creative uses of space for food production,” she said. “Spaces that aren’t being used to their fullest, which could be used as community engagement projects and for growing food.”





Source: Photos courtesy of EYA


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