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Autumn 2008 - Act•ionLine

by Cara Hunt | Autumn 2008

Feeding the World

Beginning in Our Own Back Yard

Cara Hunt is a law student and a member of Friends of Animals in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Cara’s former lawn, which now yields collards and kale, was recently featured in This Magazine, one of Canada’s longest-publishing alternative journals. Cara told the magazine’s readers, “ We would have donated our yard for this just based on our belief in the movement, but to be able to get wonderfully tasty organic greens as payment is terrific.”

Our society has been living on borrowed energy, and by extension, borrowed agricultural resources, for far too long. The luxury of having food grown elsewhere and then delivered to our markets, using conduits based on cheap oil, is quickly slipping away. As the price of food continues to rise, the corresponding urgent need for local food growers becomes evident.

Fortunately, part of the solution lies in our own backyards. With a relatively new technique, the SPIN (small-plot intensive) method, urban farmers are cultivating food-producing gardens in backyards all over North America. Where I live, in Victoria, Paula Sobie and Martin Scaia founded City Harvest just a year and a half ago and are already producing an impressive and diverse crop from many local urban gardens.

City Harvest currently grows organic vegetables in 17 yards across Victoria. Sobie and Scaia do all of the required labour, including cycling to most of the yards for daily watering.

Landowners donate their space. In turn, we reap both personal and global benefits: less grass to mow and water, fresh vegetables every week, and the knowledge that our contribution helps to alleviate the impending world food crisis.

You don’t need a large yard to contribute to an urban farming initiative. SPIN farming works well on 500 - 1,000 square-foot lots. Here are some of the tools used by Cara and partner Stephen to expand their garden: a greenhouse kit and an electric tiller.

If you do not have a yard, consider growing herbs on your window sill or sun-loving tomatoes on your balcony. If you live in a condominium, appeal to your council to authorize common yard space or rooftops for crop planting.

Re-discovering the health, ethical and economic benefits of local vegetable agriculture could diminish the prevalence of animal farming. If we all made use of our lawns for growing food, industrial agriculture -- particularly animal agribusiness -- would lose its foothold. Wild animals could once again thrive in areas formerly used for large-scale agriculture. And the valuable energy resources expended on transporting factory crops great distances could instead be devoted to investing in sustainable energy and economic solutions to make the world a better place for all living beings.

Rethink your relationship with food and bring it closer to home in the process. Not only will you feel better for contributing to local food security; your food will truly taste better too!

For more information on City Harvest, please telephone 250-370-7471 or visit their website,; or watch the video and order introductory materials through

Cara Hunt

Act•ionLine Autumn 2008

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