Market gardener Nadja Luckau tends her garlic grown on borrowed land on CPR Hill.

NCES facilitates new garden and fruit tree sharing project

The North Columbia Environmental Society, in partnership with Bear Aware, has started a land and fruit tree sharing project

The North Columbia Environmental Society, in partnership with Bear Aware, has started a land and fruit tree sharing project which encourages land owners with unused gardens, land or fruit trees to pair up with aspiring gardeners or harvesters who are looking for land or fruit. One such gardener is market gardener Nadja Luckau, who produces vegetables for sale at the Revelstoke Farmers Market on three patches of land in Revelstoke.

By Laura Stovel, North Columbia Environmental Society

Nadja Luckau is much like any organic farmer. She works long hours on the land. She worries about the weather and the voles that dig trenches between her young plants. She can talk at length about the quality of the soil and about earthworms. “They are the biggest part of my team. That’s how I measure the quality of the soil,” she said, adding that she thanks them when she sees them.

But in one important way, Nadja is not like conventional farmers. She farms on several parcels of borrowed land that are close to town. She makes a living by selling her vegetables at the Revelstoke Farmers’ Market, one of a growing number of young urban farmers who make a living this way.

For a young farmer just starting out, land sharing is a good option. “I can’t expect to pay off a mortgage by growing vegetables and selling them,” she said.

Nadja is part of a wave of energetic people who came to Revelstoke to ski and never left. Originally from Menden, Germany (near Cologne), she left home to travel, picking fruit in Australia, working on organic farms (also known as WWOOFing) in New Zealand and finally coming to BC to work on an organic farm on Vancouver Island.

In late 2011, she moved to Revelstoke. “I was drawn to the mountains and the community. I visited for skiing and just fell in love with the town,” she said.

She rented a 10-acre farm south of town and used that land for two years. The land hadn’t been cultivated in decades so Nadja broke it in and built up the soil. “I found it very interesting that with just two years of caring for it I substantially improved the soil. There were barely any earthworms at first. After two years, earthworms were everywhere.”

Not all gardeners who participate in garden and tree sharing are growing for sale. Most grow and harvest food for the satisfaction of being partially self-sufficient and for the quality and freshness of the food.

Growing food on someone’s unused land or garden may seem like a risk for the gardener. “I think most people are hesitant to put big work into land that’s not their own” because they may not have access to the land in the following years, Nadja observed.

She advises that “the effort is never wasted as the soil is improved for the next person who gardens there” – essentially, what goes around, comes around.

Land owners who share their land, fruit trees  and gardens have the benefit of having their land well used, mowing less lawn and having their soil improved. They may also benefit from friendships that develop with the gardener and perhaps having their own gardens and properties looked out for if they are away for a while. Depending on the arrangement they make with the gardener, they may also get a share of the produce.

The North Columbia Environmental Society, in partnership with Bear Aware, is facilitating garden and fruit tree sharing in Revelstoke. The organization hopes to have most of the land owner/gardener pairs established by late May. Fruit tree pairings can occur throughout the season. The project coordinator can also pair gardeners with possible mentors, even if gardeners have their own land.

Wherever possible, the project seeks to find land, fruit trees or mentors in the gardener’s neighbourhood, although pairings also depend on the gardener’s interests. In one case a gardener who owns land wanted to learn more about gardening and also raise bees and chickens. She sought a mentor who did all three and the project coordinator was able to arrange this.

NCES hopes to have a web page that facilitates garden and fruit tree sharing up later in the summer.

For more information, land owners, fruit harvesters and gardeners should contact Laura Stovel, NCES garden sharing coordinator, at 250-814-8971 or e-mail: lstovel0@gmail.com.

 

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