“It was tense and it was uncomfortable,” says Susan Poizner, one of the founders. Nevertheless, the orchard of 14 trees was planted and the community has seen a transformation. “Suddenly, Ben Nobleman Park is a destination. It’s not a just a park you walk through.”
Over all, though, Mr. Nordahl has found that the idea of growing food on city land appeals to people on both sides of the political spectrum. “I thought this would be a liberal-versus-conservative issue, but everyone supports this,” he says. “The liberals think of it as social welfare and the conservatives love it because it is a bit of agrarian tradition. We are teaching some measure of self-sustenance.”
Perhaps surprisingly, there have been few reports of vandalism or hoarding. When gardens are picked clean by people hungry for free food, their caretakers see it as proof of a need to plant more, rather than to put up restrictions.
Certainly in Kamloops, there has been no opposition, according to city councillor Donovan Cavers. “There is definitely strong support,” he says. “The symbolism is caring for your neighbour and pulling a few weeds for their benefit. It’s a small idea, but the concept behind it is pretty profound.”
Inspired by the Kamloops example, Cranbrook, B.C., started its own public produce garden this year. That’s the way Mr. Nordahl believes this idea will spread across the continent. He predicts that within two decades public produce will be like recycling is today – an urban imperative.
“Wherever you live, there should be food growing. This has to be something that is much larger than it already is.”
Sarah Elton is the author of the bestseller Locavore. Her new book Consumed will be published next year by HarperCollins.