Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Canadian wheat prices could be pushed higher if the heat wave across much of the U.S. ruins some of the corn crop. (Chris Bolin For The Globe and Mail/Chris Bolin For The Globe and Mail)
Canadian wheat prices could be pushed higher if the heat wave across much of the U.S. ruins some of the corn crop. (Chris Bolin For The Globe and Mail/Chris Bolin For The Globe and Mail)

Green grant to grow grain 'goofy,' Anton says Add to ...

She could have planted rhododendrons, roses or potatoes.

Instead, Revel Warkentin turned a strip of her Vancouver yard over to Red Spring wheat, in the process joining dozens of other city residents taking part in a Lawns to Loaves project co-ordinated by Vancouver's Environmental Youth Alliance.

And Ms. Warkentin doesn't much care that NPA Councillor Suzanne Anton has called a $5,000 city grant for the project "goofy" and questioned the efficiency and rationale of city dwellers planting minuscule plots of grain.

"For me, this is kind of the reverse of the Little Red Hen," Ms. Warkentin said on Wednesday. "She did all the work and then nobody got any of the bread - here, everybody comes together and everybody shares in the result."

A $5,000 grant for the Lawns to Loaves project is one of 16, totalling $100,000, that staff have recommended under the city's Greenest City program and that councillors are scheduled to approve on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Ms. Anton, the councillor and mayoral candidate, called attention to the grants, singling out the grain project as a waste of taxpayer funds and linking it to backyard chicken coops as evidence of a city government gone to seed.

"To give money to people to investigate growing wheat on their front lawns is just goofy," Ms. Anton said on Tuesday. "Vancouver gardeners are endlessly inventive and creative and grow all kinds of things - they don't need taxpayer support to do that."

Vision Councillor Andrea Reimer called Ms. Anton's comments "disappointing," noting that Ms. Anton had voted in favour of the grants program on several occasions over the past two years.

With or without the grant, miniature wheat fields are springing up across the city. Ms. Warkentin planted her crop on an 8-by-12-foot section of her yard in May and expects to hand-harvest the grain in the fall.

Nobody's expecting to put Prairie grain farmers on notice.

"It's not so much about food security as it is a symbolic gesture," said Andrea Bellamy, who writes about urban agriculture and serves on the board of a community garden in her neighbourhood, where she and others seeded a 40-by-50-foot lot with wheat.

Come harvest time, the plan is for all participating growers to pool their wheat, mill it and use the resulting flour to make pizza dough for a community party, Ms. Bellamy said.

The city's financial support for the program is justified even if small-scale wheat production is unlikely to play a major role in the city's food future, she maintained.

"The community angle is important - it brings people together - it's about raising awareness of what we can do in small spaces," Ms. Bellamy said.

Ms. Anton, meanwhile, says the city should look to areas such as transportation and urban design to meet its green goals and refrain from spending taxpayers' money on what she describes as frivolous projects.

The Greenest City grants are awarded based on criteria that focus on areas such as reducing city waste, Ms. Reimer said, adding that it's unlikely that councillors would consider eliminating any project already approved by staff.

"It's a dangerous precedent to make it into a political process - non-profits and community groups need to know that when they take the time to come up with the ideas and make the application, that there are criteria that are fairly applied."

Report Typo/Error

Follow on Twitter: @wendy_stueck


More related to this story

Next story




Most popular videos »


More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular