A local GoFundMe is raising cash to transform a portion of Crescent Heights with planter beds in public spaces, albeit with a delicious twist.
Blooming Boulevards and The Little Seed Libraries wants to a build four publicly usable planters, and free seed libraries, to be placed on the boulevards on 5 Avenue NE between Edmonton Trail and 2 Street NE.
It will provide homeowners, renters, and the homeless a place to grow food. The planters would be open to the public to use. The objective is to have all members of the community using them assist in taking care of the growing plants.
“It’s an area that has a lot of crossover between people who have quite large houses and live pretty private lives disconnected from the city, then there are people who are living in more regular sized homes, condos, apartments, and then also people living without a fixed address whose life is fully public,” said Joshua Bateman, co-founder of the project.
“Food, I’ve found, is a wonderful way to break down those barriers that that often stop people from connecting with one another.”
Bateman, who has a BSc in nutrition, food science, and food policy from the University of Alberta, worked for more than a decade in the non-profit sector to create equitable food systems for Albertans.
Alongside his wife Erika, they came up with the idea to theme the planters around specific meals and genres of food.
For example, one of the planters they have proposed is a pizza planter that would contain tomatoes, basil, oregano, and parsley. Another would be a salad green planter with arugula, kale, and lettuce.
“Sometimes when you grow a bunch of different crops, it’s hard to connect what you’re growing to the actual food that it’s going to be making,” said Bateman.
Growing food people will actually want to eat
He said that often times people will grow foods that they don’t actually end up eating.
“The idea was to help people connect the dots between ‘how do we turn what we grow into, into what we eat,'” Bateman said.
“Agricultural literacy and food literacy are two of those things that that this project is trying to address, understanding that we have a generational gap in food skills and growing skills.”
Bateman wants to raise $1,000 for the project. Every $200 raised will build one planter. The remainder is planned to go towards the Little Seed Library portion of the project, alongside getting initial crops grown.
The project has already received the support of the Marlborough Home Depot for discounted lumber to create the planter beds, and from Eagle Lake Landscaping for soil.
Donations can be made to the GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/f/blooming-boulevards-and-the-little-seed-libraries.
Pollination a benefit to all of Crescent Heights
A major benefit to not just those people accessing the planters, said Bateman, was the increased pollination of plants throughout the neighbourhood.
“Not many people know this, but Alberta is actually home to over half the native bee species in all of Canada, which is pretty incredible,” Bateman said.
“We have this incredible diversity here, and we have an opportunity to embrace that, and so part of this project is creating that habitat for native pollinators.”
Those native bees, said Bateman, would provide a different benefit to the community than the ones that urban beekeepers use.
He said that by providing a place for native bee species to thrive, instead of the more common honeybee, it would increase the biodiversity in Crescent Heights.
Community connection and crime prevention
Bateman said that there are other benefits that extend to the wider community.
The Little Seed Libraries would contain seeds for growing in people’s own spaces, along with information on how to grow plants, and recipes for the types of food crops being given out.
“A big part of this project is also creating connections between people. Because, at the end of the day, any of the problems that we have, whether they’re environmental, economic, social, they’re about people,” he said.
“A goal of this project is to create something beautiful that can bring a sense of harmony, a sense of peace and a sense of community to the places that we live.”
Bateman said that there was also a crime prevention element from the planters, due to the number of people expected outside at the spaces.
“If we have more community supported initiatives that ensure that people are out on the street, enjoying public life, then it makes public life safer,” he said.
“It also then bridges the divide between people who maybe have a lot of prejudices and predispositions against people who are living without a fixed address.”
He said that while working at the Mustard Seed in Edmonton, he was able to see how common connections between the homeless and individuals from richer suburban communities broke down barriers and led to positive community outcomes.
“I will never forget this specific example of just one person was talking about how they went in there chatting with people before the meal, and they were chatting with this one person about how their daughters like soccer, and they’re like ‘well, my daughters like soccer, too,'” said Bateman.
“It was the human connection that broke down the barriers.”