The Building Roots Urban Farm, June 3

On the radio I hear people feeling distraught that distancing has taken their summer away – no cottage, no music or food festivals, no bar patios; how will they even know it’s summer?

I’m not lost in time at all. Snowdrops, daffodils, bright forsythia, flamboyant magnolia, and brilliant tulips are my countdown to getting seed in the ground & doing my part to help sun & soil make food.

Now that the polar vortex is behind us and the City has decided the rules for teamwork gardening, I’ve been preparing beds at the Building Roots volunteer-powered urban farm.

We grow vegetables for the Building Roots market at Moss Park – a food desert (which means you can’t find fresh food for many blocks). Last year we delivered radish and lettuce and spinach, peas and beans, tomatoes and zucchini and garlic, and – the market serves a diverse culinary base – callaloo and Ethiopian kale. This year we’re adding other nutritious greens including fenugreek (mehti) and tatsoi.

The urban farm is in a lovely spot at Ashbridge Estate, an Ontario Heritage Trust site in east Toronto. Last year we doubled the growing space, but it’s not a huge area so I was able to start the beds working alone.

(There are new rules this year – signing in and out, sanitizing tools – but the distancing feels normal: we’re always only a couple of people at a time, much more than 6’ apart, comfortably companionable.)

Dig, dig, dig … the best way to get a summer body back! If you’re missing your gym, come lend a hand – farm work uses every muscle – in the beautiful outdoors with sunshine, trees, and birdsong : )

My first session didn’t involve any digging, though. I just walked around seeing how the beds had come through the winter, and noticing –

  • Garlic – planted in October – poking up
  • Self-seeded Ethiopian kale, well along in our cold frame
  • Overwintered Noir de Pardailhan turnips going to seed for us

These are a tether anchored in last fall, reaching through the dead of winter to this moment in spring. They tell me where we are in the sun’s circle, in the year’s cycle, and I know what to do next.

This sense of the season is not something I grew up with; it came from the doing. All kinds of production have their own lore built in; what is yours instilling in you?

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