Although I (Nathan) grew up as a city kid in Edmonton, gardening, plants and local produce were always a part of my childhood. For my Ukrainian grandma and great grandma growing and preserving your own food wasn’t a novelty – it was practical, it was food security, and it just made sense.
I had many chances to pick fresh garden carrots and peas – vegetables from the grocery store will never compete. It wasn’t just free snacks though, there was also an expectation that I would help peel carrots, shell peas, and weed the garden.
My house was well stocked with homemade pickled beets growing up, and if we happened to run out I knew there was always more in the cool musty cellar in Grandma’s basement.
I also had plenty of opportunities to explore outside – when I was quite young we lived walking distance from Edmonton’s river valley. When we moved to Mill Woods – which was the edge of the city at the time 👴🏾 – there was still plenty of undeveloped land to explore. Combined with regular ski trips with Grandma, the vegetation and landscapes of this part of the world definitely feels like home.
Raspberries and rhubarb were a summertime staple. My friends and I would ride our bikes around to steal the rhubarb and raspberries left to grow (usually out of control) in alleys. Even as kids, I think there was always something special about being able to find something delicious growing happily in our neighbourhood.
Nature, city life and local food have never been totally separate concepts for me. I still believe in the incredible potential of viewing these systems holistically. Growing food on the Prairies (or anywhere) isn’t always easy, but the more I practice and experiment, the more I see how much opportunity there is for our community to understand and appreciate the land that we will live on.