May 3, 2013

Edmonton’s On Borrowed Ground

I came across On Borrowed Ground when I was perusing through Edmonton events on The Local Good’s website and I thought Anita’s Community Supported Agriculture project was such a great idea. Although I grew up with a huge garden in our backyard, I haven’t exactly inherited a green thumb. I mostly rely on local farmers’ markets and the organic section for my vegetables but would love to learn some of the basics to eventually grow a full garden in my backyard.

On Borrowed Ground offers:
  • working memberships – where you contribute a number of hours each week doing things like soil building, planting, weeding, watering, mulching, staking, harvesting, and bug control. You get to experience first hand what goes into food production
  • non-working membership – you don’t need to put in any hours, you pay a fee and pick up fresh vegetables
  • workshops – to help people become better growers and more self sufficient

If you’re in the same boat as I am and would either like to improve your gardening skills, check out our interview with Anita who tells us more about how On Borrowed Ground works:

1) Tell us a little bit about your Community Supported Agriculture project in Edmonton and how it works 

CSA is like a subscription to a magazine. Pay your money up front, and receive your produce every week for the entire growing season.

With On Borrowed Ground, working members are required to help in the gardens for 1 hour a week or four hours per month, and receive a weekly box of vegetables, thereby ensuring really fresh produce, grown locally without chemical inputs. With CSA, you are using your food dollar to vote for fresh over refrigerator units, local over 2000 food miles, clean over ‘cides, and diversified over monoculture. Your vote helps to build a healthy farm system right in the city of Edmonton and reduce your carbon footprint on this planet!

2) How did you come up with the idea? 

I have always liked to grow things, much more than I like to cook, preserve, and eat them. I was at a point in my life where I needed a project that would make a difference. I read a book from the library called “Sharing the Harvest” and I was hooked.

3) What type of skills and knowledge can participants expect to acquire when they sign up for your program? 

Members learn how to select and prepare a garden site, build soil, choose seed varieties, permaculture approaches to maintaining a garden, and whatever else we can find to talk about as we weed. Much too much to mention it all in one paragraph.

4) What type of vegetables do you typically grow in Edmonton? 

Whatever people would normally put into their gardens. Since this is an Educational CSA, I try to teach people the simple, starter plants, and then as they take their knowledge into their own yards, they are confident to experiment with more difficult things.

Some examples:

Beans (Burgundy, yellow, green)

Beets (3 varieties)

Brassicas (cabbage, broccoli)


Greens – Gourmet salad mix.

          Lettuce – cut and come again, specialty, and butter

          Red Russian and Curly Kale,

          Spinach, Swiss chard, Beet greens

          Perennial greens – Arugula, good King Henry, French sorrel


Onions, Green Onions, Chives


Sugar snap Peas

Cherry Tomatoes

Summer Squash – Magda, yellow, green, Striata, Round French

Winter Squash – Sugar baby pumpkin, spaghetti squash, buttercup squash, acorn squash

5) Do you have any other suggestions people can incorporate into their lives to reduce their carbon footprint? 

Take a Permaculture Design Course. I host a multi-teacher semi-intensive course in the fall, when gardeners and farmers too busy in the fields. Reducing our carbon footprint has a much wider scope than just growing your own food, though this is a perfect place to start. It includes things like Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Re-consider, Reject, Rehabilitate, Rethink – our whole life style. A PDC helps you recalibrate your mind set.

6) For those who aren’t familiar with “eating clean”, how would you define that? 

Food grown without chemicals. Although we can’t avoid the pollution in the air, there is no reason to compound the toxicity in our bodies by subjecting them to foods that are grown using herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and genetically modified creations.

7) For someone who isn’t currently following a clean diet, what’s one commonly consumed food or drink item you would strongly suggest be cut out of their diets? 

From yesterday’s trip to the supermarket, I would have to say Strawberries. For a complete list, see It shows apples as the worst offenders.

8) Growing vegetables ourselves assures that they are truly organic, what type of chemicals should consumers be aware of that are in the type of non-organic fruits and vegetables you buy at big chain grocery stores? 

Genetically modified corn is in everything processed, Roundup is probably on everything, and is being linked to premature deaths, infertility, and high cancer rates.

9) If one can’t buy or grow all organic fruits and vegetables, which ones would you say are essential to eat organic and which types can you get away with buying non-organic? 

Let the experts answer that

10) Where do you hope to see On Borrowed Ground in 5 years? 

Expanded to all quadrants of the city, with members working and picking up closer to home. And every homeowner growing something in their space.

A big thank you to Anita for answering some of our questions. You can visit her website for more information or contact her to get involved with her program.

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