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Cultivating radical change by gabbing about gardening

Lucretia Schanfarber wants to establish a garden where global change is driven by local green thumbs.
Image Credit: Lee Gas
March 01, 2021 - 6:30 AM

It’s no biggie.

Lucretia Schanfarber just simply plans to save the planet by gabbing about gardening.

The writer and organic green thumb — who lives on the remote edges of a tiny B.C. island plagued with shaky internet service — has launched free, weekly Zoom gatherings to inform, inspire and connect gardeners worldwide.

And it’s going gangbusters.  The Zoom forums started up nine weeks ago with an audience of around 40 mostly local island gardeners. But now, attendees are now tuning in from places like California, Europe, and Australia.

Each Gabbing About Gardening episode features an expert speaker and the opportunity for attendees to chat, share information and ask questions, said Schanfarber, who lives on Quadra Island.

As part of a spring lineup starting March 1, Schanfarber has managed to snag Order of Canada recipient and B.C. gardening rock star Brian Minter.

“He's such a sweetheart, and he's very community-minded,” she said, noting Minter is so popular, she has upped her Zoom room to hold 500 attendees.

The guest experts and group don’t just talk pests and plants. They also discuss how gardening can be a regenerative force on this Earth, literally and figuratively.

Topics include how gardeners can adapt to (or mitigate) climate change, improve local food security, and mentor youth and permaculture projects in developing nations.

“I’ve always known at some point I wanted to get a more global conversation going,” Schanfarber said.

“It’s always been my vision to promote gardening as a planetary peace movement because it really is the ultimate way to live on the Earth.”

“We have such an extraction mentality, but actually, there's a shift now all around the world into regenerative treatment of the Earth — to heal the scars that we've created.”

Schanfarber says she has been lucky to secure great speakers, close to home and from far away.

“We've had an incredible lineup,” she said.

Morag Gamble, a renowned leader in the permaculture movement for a global change in food systems, joined the gardening forum a couple of weeks ago and also talked about her work mentoring youth in refugee camps in Kenya who had fled Sudan or Ethiopia, said Schanfarber. The youth have even created a rap music video celebrating permaculture. 

“It gave me goosebumps,” Schanfarber said.

“I'm a huge admirer of hers, and I guess what this (project) is giving me more than anything is this opportunity to reach out to my garden heroes and heroines.”

The pandemic, and the sense of isolation it fosters, is no doubt increasing the popularity of her online gab sessions, said Schanfarber, especially as gardening clubs can’t meet in person at the moment.

“I think that kind of connection is really important right now,” she said.

“People are engaging more all around the world, and gardeners are a really fabulous community of people.”

And for all its ills, the internet allows her to cultivate connections from her remote island with the wider world, she said.

“It’s a small planet,” Schanfarber said with a laugh.

“We’ve got this incredible thing called the internet, so we’re definitely using the web for good, for sure.”

The gardening forum also operates around the principles of the gift economy, Schanfarber said.

“It’s just a way of letting our gifts in the world bring their own return by inviting people to give back or pay it forward,” she said.

Half of any donations to the series go to the weekly guests, and half head to free garden education programs for all ages and abilities.

Schanfarber is conscious some might view her commitment to establishing a global movement based on local gardening as being a Pollyanna.

“I am kind of evangelical about it, sometimes to the point of being annoying,” she said.

“But whether we vocalize it or not, let's admit it. We all want a peaceful, abundant world where you can walk down a boulevard and eat blueberries.

“We only have one garden planet, so let’s make the most of it and keep moving in that direction.”

— This story was originally published by the National Observer.

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