KAMLOOPS - When Matt Padze sees a weed-filled lot in Kamloops, he sees the opportunity to help the community.
The 29-year-old kitchen worker wants to build a community around gardening and producing more food locally, with the goal of helping peoples’ wallets and health while also supporting the Kamloops Food Bank and the less fortunate.
“It seems like we can do a lot more toward creating local food,” he says. “The more people who can do that I believe we’ll be happier, healthier and have more in the pocket.”
Padze recently created the Kamloops Garden Alliance on Facebook, a group dedicated to sharing tips and tools for people interested in starting gardens, but unsure where to start. He wants to encourge people leaving pieces of land to the weeds to do more with it. So far the group is growing quickly and he plans to post things like a planting tutorial. However, that’s just part of what he envisions in the future, with the greater goal a community helping feed itself.
Currently the Gleaning Abundance Program helps pick fruit from gardens that overproduce, taking some of the produce to the food bank. Padze wants to build on that concept, encouraging more people to grow food, not just for themselves, and donate the extra produce.
Then, with any excess gardens’ produce that can’t be donated, he’s aiming to organize volunteers to make batches of preserved food, like dehydrating fruit, for future consumption by people in need or sale.
“People have great gardens, but they can’t always store food,” he says. “I would like to get to the point where we can have community canning projects.”
For now he’s working on getting more people just producing their own groceries. While backyards are great, he’s wants to encourage people to consider hydroponics as well, since small systems are relatively inexpensive and it makes it easier to grow things.
“In a couple months you can grow enough lettuce to pay for (the hydroponics),” he says. “Hydroponics is a game changer.”
The Facebook page will also act as a nexus for food producers in Kamloops. A seed exchange is another part of the project. Growing food locally helps the plants adapt to the local environment. Padze says through natural selection plants grown outside in Kamloops will adapt better to local conditions after a few generations, meaning varieties can be better acclimatized to Kamloops within a few years. Padze would like to see people share or sell those seeds inside the region.
“If you get seeds from Art Knapp and the seeds are from California, that plant has adapted to different pests and environment,” he says. “This is one of those natural sections things that we have to do ourselves.”
Part of what has spurred him on is the amount of waste he sees in industrial farming and the ever rising cost of groceries. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates a third of all food grown globally for people is ‘spoiled or squandered before it is consumed.’
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