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Gardening & Agriculture Gardening & Agriculture Others

Growing change through permaculture

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by: Al Liantz
Growing change through permaculture

An urban farming revolution is happening at Canadian institutions of higher learning. The University of British Columbia has a 59-acre farm on campus, Mount Allison University has a 24-acre on-campus farm, Dalhousie University has a 2-acre campus farm, the University of Toronto has a 150-acre off-campus farm, and Hamilton's own Mohawk College boasts a 1-acre community garden with 47 plots, a pollinator garden and a 35-tree mixed fruit orchard.

The effort these schools have made in putting their students in contact with their food may sound outside their mission, but university farms act as living laboratories that help students and researchers create solutions to address climate change. Thirty-three per cent of the planet's emissions come from our food system, thus we are given a great opportunity every day to combat climate change through the food we eat.

McMaster does not yet have an urban farm, but we do have two community gardens and there is a groundswell of energy around sustainable food on campus. Progressive thinking director of grounds Carlos Figueira created the second garden on campus this summer to give students more room to grow their own food. Furthermore, Chad Harvey, professor of McMaster's School of Interdisciplinary Sciences, is leading the charge to create a sustainable food system by developing a plan for a permaculture (an agricultural design system that replicates nature to produce food, while restoring nature) farm on campus.

A major element of permaculture, beyond producing healthy fruits and vegetables, is to reconnect us with nature and to value its preservation. Permaculture also works to help biodiversity.

The state of biodiversity in Ontario should send chills down our back, as there are currently 237 species that are either endangered, at risk, special concern or vulnerable. Biodiversity is a necessity because it plays a major role in running our ecosystems, and our ecosystems keep the planet running. In essence, permaculture achieves true sustainability because it takes care of our needs by providing us with healthy food, while restoring nature.

Additionally, a permaculture farm fits with McMaster's historic signing of the Okanagan Charter this past March, which sent a message that the university is devoted to taking action in embedding health and well-being into everything it does. A key message from the Okanagan Charter stated that post-secondary institutions are to "advance the core mandate of higher education by improving human and environmental health and well-being."

If human health and environmental health are to be enhanced, we have to start off with what is blatantly obvious, and that is creating a food system that works in harmony with nature. If we maintain the status quo, the goals of the Okanagan Charter will never be reached.

McMaster is increasingly demonstrating that it takes sustainability and environmental stewardship seriously at a time when its faculty, staff and students are demonstrating that they want a more sustainable food system. McMaster is the place where ideas to create a brighter world are born — a permaculture farm can create positive change for humans and our planet.

Adam Chiaravalle is an advocate of sustainable change. He is a research assistant for McMaster’s School of Interdisciplinary Sciences.
 
 
 
 by Adam Chiaravalle for Hamilton Spectator

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I have interest in all topics that get us closer to a more sustainable world. My special focus lays on alternative energy such as cars driven by hydrogen and eletricity.
I have interest in all topics that get us closer to a more sustainable world. My special focus lays on alternative energy such as cars driven by hydrogen and eletricity.
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