A visit to one of Wally’s urban gardens left me longing to have my own. I became completely immersed in a backyard of green hues and bright sunflowers that appeared almost surreal from the other side of the gate. Two thousand square feet of land converted into a lush and profitable garden with sprouting carrots, tomatoes, spinach, cucumbers, squash, rhubarb, sunflower greens, arugula, cilantro, dill, and what Wally refers to as “volunteers”; those edible plants that pop up among planted greens.
This month for the Canadian Food Experience Project we are blogging about regional Canadian food heroes, and I immediately thought of Wally. Wally’s a “SPIN-Farmer”. In fact, Wally began this business six years ago with U.S. business partner Roxanne Christensen and has co-authored two books on the topic: SPIN-Farming Basics: Thinking of Farming? Think Again. There is a New Way to Farm; and SPIN-Farming 2.0: Production Planning & Crop Profiles. “SPIN stands for s-mall p-lot in-tensive” (http://spinfarming.com/whatsSpin/), and SPIN-Farming developed out of Wally and wife Gail’s successful and productive move from rural farming to urban growing.
SPIN-Farming offers flexible possibilities in terms of land use at a relatively low investment. It makes use of unused spaces but “it’s not a greening movement” rather “an AG (agricultural) model”. This AG model, used by urban growers throughout North American, has become popular in the UK and other countries. The SPIN-Farming website including guides, tips, videos, plus need-to-know information for anyone interested in setting up their own urban garden.
Wally digging carrots for Wednesday’s market
A luscious bed of carrot greens
Canola adding color among carrot greens
Wally and Gail have five garden plots: three in the city and two larger ones in the Grasswood and Wanuskewin peri-urban areas. They grow several varieties of carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, squash, Cinderella and exotic heirloom pumpkins, Jerusalem artichokes, beets, herbs, etc. I met Wally when I discovered golden beets and rainbow carrots at his Urban Market Garden in the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market and immediately became a huge market devotee.
Wally’s favorite produce are those that grow quickly such as micro greens, pea shoots, and sunflower greens, which he plants and picks every week. You won’t find cabbage, broccoli, or cauliflower in these gardens as there are too many problems associated with growing them, especially bugs!
And then, the “other” problems; the ones remembered with a humorous note: “like wearing flip-flops in the garden, losing them in the mud, and then not finding them” (Gail); or “when I made a hard left and lost a whole bunch of onions and onions were popping everywhere” (Wally); or having “people look at you like the Beverly Hillbillies, people are not always urban market friendly” (Wally). But the best story is about the ongoing battle with Uncle Nick, described with fondness by Wally as “old-country Ukraine”. I met Uncle Nick on one of his good days. Uncle Nick who is 80 plus and has a “cranky” reputation, handles the watering for the urban garden on his property. Sometimes he threatens to cut off the water but instead taxes Wally by harvesting a bed of garlic or vegetables, or whatever he decides on that particular day. No wonder he looked so healthy.
Also known as mountain spinach. this plant originated in Mongolia and brought to North America from Europe in the mid 1700s.
Lamb’s quarters or tree spinach
At Wally’s Urban Market Garden you can find neatly bagged bundles of fresh produce as well as plants to grow in your own garden space.
Rhubarb and white onions
Baby garlic bulbs
Gail Vandersteen and Wally Satzewich
Wally’s favorite vegetable: squash
Wally’s favorite vegetable meal: squash risotto
Wally’s Urban Market Garden supplies fresh produce to several local Restaurants including Truffles Bistro, Delta Bessborough, Radisson, Weczeria Food and Wine, Prairie Harvest, and Garlic Guru. It’s all about “quality and shelf life”, “from the garden to the plate” (Lee Helman, owner and Chef de Cuisine of Truffles Bistro in Saskatoon).
Open Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays at Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.
For more info on Wally’s Urban Market Garden click on my earlier posting: http://stewing-pot.com/2012/02/05/stewing-at-wallys-urban-market-garden/ and don’t forget to visit other Canadian food bloggers involved in the Canadian Food Experience Project to read about more local heroes.