Everything here is hand dug, hand weeded, and then we actually wash and harvest and it’s put on bicycle trailers and pedaled to your door.
—Simon Hon, Landless Farmers Collective
On the front lawn of the Pan Am Pool there's a rather charming set of gardens. It's city owned land, and from afar the 10 or so plots look like they must be community green space, possibly a botanical garden of sorts.
But upon close inspection you'll start to smell the cilantro and basil, see rows of vibrant Swiss chard, plump ripening tomatoes and peppers.
It's actually the Landless Farmers Collective urban farm, arguably the most unique community shared agriculture (CSA) project going on right now in Manitoba.
"We rent all this property from the city," said Simon Hon, one-third of the Landless Farmers Collective (LFC) along with Leigh Anne Parry and Coral Maloney.
Vegetables growing along Grant Avenue. (Mike Green)
"Basically we found this site here and made a proposal to the city to start an edible landscape. That we would be growing and harvesting the vegetables, and taking care of the whole deal and making sure the place looked spiffy. And they we went for it," Hon continued.
The LFC has been renting the land for four years now. The members, who combined have nearly 20 years of agricultural experience, work part time and grow crops in an organic fashion for over 30 CSA members - all while adhering to the city's mandate to keep the place aesthetically pleasing.
It's a marriage of artistry and functionality, which Hon concedes does take a bit from their bottom line.
Garden landscape (Mike Green)
"That mix between landscaping and farming is an economic battle," he said. "Generally for landscaping, people get paid to do it - while for farming people get paid for the food. You do more work in landscaping to keep it nice and keep the weeds down... It's not as efficient as going out to a field with a tractor and pounding straight rows."
Keeping up appearances isn't the only obstacle on this urban farm, as Canada geese and vegetable poachers from the surrounding neighbourhood have been known to treat the gardens as their own personal pantry.
Some losses they budget for much like you would on a conventional farm, but for the most part the neighbours and pool employees have become quite aware of the farm, are quick to educate others about it, and offer a bit of extra security.
Their urban setting also allows the LFC to operate with next to no carbon emissions (their only piece of machinery is a push rotary tiller) while still providing farm to door service.
"We deliver by bicycle only, so we use no fossil fuels to deliver our vegetables," said Hon. "Everything here is hand dug, hand weeded, and then we actually wash and harvest and it's put on bicycle trailers and pedaled to your door."