An Evening with Nonno

Posted by Betty Zhang & filed under Sustainability Issue 2014.

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At Father’s Day dinner last month, my dad decided to recount the glorious tales of Zhang family history. It all started, he tells me between bites of calamari, when my great-grandparents sold a cattle, so that my grandfather could have some money to venture into the city for a new life – a life that was an escape from the backbreaking labour of farming in villages.

The concept of eating locally and organically has gained momentum in the last decade, reaching well over its tipping point and into ubiquity. As the perils of industrial farming were made apparent, the locavores and 100-mile dieters encouraged backyard and community gardens. Grow your own vegetables! Raise your own hens! At the very least, get a basil plant.

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I can’t help but think, as this movement becomes trendier, that somewhere, our collective ancestors are chuckling to themselves at the plight of modern society. Or maybe just my great-grandparents are laughing in their afterlife – you kids these days think it’d be fun to farm? After we worked so hard to get you out of this life?

This is not, of course, to discredit the move towards building more sustainable food systems, and understanding where our food comes from. But before we – as a generation striving to be more environmentally conscientious – get too ahead of ourselves, we might be able to learn a thing or two from our elders, from the generation for whom growing food was a way of life.

And that’s exactly why I decided to pay a visit to Alex‘s nonno Joe: runner up for Port Coquitlam’s produce garden of the year, fruit tree innovation specialist*, and all around backyard farming expert extraordinaire.

(*A title I just made that up for nonno Joe’s hypothetical business cards.)

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About Betty Zhang

Betty Zhang
Dalian-born and Vancouver-raised, Betty finds herself constantly torn between her fascination with the Asia-Pacific and her love for the Pacific Northwest. She is frequently writing, attempting to be trilingual, and tweeting @bettyyzhang

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