Grown In-House, A Menu Sourced From the Rooftop
Rooftop and community gardens yielding locally produced food are becoming more popular with each passing year. But for the people who actually care for these gardens, it can be deeply political.
Katie Mathieu tends to Parts and Labour’s rooftop garden, a trendy new restaurant in Toronto’s Parkdale Village, and has been doing so since before the restaurant opened in June 2010.
Many of the customers who come into the restaurant are excited about the food which was grown above their heads, she says. Buckets are used to grow the variety of vegetables and herbs such as arugula, tomatoes, beans, chives, mint and stinging nettle. But for Mathieu the garden can be seen as a resistance to big business.
“It’s inevitably political,” she said. “There are a lot of people in the big food system who are trying to put up obstacles against growing your own stuff.” She mentioned that it can also be difficult for people in urban areas to secure access to a plot of land because of municipal red tape.
According to Mathieu the garden above Parts and Labour didn’t face any opposition from the city because the building is privately owned.
However, owning your own property is not something afforded to everyone, and people can find themselves in legal battles over their gardens.
Katie’s motivation to grow her own crops in the first place was feeling powerless to cope with crises.
“What happened was New Orleans sank and I was riding by the gas station and seeing the price of gas going up and realized I don’t know how to do anything,” she said.
Feeling so disconnected from the earth and her food, she decided she needed to learn how to be self-sustainable and decided to study at a small-scale farming school on an island off the coast of British Columbia called Linnaea farm.
Mathieu brought back the knowledge she gained at Linnaea farm and along side landscape architect Victoria Taylor conceived of the rooftop garden at Parts and Labour. With the project underway, Katie realized that rooftop gardens can be a small step towards coping with future crises like the one in New Orleans.
“Local food production is super important,” she said. ”Figuring out ways to have a local food infrastructure in place before we have a serious problem is a really good idea.”
Photo credits: Daniel Green