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  • Aislinn Cottell

Layering Food Security, One Lasagna at a Time

We hope you’re enjoying the fine Juneuary—sorry, Julebuary weather. We certainly are! Our first several weeks working with ThINC have been busy ones, especially compared to the lockdown lull. Between brainstorming for Thetis Island’s own Food Map and getting to know some of our knowledgeable residents, we’ve been working at various local projects that help support community health!

Jollity Farm, as many know, is an excellent source of fresh, local food for the island, from cilantro to sausages. Growing up on Thetis, I have been to Jollity many times, but it is amazing how the place has grown up (literally!) over the years. Developing a working agriculture system from scratch is no small feat, and Jollity has faced its share of hurdles. But being there now, surrounded by the chorus of goat bleats, pig snuffles, and brash cock-a-doodle-dooing, as sun pours down upon row after row of healthy, verdant vegetables—you can see what makes it all worthwhile.

Worthwhile or not, however, it’s still a lot of work. Jollity relies a great deal on the help of WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), to connect with workers wanting to gain agriculture experience on farms who need extra hands. Unfortunately, the recent travel restrictions have made locating WWOOFers a bit more difficult. Considering their important place in the community food system, the ThINC team determined that Jollity was an excellent candidate for assistance, and we’ve been lending our muscle to make the work a bit lighter during this tough time.

No two days are ever the same on a farm. One of the main tasks the team has been working on, however, is creating “lasagna beds.”

Lasagna gardening is not, unfortunately, a homegrown shortcut to deep-dish pasta. (Sorry, Garfield.) The name was coined by American gardener Patricia Lanza, who discovered the method quite by accident according to her account. The principles of lasagna gardening, though, have been used in many cultures throughout history, such as by the Bakiga people of Uganda.

The idea is that, rather than planting directly in the ground or raised boxes, crops can be cultivated in an open, layered bed of organic material. Depending on the materials used, these layers can have a range of agricultural benefits, from water retention to weed suppression. Additionally, the lack of permanent infrastructure makes the lasagna system very flexible and easily adaptable to a gardener’s changing needs.

At Jollity, our lasagna layers consist of compost, paper, and straw placed on a roughly weeded strip of ground. The compost gives the plants an added nutritional boost—aided by decomposing matter from the weeds, which are shaded out by the paper and straw topping. With a few people working together, we can cook up one of these beds in just a couple hours.

It’s incredible how empowering and just plain good it feels to be a part of such a process. While localizing our food systems is important for many large scale environmental and social reasons, it’s also important to remember how amazingly beneficial it can be for our own personal health and well-being.

Until next time,

Aislinn (& The ThINC Team)

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