The Garden Journey with Ritu Saxena

This is the first post from The Garden Journey, a series of guest editorials from new urban farmer Ritu Saxena.

This earth, so touchingly looked upon and revered as the Universal Mother, has nurtured mankind for billions of years. Perhaps, these tenets left an indelible impression on a young girl who matured into a woman called Ritu Saxena. Hello, my name is Ritu and this is My Garden Journey. In 2019 I will start an urban agriculture business in Oakville and I hope that my philosophies to work in harmony with environment, to nurture the ecosystem, to give back to the Mother Nature will provide you with a deeper connection with the earth and be able to leave a better world for the future generations.

- Ritu.

Harmony with nature has been an important aspect of Indian culture. The Vedas - the world's most ancient sacred texts talk about love of environment and love of Mother Earth. "Mother Bhumi (Mother Earth), may whatever I dig from you grow back again quickly, and may we not injure you by our labor." - Atharva Veda.

I have always been interested in growing flowers and vegetables. However, the hectic life that I was leading - a full time job, raising a family, studying, taking care of a dog, did not leave much time to indulge in my passions. Despite this, I did my best to develop my backyard into a small vegetable patch.  I read a number of gardening books, applied some techniques, experimented on my own and learnt from my mistakes.

Years rolled by and then came the day when I had more time to pursue my own interests. What a sheer joy it was – to immerse my hands in dirt, to breathe in the fresh outdoor air, and soak in the sunshine!

Now, I turn my attention to my long neglected backyard and have begun planting the garden. I got free compost from Halton, hand picked weeds, killed hardy weeds with hot water and spices, used organic fertilizer, got a composter to make compost, collected rain water, grew sunflowers and zinnias to increase butterfly and bee populations. And then I reaped the harvest (zucchini, cucumbers, salad greens, tomatoes, grapes, green beans, green pepper, carrots and flowers). I found working in the home garden very fulfilling, when everyday, I would feed something fresh to my family. I then thought of expanding the operation and start a profitable vegetable business. 

My vision is to stay small and sell to the local community directly so that they have access to fresh vegetables.  I wish to strengthen the urban food system by growing healthy and nutritious vegetables based on the principles of organic farming.

The first step was to look for a piece of land. There were a few initial setbacks which felt a bit disheartening. Then luck favoured me, when and Halton Food Council stepped in. With their support and efforts, I have been able to get a small plot of land at Country Heritage Park. Currently, I am preparing the patch to grow vegetables for the summer of 2019. Halton Waste Management was also kind enough to provide me with some compost to make the land more fertile.

The spacecraft has been launched!

- Ritu Saxena

Ritu Saxena is an accountant and project team lead living in Oakville. She will be growing and selling vegetables on about 1000 square feet of land with support through an entrepreneurial grant from Halton Region and documenting her journey with Halton Food Council as a regular guest contributor on their blog.