Richard Walker lives what he teaches.
Bringing food from the soil, to the table he teaches others how food and plants create a culture of true sustainability. It is a concept he is bringing to the Shatford Centre in Penticton this weekend with a keynote speech and workshops.
"I'm originally from Alberta and grew up on a farm. We did grow organic way before it was fashionable or before it was around very much. It was something my parents did so it goes back to the early 70s. It was extremely knew. My closest colleague who grew organically was about 100 kilometres away," said Walker. "It was something my parents just practiced without knowing the actual origins."
From the experience Walker continued farming on his own and in 1988 established and operated an edible landscape nursery in Grand Forks and established the first food forest in Canada there. He currently has a food forest on a half-acre arid zone lot in Osoyoos. He is presented a workshop this weekend at the Shatford Centre on his practice. On Friday is a free keynote speech at 7 p.m. with his partner Dr. Karin Kilpatrick titled Gardening for 1,000 Years.
"The momentum for food forestry has really picked up steam in the last five years or so and I think part of the reason for that is some major municipalities have adopted it. Seattle has an effort to develop a seven acre food forest and there is initiatives in Vancouver producing more food in an urban environment, the same with Victoria," said Walker.
It is even growing outside of major cities. Walker designed and consulted for the first urban food forest in Canada in Nelson with the help of a provincial grant and it has the potential of becoming a model for cold climates. The design of food forests requires little work.
"It sustains itself and the things we plant recycle the nutrients. That is a key component of food forestry, most of the work is in designing and planting. As time goes on it requires less calories to maintain," said Walker. "It appeals to many people who don't want to spend hours hunched down in their garden."
The food forest expert said there are many benefits in the practice including health, economic and it allows the farmer to grow many things in a confined space by stacking with seven or eight layers of food production plants. One of the key principles is matching to your climatic zone and that is what Walker hopes to address with those individuals who attend his workshops this weekend.
"It is so adaptable to small scale and we can work down to apartment size and backyard lots. It is just fabulous for that. The real super potential is in urban areas. Soon over half the population in the world will live in cities and the production of food in cities is critical, as is water harvesting and protection from flooding and protecting air quality. These are all aspects that make this so appealing," said Walker.
This weekend Walker and Dr. Kilpatrick will host a free keynote talk, Gardening for 1,000 Years, on food forestry at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Shatford Centre. Kilpatrick will share stories from her depth of knowledge in herbal medicine and anecdotes as a medical doctor with some hard science woven in.
"There is probably 80 per cent of conditions that you can treat fairly well by growing your own pharmacy. We leave the serious stuff to people who are trained for it. We will cover 10 to 12 of the most important herbs for the home grower and many of the perennial plants that are not very common. In the workshops we try to address everyone's individual properties and concerns and discuss ideas they would like to implement," said Walker. "We want people to walk away with useable, transferrable skills."
Workshops on Saturday and Sunday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) have a registration fee of $200. Walker suggests those attending to bring a notebook, a small sharp knife and yogurt lid for a demonstration on budding and grafting. Registration is at the Shatford Centre (760 Main St.), by phone at 250-770-7668 or www.osarts.com.