Diary of a Compost Hotline Operator: Edible Essays on City Farming
Pleasance Crawford is the co-author of The Canadian Landscape and Garden
History Directory and Garden Voices: Two Centuries of Canadian Garden
Spring Gillard had a solid career as an advertising copywriter before
she discovered her true calling. Since 1991, she has worked for City
Farmer, the Vancouver-based organization that began promoting urban
agriculture in 1978. Groundbreaking from the start, City Farmer went
online in 1994 with “Urban Agriculture Notes.” Now City Farmer’s
Compost Demonstration Garden (which is also its base of operations)
attracts both local and international visitors; and the compost hotline,
with Gillard fielding the queries, provides well-researched answers for
gardeners in crisis.
Diary of a Compost Hotline Operator is the worthy winner of a 2004
Garden Writers Association of America Garden Globe Award of Achievement.
There could be no livelier read
on the hows and whys of urban agriculture in general and composting in
particular. An introduction by Mike Levenston, a founder and the
long-time executive director of City Farmer, sets the scene. Gillard
then takes charge, turning Levenston, co-workers, and other friends into
the delightfully opinionated characters who animate the book.
Each chapter is a blend of diary entries, short, breezy articles,
typical hotline questions and answers, “hot” recipes and tips, and
timely lists of contacts and resources. The essential topics—layering,
worm composting, solving insect problems, avoiding lawn excesses,
conserving water, disposing of pet poop, discouraging rats and other
animals—are all covered in depth and with style. The final chapter,
“City Farmer on Tour,” shares the heartening stories of city farmers
and community gardeners in New York City, Cuba, the Northwest
Territories, Kenya, and elsewhere. The epilogue, “Feeding the
Earth,” restates the author’s belief in the need to strive for
sustainable living practices; and the eight-page index makes returning
to favourite passages easy.