Meet Organic Farmer

Meet ROB – Organic Gardener at The Big Carrot…

“Be patient with yourself, no flower is in bloom all year round.” An INTERVIEW with Rob Macewen – Healthy food growing enthusiast, sustainable living and urban agriculture supporter and a team member of the Food Excitement Organic Rooftop Garden project at The Big Carrot Common in Toronto, Ontario.

Truth, Simplicity and Love really are the core elements when we return to the basics.

Organic Farmer: How did your journey start with caring for and growing healthy organic food?

Rob: I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from the mistakes of others rather than my own mistakes. I’ve had the opportunity to observe my grandparents’ journey and the deterioration of their health really inspired me to take my life in a different direction because I was very much emulating their behaviors by eating the foods that they prepared for me, foods that they were raised on.

This drew me to eating foods that were purer and closer to the source. This evolved from organic food, to organic plant based food and from there organic plant based raw food and wanting to have it as pure as possible, to experience what it might be like to have a clear vessel.

This led me to be involved in gardening and growing my own food. It was easy to go to the store and buy food, however, part of the connection and the next step in that connection for me was to grow my own food and to grow for others if they were unable to do so but always encouraging others to grow their own food as a means of ensuring that they are connecting to source.

Organic Farmer: You lived for a couple of years in Costa Rica on a farm. What did you do there? What did you learn? 

Rob: I was privileged to have been raised (although born in Toronto) in Barbados. It was beautiful having the contrast of being born and raised for the early part of my childhood in a very urban environment and then immersing in a very rural environment that was centered around farming and agriculture but not on a mass scale, not on a commercial scale, but just local families getting together and growing yams, cassava, bananas, sort of these provisional staples that are consumed in the Caribbean.

I took for granted very much growing up that I had access to all of this organic food as a child until I’d returned to attend University in Toronto and reentered the metropolis and fast food/fast living paradigm that accompanied it.

That shift opened my eyes…wow…I was really exposed to something special while living for a number of years in Barbados and that inspired me to explore travelling through Central America to learn more about permaculture, organic farming, sustainable farming, sustainable living and holistic communities that are centered around wellbeing.

Agriculture exists as one component of growing.  Growing food together, sharing experiences and emotions together are all integral parts of this beautiful puzzle of life that we’re exploring together.  

And that’s what drew me to Costa Rica; exploring permaculture and living in intentional community centered around sustainable living.

So many lessons for sure, so many lessons from the plants, so many lessons from the alternative learning projects that I was involved in. So many lessons.

Truth, Simplicity and Love really are the core elements when we return to the basics. We can experience profound healing when we strip away the layers that we’ve put on through social conditioning, through social conformity, through whatever it might be until we realize the pre-existing purity that is present within us.

Organic Farmer: What does organically grown food means to you?

Rob: The designation of organic is a very interesting one in that while we have organic it can also represent organic monoculture, which isn’t so healthy for the planet nor for ourselves. There is symbiosis, I feel that if something is harming the planet then naturally it’s harming us.

So, we have to enter into a state of alignment as WE ARE nature, WE ARE extensions of earth. So if something is healthy for the planet it’s naturally healthy for us.

Trying to live symbiotically, that’s organic for me. Striving to live symbiotically with the animals, with the insects, with each other, with the earth.

A story I can share comes during a trip from Panama to Costa Rica. As I was traveling through the mountains I had an opportunity to travel by an organic monoculture farm and it was breathtaking to see to the horizon just pineapple, to the horizon just papaya, to the horizon just banana and though it’s all designated organic, it doesn’t necessarily translate into being healthy, especially if there’s no companion planting nor crop rotation.

And organic fertilizers, organic pesticides, organic herbicides, organic fungicides are still harmful to the organisms they attempt to repel.

While we can more easily metabolize them I feel that accumulated concentrations of these organic compounds can be still detrimental to our health.

So organic for me would be biodynamic, without chemicals, organic nor synthetic without pesticides, organic nor synthetic, employing crop rotation, utilizing companion planting, certain plants will deter unwanted creatures naturally, ensuring that we are planting those with plants that attract these creatures.

Trying to live symbiotically, that’s organic for me. Striving to live symbiotically with the animals, with the insects, with each other, with the earth.

Organic Farmer: What fruits and veggies do you like to eat and grow?

Rob: It’s interesting because having lived in the tropics I was exposed to these very exotic fruits; mangosteen, durian, chempadek. From fruits that I’d never seen before let alone even heard of to witnessing them grow on the trees that I’m surrounded by.

Even bananas, you know, I’d been so disconnected from seeing the way bananas were grown.

It had become such a foreign concept to me, the whole tree keeling over and seeing the banana flower opening and being pollinated by the bees and the butterflies.

I was very much drawn to foraging and eating tropical fruits. This was a tropical food forest, previously having been forested area that was converted to cattle pasture, damaged by soil erosion and was now being converted to edible forestation. It was this observation that inspired my exploration of urban agriculture in Toronto.

The herbs and greens are very grounding for me, very centering, and I enjoy that element of growing greens and herbs and having been involved with Kind Organics, edible flowers.

While growing hibiscus, cosmos, nasturtiums I always find that their vibrance and vitality bring so much joy. I don’t experience that as much with the greens but again, it’s beautiful to have the contrast of the herbs and flowers.

So it certainly will be for me growing these as I they’re mainstays in my day to day practice, various fruits whether they be local tomatoes or cucumbers coupled with wild herbs is a grounding combination and the edible flowers to offer the burst of color and healing properties that flowers so humbly us. It’s important to explore all the avenues that earth has provided, because there are many.

Organic Farmer: Imagine that you’re standing in front of thousands of people, what wisdom would you share with them?

Rob: I had visited an intentional community in Costa Rica a number of years ago and happened to see, not by chance, I don’t think anything is by chance but I came across a quote that was posted on one of the walls of this community and it read, “Be patient with yourself, no flower is in bloom all year round.”

“Be patient with yourself, no flower is in bloom all year round.”

So it’s important to acknowledge that we’re on a roller coaster that has its ups and downs and to be patient because it’s a beautiful journey that we’re on, both the highs and the lows. We love the highs so much that we become attached to the sensation of being in a high space so when we experience the contrast of the low, we don’t want to be there.

We’re occupying apartment buildings, condos, townhouses with rooftop patios; it’s important that we utilize this space to reconnect with nature.

But we couldn’t enjoy the joys of being in that high space without the agonies of being in the low space. So take them both, enjoy them both because these are both beautiful sides of being human. Just as importantly, we’re all in this together. Humans have been around for hundreds of thousands of years experiencing the emotions and tribulations of life.

Knowing that we are doing this together raises the question of how can we support each other through this process? How do we share our stories with each other? How can we be compassionate and empathetic towards what we’re all experiencing because though I’m here today and was there yesterday, I may be over there tomorrow…it’s all in flux.

Everything is dancing and we’re all moving together, so why not hold hands while we’re doing this? I wanted to add that oftentimes with seeking, there is a saying by the poet Jalaluddin, “whatever you’re seeking is also seeking you.”

It’s important to recognize that if we’re looking for something in life, for opportunity, the opportunity will often present itself.

  • Seek, and ye shall find.
  • Ask, and ye shall receive.
  • Knock, and the door shall be opened unto you.

So persevere, if you have an intention and you’re searching for something, persevere, be patient and you will find what you’re looking for. So long as you’re patient I can almost guarantee that you will find what you’re looking for.

Organic Farmer: How did this opportunity of gardening on The Big Carrot rooftop start for you?

Rob: I admit that my life has simply been a cascade of blessings. I’m incredibly privileged and so humbled to be surrounded by the group of beings that I am surrounded by each day.

To be engaging with the people that I am engaging with, especially those who are coming with a perpendicular story, offers me the opportunity to see contrast and get an idea of what the whole picture might look like, because we’re all living pieces of a single picture.

Standing on this green roof, as we are right now, is a beautiful example of what urban agriculture is capable of. I’ve been involved in agriculture in the tropics and in spaces that have seemed more conducive to it but we live in an environment right now where we live on top of each other.

We’re occupying apartment buildings, condos, townhouses with rooftop patios; it’s important that we utilize this space to reconnect with nature.

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For more information about about possibilities of urban farming and or gardening visit Carrot Green Roof and Garden located above the Big Carrot Common.

You can also visit: https://www.carrotcommon.com/spaces/carrot-green-roof

or

Contact Zora Ignjatovic at 647-496-4272

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