We spoke with Jane Hayes, founder of Garden Jane and director of HoffmanHayes. Jane is a permaculture designer, gardener, community developer, educator and coach, and helps people learn how to grow and connect to healthy food, gardens and each other. We found out how permaculture connects communities, why a gardener needs a website, and how to attract fairies.
When did you discover your love of gardening?
I was in my early twenties and studying at University of Toronto. I’d been exploring ways to organize people around environmental issues and was trying to figure out how to connect with people who didn’t speak much English. I came to see that sharing food was an effective way to reach people across language and culture on all sorts of issues. The next spring I helped organize a community garden. That was my first garden and I’ve loved gardening ever since.
What is permaculture?
Permaculture is about understanding nature, and working with it to design human systems – systems that not only do not harm the planet, but are regenerative. Permaculture designers use nature as a model: understanding how the natural world works, and working with it to appropriately harness its abundance, for the good of people and the planet.
Permaculture can be defined as a combination of the following words:[permanent + agriculture = permaculture] and [permanent + culture = permaculture]
Historically, permaculture has been focused on agricultural applications, such as perennial polycultures, but from the start, the intention was for permaculture to be about more than agriculture: it was to be a catalyst for healthy, sustainable human culture that is built and maintained in harmony with the rest of the natural systems.
Daniel Hoffmann was one of our very first interviews. What are the two of you working on together?
Daniel and I are helping new condo residents grow organic food gardens and healthy food communities. We help residents organize, garden, and connect with each other. We also work with the condo developers to help them design their gardens and resident engagement/community development programs.
We’re also facilitating organic farmers’ markets with deep community engagement. Again, our goal is to build healthy and resilient food communities.
Daniel and I operate as The Cutting Veg and Garden Jane (and will continue as such), but after spending much of our professional lives together over the past 4 years, we’ve decided to launch HoffmannHayes. One of our new projects is Sabio, powered by our partners at PUSH Wellness. The Sabio team provides companies with Employment Assistance Programs that connect people to healthy food, healthy movement, and to each other. We’re quite excited to be working with companies on farms, in the city and online.
Can anyone grow food at home?
Absolutely. Even if all you do is grow sprouts, you can increase the amount of nutrient dense bites in your life and have a great time doing it!
Does it require a lot of planning to plant a garden at your office, or can you just choose plants that look nice together?
It takes some planning. Not all plants are particularly valuable beyond aesthetics and people often enjoy their gardens more when they bring other value, like producing healthy food or attracting butterflies. I’m a fan of pilot projects where we work together to figure out what people want and what will really do well. After a relatively modest start, I like to explore how we can grow into full bloom from the successful seeds we’ve already seen working.
We have to ask, what are fairy gardens?
From an adult naturalist/garden educator’s perspective, fairy gardens are a playful and creative way of teaching kids about plant ecosystems. They are also a way of teaching kids how to look deeply at plants and see that they are homes to other living things.
From a kid’s perspective, making fairy gardens are fun! The basic idea is to create places in your garden where fairies will want to live. Fairy lore says that fairies are especially drawn to flowers, fragrant smells, moss, trickling water and naturally gentle sights and sounds. Fairies need places to hide and socialize away from prying human eyes too, so fairy gardens require a wild area. The more plant diversity and the more wildness in the garden, the places there are for the shyest fairies to live.
Since fairies usually pick a plant as a home, we tell the kids that a great way to attract them is by making particular plants healthy and cozy for them. Each plant has special needs (water, light, shelter from winds, etc) and fairy homes are built to serve these needs. We use all sorts of natural materials – moss, leaves, twigs, pebbles, etc – and the kids have fun making fairy furniture, hammocks, baths, moats, paths and various hiding places. In my observation kids who do fairy gardening often know the garden differently than an adult, seeing the entire understorey of the garden in a way we adults rarely do. It is all such fun!
Is it important to engage children in gardening?
Kids are wonderful gardeners and benefit from engaging with soil life, plants and growing their own food. Some of the early research is showing that gardening helps kids who are minimally or moderately physically active to increase their activity levels. And we’re learning more about the connection between touching earth (and common soil microbes) as a way of increasing people’s sense of well being and happiness. Plus, salad is better when you grow it yourself!
The gardening I love to help kids do includes making seed balls, worm homes, fairy gardens and lots of growing and eating. I love to help kids make leaf burritos and all manner of nutrient dense and wild bites. My goal is to teach kids to love a wide range of tastes – moving beyond sweet to learn about bitter, sour and all sorts of subtle flavours. I love to help kids feel confident in being able to grow, pick and make their own fabulous bites with minimal adult supervision (or, worse interruption).
How does a website, twitter, and facebook help your business?
Having a website helps people find me and to showcase the work I’ve done as well as what I’m into doing now. Twitter and Facebook are helping me grow an audience of folks interested in growing and enjoying healthy food and healthy food communities.