Keeping it vocal

Local activist shares his tips

British graffiti artist Bansky said we don’t need another hero, we just need someone to take out the recycling.

This is how Simon Hon feels about activism. His form of activism is different from what many people think when they hear the term.

“I’ve shifted to a more conservative or even capitalistic version of activism,” he said, describing himself as being “over the hill.”

Far from the typical image of an angry protester throwing rocks at police, Hon’s practice is modest.

“I prefer things down to scale,” he said. “Building something that’s a tangible good for the community and building relations with people.”

Hon became active while studying environmental design at the University of Manitoba.

He graduated in 2001, but doesn’t think university is the only path to activism.

“I’ve always found it strange to have a bunch of university students studying organizing and unionism, but there’s no one in the trade schools doing it,” he said.

Today, Hon’s passion is with the Landless Farmers’ Collective (LFC). LFC is an organization based on an organic, low-mechanization approach to farming. It has four members, and numerous regular volunteers.

On a half-acre plot beside Grant Park High School, Hon works in the summers growing produce and selling it at farmers’ markets.

He delivers the products on his bicycle.

The farm is not just about growing good food, it’s about education.

“We do weekly workshops (at the high school) so they can learn about food systems and food security issues,” he said.

Hon’s LFC uses no petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides. Everything is organic.

The farm started two years ago when Hon and others broke away from the Wiens Shared Farm in St. Adolphe, a small town 30 minutes south of Winnipeg.

Last year, Hon tended a small plot at Klinic on Broadway, but this is the first year his farm will be located entirely within Winnipeg.

He’s optimistic about the project beside the high school, but keeps a realistic view.

“Farming is a high risk endeavour,” he said. “New gardens take years to cultivate. So many factors are out of your control… one day of hail could finish it.”

Because it is a collective, people share the risk.

Hon stops short of saying Winnipeggers could be self-sufficient with urban farming, but he encourages people to check out other ways to be sustainable, like the 100 mile diet and good food storage.

Hon grows enough vegetables during the summer to last him about three-quarters of the winter, he said. He knows people who don’t buy any vegetables from supermarkets, but adds that is really hard work.

In addition to the LFC, Hon works as a bicycle courier for Natural Cycle Courier. They use pedal-power exclusively to deliver packages across Winnipeg, one of only two companies to do so.

Natural Cycle is also a consensus-based collective. According to Hon, all the workers have a say in how the workplace runs.

Hon advises people interested in activism to keep it simple.

“Don’t get stuck in academia. Get your fingernails dirty.”

Published in Volume 63, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 5, 2009)

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