People and programs
We’ve got the latest on what’s growing on from Kamloops to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Thousands of volunteer gardeners across the country have been involved in a great gardening adventure this summer, growing food, skills, and connection in more than 150,000 square feet of community growing spaces.
Gardens are a core part of programming at every Community Food Centre. The produce that’s grown is used in programs and taken home by community members.
These gardens are fertile spaces: not only do they yield fresh produce, they’re also places where new friendships take root, community bonds are strengthened, new knowledge is learned and shared, and physical and mental health can improve.
CFCs from Nelson B.C. to Dartmouth N.S. have been seeding big garden projects this season, so we asked them to share what’s been growing on in their neck of the woods.
In Montreal, the gardeners are digging in more than ever!
For the first time this year, The Depot Community Food Centre’s gardens are fully subscribed. In the CFC’s five community gardens, 165 adults and 59 kids have been contributing to growing everything from Carmine Splendor and Cajun Jewel red and green okra, Brussels sprouts, red malabar spinach, tomatillos, and kuri, delicata, tromboncino and pattypan squash.
Community member requests guide the types and varieties of plants grown in the garden. Members typically take home about $200 worth of harvest during the season, and last year the gardens produced almost 2,000 kg of fresh produce.
Also new this year: the St. Thomas collective garden is now host to a solitary, non-stinging, bee habitat that was created by local Rudolf Steiner school in partnership with Alvéole, an urban bee project, and McGill University.
In Stratford, Ontario, an Edible Garden is taking shape
The Local Community Food Centre’s Green Team, a group of very engaged and energetic seniors, have played an indispensable role in tending the centre’s garden over the years.
This year, they’ve been helping the CFC with its newest project: the creation of an Edible Forest which, when it’s complete, will comprise 100 community garden plots, several varieties of fruit and nut trees, a First Nations Garden, and a community orchard.
The project is taking root in the city’s Dufferin Area, and was made possible thanks to support from the City of Stratford, and the Stratford Horticultural Society.
“We’re creating a community space that families can picnic in, take a walk in, and explore everything ‘food’ in -- to create the freedom for people to pick fruit from a tree, berries from bushes, and harvest and share food they’ve nurtured and grown,” says Executive Director Debra Swan.
In Nelson, B.C., new gardens have curb appeal
The Nelson Community Food Centre is building a first-of-its-kind raised-bed boulevard garden this year, thanks to support from the city and CFCC. In its finished state, the garden will be a demonstration, engagement, learning, and educational space, and will count 14 raised beds seeded using organic growing practices.
Staff are looking forward to growing Indigenous plants, root vegetables, potatoes, beets, kale, chard, tomatoes, zucchini, flowers, edible, and herbs. Some of the harvest will be used in programs, some will be sent home with community volunteers.
“We really look forward to seeing how the new will increase cross-pollination between our various programs. It’ll also make a big statement for the Community Food Centre in downtown Nelson,” says Andrew Creighton, Community Relations Manager.
In Dartmouth, N.S., an urban farm is bringing the community together
The rain didn’t stop 160 volunteers from picking up shovels and spades in May to plant parsnip, sorrel, squash, zucchini, and close to 30 other fruits and vegetables in the Dartmouth North Community Food Centres’s 20,000-square-foot urban farm.
Community members take some of the produce home, and the rest is given out during the weekly affordable produce market, or used in community meals.
Since May, kids in the Young Farmers program have been in the garden learning how asparagus grows, MP Darren Fisher has pitched in some time and muscle power, and community and business leaders like Medavie and McInness Cooper have volunteered their time.
The CFC is challenging community members and supporters to contribute 2,500 volunteer hours to the garden this year -- seeding new friendships, stronger connections, and a healthier community.
In Hamilton, Ontario, they’re sowing a new Freedom Garden
At the Hamilton Community Food Centre, the Community Action Program team has transformed a plot-based garden into a Freedom Garden, a teaching space that encourages skill-sharing, autonomy and creativity. Located on Athens Street, the garden is now home to many culturally diverse plants, and a Three Sisters Garden – corn, beans and squash – which represents and honours Haudenosaunee traditional ecological knowledge, land, and stories.
The Freedom Garden also strives to encourage creativity through arts-based activities that explore food justice principles that encourage increased connections with the land.
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In Perth, Ontario, the kitchen garden is fuelling meals and education The Table’s 7,000-square-foot garden in Last Duel Park yields bushels of cucumber, zucchini, cabbage, peas, carrots, and beets each year.
This year, it’s their 500-square-foot backyard kitchen garden that’s the superstar. Thanks to a new irrigation system donated and installed by Lee Valley Tools, the small garden is more productive than ever, yielding lots of lettuce, spinach, cilantro, green onions, dill, and radishes that go straight into community meals, the good food bank, and community kitchen programs. The new drip watering system sends water right to the plant roots, reducing evaporation. Not only does it save water, it will also be used to teach kids in the After School Program about growing techniques and technology.
The new drip watering system sends water right to the plant roots, reducing evaporation. Not only does it save water, it will also be used to teach kids in the After School Program about growing techniques and technology.
In Eel Ground First Nation, N.B., Sage is growing
At the Natoaganeg Community Food Centre, a young woman named Sage has turned a patch of land into a thriving educational and production garden.
The cabbage, broccoli, snap peas, carrots, beets, tomatoes, pumpkin, and cucumbers that have been cropping up are feeding the CFC’s food programs, and providing inspiration to community members.
“My journey of planting and growing started when I was around 11,” says Sage. “I picked a seed right from an orange I was eating and stuck it in an old pot to see what would happen. When it sprouted a few days later, I was amazed. I fell in love with caring for it and I continued to plant seeds from apples, peppers, avocados, cantaloupe, and anything I could get my hands on.
With my passion for growing, I got my job here at the Natoaganeg Community Food Centre to be the garden coordinator.
I’ve expanded my knowledge of gardening so much over the past two years and it has really taught me patience, and the time and effort that needs to be put in to keep something great like this going.”
In Kamloops, B.C., the chickens have come home to roost
The Mount Paul Community Food Centre’s community garden has a few new members this year: six hens that were provided by the Kamloops Food Policy Council and are already a hit in children’s programming. They’ll soon provide eggs for the CFC’s programs.
The centre’s on-site educational garden, allotment spaces, and public produce garden add up to more than 90,700 square feet. In the educational garden, staff and volunteers grow produce that’s used in the centre’s community meals and kitchens, and youth education programs.
Through a partnership with the city,the CFC provides eight allotment gardens that give 350 gardeners a chance to get their hands dirty, learn from each other, and grow fresh food.
And, located in a nearby park, the Public Produce garden is all about cultivating an interest in growing in all residents of Kamloops. It’s an open garden, intended as an edible landscape, for any community member to access.