Community gardeners celebrate harvest season
Community gardeners gathered to swap growing ideas, seeds and recipes as they celebrated the harvest season, Monday afternoon, Aug. 13, at Canadore College.
“It has been estimated that for every dollar invested in community gardens, six dollars of vegetables are produced,” said Parry Sound Community Gardens volunteer Becky Pollock. “Families can expect to save up to $700 each year with the fresh and flavourful food they grow in their gardens.”
The concept of community gardens has been around in many cultures, in order to work together on food production and become more self-sufficient, she explained, adding that during World War II, there were 20 million “victory gardens” which yielded 40 per cent of the fresh vegetables consumed.
Locally, since 2009, Parry Sound Community Gardens have provided space for people who do not have home gardens to grow organic food. Garden sites are located at Yvonne Williams Park, Waubeek Street and Canadore College. Each garden plot is free and people are encouraged to donate 20 per cent of their produce to Esprit Place, Salvation Army Food Bank or Harvest Share Parry Sound, for distribution through their programs. Today’s gardens have a wide range of purposes. They include not only gardens where people grow food together for their own consumption, but also gardens “like Grow a Row” for food banks, educational gardens teaching adults or school children, market gardens or small farms to supplement family incomes, and gardens providing mental or physical therapy.
“Some simply provide a venue for sharing the love of gardening,” Pollock pointed out. “What all these gardens have in common is that they are the place that brings people together working toward a common purpose.”
A community garden, if put in the right place and sufficiently supported, provides a public demonstration that residents can build something beautiful together.
“Poor nutrition is widespread in Canada and in our community,” said Pollock. “Many residents here eat few fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables and their health suffers. Community gardens can teach people how to grow the best tasting varieties of fresh, pesticide-free produce, making delicious, nutritious produce more available.”
“Unfortunately, hunger is a chronic problem,” said Pollock. “Where people have to choose between paying rent and buying food, many people go hungry each month. About half of these are children, and most of the other half, are elderly or disabled.”
Community gardens can help reduce hunger, and with regular work, community vegetable gardens typically produce about 500 servings per year in a 40 ft. by 5 ft. raised bed. Fresh produce is a welcome addition for our area food programs, Pollock noted.
Improving the Environment
In addition to providing the community with nutritious food, organic community gardens teach and inspire sustainable land use.
“As our population continues to move from rural areas to urban centers, most of our farming heritage has been left behind or forgotten,” Pollock reminded gardeners. “Now we have no system in place for teaching or experiencing wise management and use of the land we have around us. Most people do not know how to control pests, irrigate the land or improve the soil in an environmentally friendly way.”
Community Gardens can teach sound land management and make food production successful, she pointed out. School gardens that complement and enhance classroom lessons can also serve as valuable demonstration gardens for the surrounding community.
For families and farmers that want to grow produce to sell, gardens can provide income. They can sell their crops to neighbours, local restaurants, and caterers who are desperately searching for sources of locally grown, good tasting produce. Local markets and CSA – Community Supported Agriculture – where people subscribe and pay before the planting season for produce that gets delivered later, are good options for community members.
Improving Physical and Mental Health
Health, physical exercise, or therapy, are other benefits of community gardens. “Taking care of plants, watching birds and butterflies, enjoying the outdoors, and getting exercise are all good for the body and spirit,” said Pollock. “Community gardens can help people suffering from stress and many forms of mental and physical illness.”
A free workshop by Glenda Clayton, on planting garlic locally, gave gardeners a chance to focus on some of the concerns of growing these bulbs successfully in this area.
Local graphic illustrator Mirabai Hayward attended the open house and said she’s been enjoying her involvement with the Parry Sound Community Gardens.
“I think it makes the community inter-connected,” she said.
Pat Giglio and her granddaughter Logan, who live in Toronto but spend the summer at Sturgeon Lake, attended the open house.
“We have a small garden and wanted to get some tips for growing in this region,” said Giglio. “Mostly, we have flowers, but we’re starting to grow vegetables, hopefully before the animals get them.”
Guests had an opportunity to sign up for garden plots for 2013, and were invited to help organize the Food Forum being held locally in the spring. The next food forum planning meeting is Sept. 19. Information is available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.