What to do with an overgrown donated lot of land. Add a few pro-active individuals, community volunteers with equipment, lumber, and enthusiasm and you have a garden.
Top it off with some expertise, labour, training and a tank of water - you have Crescent Park Community Garden
Under the tutelage and guidance of Neil Fernyhough (Community Programs Manager for Alexandra House) the magic came together. Financial, permits, materials and logistics is a necessary evil and all of the points have to match before actual construction could begin. He assembled a varied team to of volunteers, professional and contractors to move the project toward to the construction day. Site clearing, landfill and and topsoil had all been arranged and delivered to the site in the past year so the lot was now a clearing with piles of topsoil and gravel placed strategically waiting for the sun to shine.
Setting up a community garden truly takes a community. It takes vision, foresight and time in dealing with the ramifications of City and Provincial bylaws. I watched people as they came together for meetings as the frustrating process ambled over a period of two years. But then the magic began.
At 9 AM on a Saturday morning the the troops began to arrive with tables, water, coffee and eats which is the foundation of any co-operative enterprise. The process of welcoming everyone and organising the tools and teams for the "fun" ahead was smooth and genial as they set mind and back to the task at hand.
Local resident Cy Lord's skill with auto-cad pre-empted any doubt for design or confusion. The plots were first measured, marked and laid out with string lines prior to any operations. It was a true construction site to have fun with.
People arrived dressed to the "garden-nines", with tools and enthusiasm ready be applied to the next stages. But not before a lunch and social time for every one to meet and chat a bit. Sites were assigned and chosen by those members present and the "garden-moment" was about to begin.
Everyone - Men, women, children and grand-parents all had a handle. Hammers, wheel barrows, shovels, and rakes. This was a garden on fire. By the end of the first day, the land had been levelled, gravel base, 48 beds and 4 raised wooden beds for disabled gardeners were erected and ready to be filled on the following day.
Sunday was set for the finale. Wheel barrows were amassed and the huge pile of topsoil gradually morphed into the wooden garden beds. By days-end, the beds had been filled and the process of gardening was ready to begin. The smiles were everywhere. The satisfaction of manual labour and accomplishment benefited both body and mind in completing an adventure in spirit as well as benefiting community.
The result in Kiwanis Park South Surrey is now a fully functioning garden program. It is designed for members of the immediate community and offers the opportunity for fresh organic produce and members and a space for community entertainment.
Gardening and growing is good for us all! It is good for our physical and mental health, for reducing stress and helping to tackle challenging behaviour. It can also help to build confidence and develop a range of interests and skills.
Community gardens contribute to a healthy lifestyle by:
- providing fresh, safe, affordable herbs, fruits and vegetables
- helping to relieve stress and increase sense of wellness
- getting people active, which improves overall physical health
- providing social opportunities that build a sense of community and belonging
- giving people an opportunity to learn and share knowledge on gardening, nature, and cooking
Community gardens benefit the community as they help:
- build welcoming, safer communities
- improve the look of neighbourhoods
- reduce pollution by sequestering carbon and reducing the shipping of food over long distances
- support pollinator habitats that are necessary for community well-being
- reduce food insecurity
- connect people to nature
- provide a common meeting area where people of all ages and cultural backgrounds can come together to share experiences and knowledge
- educate people on where food comes from and provide opportunity for people, especially in urban spaces, to engage with their food system
But more than food and fun, I discovered the magic that people who get involved with community garden projects talk about. It was truly wonderful to meet and work side-by-side with members of adjoining neighbourhoods. It was great to see each others’ work, to lend a hand, to get help, to join the fun and then to sit back afterwards over pizza, salad, and cake to get to know our neighbours and new friends even better.
So, if like me, you’ve had a hankering to get back into a garden, but didn’t feel you were able to in one way or another, or don’t want to do it alone, look around for a community garden in your neck of the woods. There may still be plots left as we’re finally at that magical post-frost date in most regions when it’s safe again to plant. If you find a community garden, but the plots are full, get involved anyway. Weeding definitely leads to food down the line, and friendships along the way.
And if there’s no neighbourhood garden where you are, start one. Even if it doesn’t get off the ground this year, a year of slow planning will put you where you need to be next year, just in time for the next community project.