By Tamara de la Vega
The joy of growing your own vegetables is spreading across Muskoka. So much so that private and business property owners are donating their land to organizations such as Poverty Reduction Of Muskoka Planning Team, the Huntsville Environment Group — and even schools are getting involved.
The idea behind the creation of such gardens, better known as community gardens, is that you can watch vegetables grow and share the fruits of your labour with others.
“We put the call out to all of the school’s families and to the Early Years program. We’re hoping to foster community and get parents involved,” says chair of VK Greer Public School Council Pamela Steel regarding the school’s community garden. Families who sign up will be responsible for watching and helping the garden grow and when the time is right, they’ll also have an opportunity to join in the harvest.
“We will be growing all manner of vegetables and sunflowers. We also have a perennial crop of native Sunchokes, also called Jerusalem artichokes — they are considered a delicacy and we sometimes sell them to Deerhurst Resort to fund the following year’s garden,” she notes.
Other organizations are also asking community members and people from their own groups to join in and have some fun while improving their own dietary intake as well as that of others.
Huntsville Environment Group has taken on part of a plot at River Mill Park and a private lot donation to grow food on, which will then be donated to the Table Soup Kitchen Foundation, Chrysalis women’s shelter and the food bank.
The donation gardens, as the group calls them, were the initiative of group member Daniel McCoy, a rooftop garden expert.
“When Daniel suggested it to the Huntsville Environment Group, it sort of became our main focus especially with the onset of spring,” explains Jan Jacklin, also a group member.
She says it just started small with group members, their family and friends volunteering some land for the group to grow some crops on.
“Then it took off a little bit more as people started to hear about our initiative, they were saying ‘hey we’ve got a piece of land here and we’re not using this part,’ and as long as we would set them (the gardens) up and tend to them we could use them.”
Jacklin says some property owners would water the gardens for the group and slowly Huntsville Environment Group started amassing areas to plant crops, a welcomed initiative, especially among property owners who liked the idea of helping others and seeing their land bear fruit rather than sitting idle.
The group is working on an estimated six gardens, which vary in size and planting everything from beets and beans to char, potatoes and carrots.
They have also just been approached by La Dolce Vita Trattoria to set up a donation garden made up of tomatoes, strawberries and herbs around the restaurant.
“This is a win-win-win as it will provide the restaurant’s chef and the Table Soup Kitchen, Chrysallis House and the food bank with fresh produce and herbs and provide a visually pleasing landscape viewed around the parking lot outside the restaurant,” says Jacklin.
At River Mill Park the group has planted fruit trees.
Anyone interested in joining the group, which welcomes new members, can contact Lori Sild at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A similar initiative is happening with the Proverty Reduction Of Musoka Planning Team, who has a garden at River Mill Park as well. PROMPT offers those without a garden of their own, the opportunity to join a community garden. They’ve also got a plot donated by Gagnon Independent Grocer’s in Bracebridge, among other initiatives.