Community garden yields successful season
With the colder temperatures of late having signified the end of the growing season, the Fort Frances Community Garden planning committee deemed its second season a success, with more gardeners, flourishing crops, and an increased number of support and volunteers.
“I think it went really well,” said Krista Nielson, a health promoter at the Northwestern Health Unit and acting co-chair of the FFCG committee, noting the number of rented plots more than doubled this year.
“We got quite a few more adult and child participants, and also got some new volunteers, so that was really great,” Nielson enthused.
She noted the garden was a busy place this season and plenty of positive feedback was received.
“All of the new gardeners I’ve talked to are planning on coming back next year, and some of them would like to rent extra plots,” she said, adding they also received several inquiries from others over the summer interested in getting involved next year.
While the weather this summer was especially hot, Nielson indicated the gardeners all reaped good crops.
“The soil there is really great, so we’re lucky to have that space and we’re really hoping that will be able to continue,” she remarked, saying the committee is asking the Town of Fort Frances for continued use of the land on Lillie Avenue after its three-year agreement is up at the end of next year.
She also noted people grew many different items in the garden.
“People grew cantaloupe, which some people didn’t know you could grow that here,” Nielson said. “We had people growing all sorts of different peppers, hot peppers, bell peppers, etc.
“We also had people growing cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, corn.
“I don’t know if a lot of people are necessarily growing broccoli in their gardens at home. That was something kind of new for me,” admitted Nielson, adding they also had herb beds in the shared area.
“A lot of people were experimenting with using those in different ways, too, so that was nice,” she said.
“People were finding new ways to flavour their food without adding salt.”
Nielson also noted many of the gardeners discussed canning and preserving their food.
“We had a lot of comments of people talking about how great it was that it was cutting their grocery costs, and would be able to do that through the winter because they have been canning and freezing the food,” she explained.
She added there are plenty of other benefits to growing your own food, such as knowing where it came from and that there are no chemicals getting into it, as well as reducing your footprint because you are not using packaged items.
“It’s also about food security,” Nielson stressed. “People know the food is there and not needing to decide whether they are going to buy groceries or pay their utility bill.
“They are able to grow their own food at a low cost and impact their health, as well.”
And it’s not just eating healthier—Nielson said gardening also is really great exercise.
“You’re stretching, digging—it’s good for your body and for your soul,” she enthused.
Gardening also can be a social activity that helps people feel more connected to their community and facilitates the development of relationships with other gardeners.
“People who might never have crossed paths have come together for a common goal of working in the garden, sharing tips and developing friendships that last beyond the garden,” Nielson noted.
The planning committee and local gardeners already are thinking about next year’s growing season.
Nielson said they’ll likely stick with the same-sized
garden as this year.
Since there still were a few plots that didn’t get used, she noted the goal for next year will be to fill all the ones they do have.
They also will look to get even more people involved.
“It doesn’t have to be gardening—people are welcome to join the planning committee,” she remarked. “There is definitely strength in numbers and great ideas come out of a larger group.”
In addition, the committee also hopes to increase its partnerships with local schools and children’s groups that might have interest in starting a gardening club or different educational lessons, as well as look into adding more accessible or raised garden beds.
“We don’t know if that will be able to happen yet, but the ones we had this year were certainly an asset to the garden,” Nielson said about the four raised beds built by some students at Fort High.
“There were people who needed the raised beds that wouldn’t be able to have a garden at home.”
All in all, Nielson and the planning committee are pleased with this year and looking forward to next year.
“We’ve had so much community support. It’s really fantastic,” she enthused, adding they just want to continue to raise awareness of the garden and encourage people to visit and join in.
Having received funding from the Ontario Healthy Communities Fund, the committee also is excited to start planning how it will use those dollars and invest in the future of the garden.
For more information about the community garden, call Nielson at 274-9827.