Community gardens offer the option for healthy food

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
November 18th, 2009

Nearly ten years ago the first conversations about developing a community garden were started. Now, in Grand Forks and the Boundary, the vision is taking form.

Doug Zorn, president of the Grand Forks and Boundary Regional Agricultural Society (GFBRAS), said that the idea was on the table when the society formed nearly two years ago but was not initiated.

“The community gardens were an idea that the society had thought of promoting, but with so much going on it was never pushed forward,” said Zorn. “With the (Grand Forks) economic development task force getting a strong agricultural component, David Janzen spearheaded the idea of a community garden. Janzen took the idea further than the group with councillor Davies taking it to council.”

Janzen, a resident of Grand Forks with an interest in health and agriculture, got involved at the task force when it was formed by the city last year. The concept of the gardens was accepted by Grand Forks City Council and the city has generously donated a plot of city land located in the Ruckle neighbourhood.

“We agreed that council sponsor a community garden and we asked staff to go out and look at the options,” said Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor. “The most attractive site is two lots located in Ruckle on the south side of the black train bridge. There is now a group of volunteers who are looking at the design of the space. There’s a lot of work to be done on it. We’re hoping the volunteers will do that – fencing, posts, etc. If the design calls for other infrastructure, we’ll have to budget for it in the coming year.”

Janzen felt that the time was right for this project to take off. “Food prices keep rising, and with this in mind it has become more important to grow and eat locally,” said Janzen. “This garden will make that opportunity available to many that do not have the space or land to garden. The gardens will also offer education, teaching people how to germinate seeds, grow vegetables and flowers, as well as preserving and drying extra food.”

The city, however, did not want to take on the task of the operating and organizing the community garden so the society was asked to head it up. At a recent meeting GFBRAS agreed to take the project on provided David Janzen remained as the lead contact. Janzen has become a director for the society heading up the committee to oversee the garden in Grand Forks. Infrastructure needs to be developed for the site including water, washrooms, a place for marketing produce, and even possibly a heated greenhouse. The vision includes making the area wheelchair accessible for the “not-so-young” with pathways and raised beds. Community gardens are not only about creating a space for people to grow their own healthy food, but Zorn sees it as a place for people to gather for education and socializing.

“We hope to be able to do courses for education projects. Composting, how to grow varieties that are more draught resistant, perhaps even having an experimental plot on site for testing different varieties. We hope to have a hoop house on the grounds to extend the growing season as well.”
But GFBRAS has a larger vision than just bringing the gardens to Grand Forks. They are also setting up to access a grant to hire a local co-ordinator to examine the possibility of community gardens in Greenwood, Midway and Rock Creek.

“We already have property in Rock Creek and there’s a member heading to the Greenwood city council to ask for property there. It’s hoped that this coordinator can take a read on and include each one of these communities to promote a community garden in each of them,” said Zorn. “What we need in Grand Forks we’re going to need in the region. So if we are building one, it’s just as easy to apply for funding for one in each of the other areas as well.”

Janzen hopes that some of the extra produce will be donated to the Food Bank to feed the hungry in the area. It is not too late to participate in this project; interest, expertise, materials and financial support are all welcomed. Please contact David Janzen at 250-442-0196 or email at nfm@direct.ca.

Categories: General