Community Gardening and CSAs

Community Gardening in Pickering Ontario

Thank you to guest blogger Audrey for sharing this Ontario perspective on community gardens, and information on community gardens in this time of COVID.

  • Over the last 20 years, the non-profit community garden association in Pickering has grown to 103 garden plots on Ontario Hydro land in the middle of the city. Membership is $20 annually and there is always a waiting list of people who wish to join. It usually takes a year or two before applicants on the waiting list are able to get a plot.
  • Early in each new year, members agree on the seeds that will be ordered in bulk for the next growing season. Upon paying the membership fee in the spring, each member receives approximately 20 packages of different vegetable seeds including beets, carrots, green and yellow beans, radishes, turnip, and lettuce. Members are not required to use these seeds but they do help reduce the cost. Members usually buy pepper and tomato plants and onions; and several gardens include perennial crops like asparagus, rhubarb, and strawberries.  
  • Members are required to keep their garden and the pathways around their garden free of weeds. Unfortunately every year several gardeners lose their plots for this reason. No pesticides are allowed. 
  • Dozens of members volunteer for the various jobs that are necessary to keep the garden association running smoothly. These roles include filling water barrels daily, managing compost bins, and tending the food bank plots. These jobs require significant time commitments from the volunteers.
  • A few of the plots are used for growing produce for the local food bank. Twice a week, a volunteer takes extra vegetables that members have grown to the food bank. 

Community gardening in the time of Co-Vid 

  • In May, the province of Ontario approved the opening of community gardens. Until then, the garden area was cordoned off with yellow tape and orange pylons, similar to park playgrounds. 
  • Although the province had declared community gardens open, the city’s Department of Health had to approve a set of Co-Vid protocols that would ensure members’ safety. 
  • Once the set of protocols was approved by the city, every member had to sign agreeing to them. Anyone in violation would lose access to his/her garden. Each gardener had to agree to:
    • attend only on even or odd calendar days that coincided with the odd or even number of his/her plot. This would reduce the number of gardeners there each day by half;
    • leave a tag each time they visited the garden with date and time in and out so that contact info would be available if another gardener contacted the virus;
    • use a newly constructed hand washing station and hand sanitizer;
    • bring his/her own equipment as the tool sheds remain locked; and
    • work alone in the plot, no guests allowed.

Community Gardening in Edmonton Alberta

Photo from the Royal Gardens Community Garden by Lucy

The city of Edmonton has 80 community gardens, and the city has put out a brochure on how to set one up. As well, this year there is a pilot project of “pop up community gardens” that are portable and watered for you. Lucy assumed that garden plots would be very difficult to access, but in fact, you often do not have to wait more than a year to get a spot as many people give them up because they did not appreciate the time and effort to tend to a plot. So if you are interested for next year, now is a good time to ask. 

The Local Good Blog and Newsletter “Edmonton’s Hub For Green and Local Living” writes:

“Gardening is a rewarding hobby. Getting your hands dirty, understanding the work and patience that goes into food production, and tasting the difference in homegrown produce is both a humbling and gratifying experience. Plus, you can’t get food more local than your own backyard.

Shared garden spaces cultivate stronger relationships between neighbours, instill pride and ownership in communities, and inspire people to learn new, rewarding skills. They also promote biodiversity, create habitat for pollinators and support healthy, sustainable lifestyles. Not bad for a bit of dirt!

Finding the Right Space for You

In Edmonton, we are lucky to have multiple styles of shared gardens that you may join as a novice or expert. Choosing the right space for you will depend on what sort of gardening experience you’re looking for, so here are a few points to consider before exploring the options:

  • Size: How much do you want to grow? What is your commitment level or time budget for gardening or volunteer hours? Do you need to have your very own space, or is sharing an option?
  • Location: Is the space easily accessible for you to maintain a watering and maintenance schedule? Can you get to the garden on foot or bike, or will you need to use a vehicle or public transit?
  • Access: Does the garden supply tools, water and storage space? Can you freely access the garden on your own time or is there a schedule? What other resources may be available (books, people, etc.)?”

 Shared Garden Options in Edmonton

” Community Gardens: There are over 80 community gardens in the Capital Region co-ordinated and supported by Sustainable Food Edmonton (SFE) and the City of Edmonton. Finding the site nearest you is super simple on the SFE Community Gardens Map, where you’ll also find information like membership fees and requirements, plot size, tool availability and gardening style. In most cases, you will have your own plot or portion of a bed to plant what you wish, and will be responsible for maintaining it on your own (though other members may be happy to help, if you ask). Contact garden co-ordinators to inquire about becoming a member, or if the opportunity is right, blaze a trail and start your own garden with your neighbours!

 Yard Sharing: Everyone loves homegrown produce, but not everyone has the time, ability or desire to get their hands dirty and sow the earth. The Yard Share program, facilitated by SFE, matches up registered land owners and gardeners for communal gardening projects. This mutually beneficial system gives gardeners space to work and land owners a beautiful yard (and likely a sample of the rewards!). Keep in mind that there are at least two sets of wants, opinions and feelings to consider when using this shared yard approach. Make sure you and your partners are on common ground when it comes to accessing and transforming the space, using water, bringing guests, etc. (SFE has some useful templates to help guide your agreement)

 Volunteering: Volunteering is a fantastic option if you’re new to the world of gardening or want to get more involved in the community. Learn the basics of planting, fertilizing, maintenance and harvest from experienced gardeners and farmers, then later apply it to your own plot. Check out the University of Alberta’s Green and Gold Community Garden, the Edmonton Horticultural Society, Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, Prairie Urban Farm or Sustainable Food Edmonton for opportunities to get involved year-round. 

No matter what path you choose, participating in a shared garden space is sure to improve your season. Set yourself a new goal this summer (maybe planting something you’ve never tried or going organic?), and let your fellow gardeners help you reach it. Get to know your neighbours, share produce and teach each other. After all, it’s not just vegetables growing in these shared garden spaces.”

Food Edmonton’s Golden Wheelbarrow Awards:

Nominee & WINNER for 2019: Strathcona Rail Community Garden

“This side-south garden’s mission is “to provide gardening opportunities and education for members committed to the work and enjoyment involved by providing support, structure and governance.” They state cooperation is a big part of group — sharing resources and knowledge; working together for common benefit, while also empowering people to be self sufficient”. 

Nominee: Urban Eden Community Garden

“This organic downtown garden, working with the Partners in Parks program, have a mission to: (1) build a sense of community among downtown neighbours, (2) use and enhance vacant land within the downtown core, and (3) allow people to produce their own food. Additionally, UECG hosts community events including potluck suppers, group visits, walking tours, cycling tours, meditation groups, and an annual open house.”

Photo credit Janet

Nominee: Dovercourt Community Garden

“This north-west garden, is constantly working to improve their space, increase food security, and improve community building through events like their annual Harvest Fair, photo contests, perennial exchanges, etc”.

Veg in Yeg

This unique community garden run by Nicole, Felicity, and Kay caught our attention. This is how they describe their venture:

“We are a social enterprise currently based in Garneau, Edmonton, and at Grant MacEwan University. We use underutilized spaces to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers for local consumption. We don’t want anyone to miss out on this fresh, local goodness, so all of our products are priced as “pay what you want”. Our unique pricing model is designed to help community members help each other. If you can afford to pay our suggested price (or even more!): your $$$ go directly to helping the community members who perhaps need to pay a lower price (or nothing at all) to access our fresh veg, judgement free. Income from sales goes toward paying a part-time, living wage to your farmers, and is invested back into improving Veg in Yeg.

Our motivation:

Increase accessibility to local food, create alternative food systems and work towards food sovereignty.
Grow healthy communities and promote neighbourliness.
Reduce waste and CO2 outputs of our food system – address food mileage, packaging waste, and food waste. 
Create a thriving environment for nature and ourselves.”

Contact: 1-780-914-8889.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

What is a CSA? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s a growing movement where consumers can purchase a share in a farm in order to get their food direct from the farmer over the growing season. It’s an awesome way to ensure that you are supporting your local economy, and cut out the middle man to ensure your money is going to the right place! There is nothing more local than using a CSA to get your vegetables besides growing them in your own back yard. CSAs connect people with the food they eat, the land it comes from and the frmer who grows it. It supports small scale farmers by guaranteeing a market for their produce, build s a direct relationship between families and the farm, and allows supporters to receve a remium selection of local naturally grown farm produce throughour the growing season. Thanks to the assistance of blog by here is information of CSAs available in Edmonton and how they work:

Prairie Gardens Adventure Farm

This CSA offers 7-10 vegetables and can be picked up at Get Cooking on Thursdays from 4-6 pm, or for an additional $50 will be deliviered. A small box for a couple is $550 for the season of 15 weeks. Registration is in May. You can now sign up for a 12 month CSA option for pick up Thursdays from 4-5 pm at Get Cooing. Families in their CSA program can also get passes to their many festivals throughout the year – cool perk!

Riverbend Gardens

This CSA is 15 weeks as well starting July 2, and currently sold out. Again it comes in 2 sizes priced $300-$430 or biweekly for $273.60. There are several convenient pick up locations in the city. They are also at the Strathcona Farmers Market, City Market Downtown, and Southwest Edmonton Farmers Market, the St. Albert Farmers Market, Ft. Saskatchewan Farmers Market, and Beverly Towne Market.

Fresh Roots

This CSA does from BC and can be picked up at the Italian Centre on Thursdays from 7-8 pm. It is 20 weeks from June 30Oct 14 or 9 weeks from July 1-Aug16.

The Organic Box

Running for 10 years, this food box offers “organic, ethical, sustainable and locally made groceries delivered to your door. It is Alberta’s online grocery store with no delivery fee or subscription”. It is not just vegetables and you can order as much or as little as you want each week.

Billyco Junction Gardens

Located in the County of Lacombe, this family farm grows produce, berries and more. They offer CSA shares as well as u-pick, and all their veggies and fruit are grown spray free. They also have farm fresh egg shares available.

Sparrow’s Nest Organics

This farm in Opal offers certified organic produce, and a share includes 2 days of help at the farm so you can take part in the growing and harvesting process. (They do offer non-working shares as well, if that’s not your thing!) They also supply vendors in Edmonton like the restaurants Culina, Corso 32, Elm Cafe, Noorish, Prairie Bistro at the Enjoy Centre, as well as Earth’s General Store.

Tipi Creek Farm

Located near Villeneuve (northwest of St. Albert), this family farm uses sustainable farming practices to grow organic vegetables and herbs.

Norbuck Farms

4th generation farm near Winfield using organic processes to grow a wide selection of vegetables. Members get deliveries weekly to Northgate on Sundays, including a dozen eggs for a 12 week growing season. Note: They won’t be running the CSA program for 2016, but will be posting what vegetables they have available in Edmonton on a biweekly basis, along with eggs and lamb.

Meadow Creek Farms

They have an organic vegetable operation that includes potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, squash, onions, garlic, peas, beans, kale, rhubarb, and raspberries. They also offer weekly deliveries in Edmonton for chickens, turkeys, and pork raised outside with handmade feed

Will you join a CSA this year?

join a CSA in Edmonton YEG juicygreenmom landscape

Shop Local

Catherine shares with me this reminder that we try to be conscious to shop local. Check out this link for the Canada United movement. When I get a book for book club, I try to buy from a local business if it is not available at my public library.

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