COMMUNITY GARDEN MEETING HELD

The capacity building meeting for the Tumbler Ridge community garden was well attended June 5th, 2009. The meeting room at the new hotel was filled with Tumbler Ridge residents interested in the project. Approximately 25 people gathered to hear about the progress of the project and to hear about gardens already underway that Tumbler Ridge can pull ideas from.

There has been an overwhelming positive response within the Tumbler Ridge community for this project explained Councillor Mackay. Since the first meeting in February, no one that has been asked has refused requests for time, money or equipment. The district has donated the lot, which will most likely be the pasture area in front of the stables at the saddleclub. ?A lot of things make sense? with this location, explained Councillor Mackay. The lot is available, it is close to a water source, it would be a good location for a fall fair in conjunction with the saddle club and it will be the first thing you see when you enter town.

Mackenzie, Chetwynd and Dawson Creek are communities that have already had success with community gardens. Councillor Mackay started the evening with a slide show of Mackenzie?s community garden. Seeing their layout and the garden beds in different stages gave the audience an idea of what a garden could look like in Tumbler Ridge. Mackenzie has provided wheelchair access and raised beds for clients with disabilities. The garden is rectangular, with beds in rows. There is a chain link fence surrounding it to keep animals out. Councillor Mackay explained Tumbler Ridge?s garden will be similar with lower and raised beds, but will most likely be a different layout, as there are plans to have a gazebo within the middle of the garden.

Rene Poulin, coordinator for the Healing Gardens in Chetwynd, spoke about successes and difficulties the garden in Chetwynd has had. The garden in Chetwynd is an agency based community garden. It works with groups within the community that already have established clientele. This year, the gardens have done some outreach work with Saulteau First Nations and Moberly Lake First Nations.

The Healing Garden was started with funding from the provincial government to help address health issues, explained Poulin. Located at the hospital, it gives long term patients a place to go to enjoy the outdoors. Walkways were added to make it more accessible for patients. Also, any surplus of fresh vegetables and fruit go to the hospital for the patients. The garden has had no problems with vandalism. Poulin attributes this to the fence as well as the location as it has the eyes of the long term patients at the hospital watching over it.

This year, through the help from a BC Healthy Living Grant, Chetwynd was able to reopen the local farmer?s market. Poulin stated there were more ?fresh fruits and vegetables than ever before? this year. The garden was also part of the ?farm to school salad bar project? where a local high school would prepare salads with the fresh vegetables and sell to students twice weekly. All the money goes back into the garden to produce more food.

?Eating from your garden is different?, explained Poulin. Therefore, it is important to plans to teach people how to use what they grow. Home economics should be emphasized and basic skills, like blanching and freezing vegetables, should be taught so people use the food they grow effectively.

Heidy Kux Kardos, Community Development Leader of BC Healthy Living Alliance which is led by the Canadian Cancer Society, explained there is funding available to help with the development of a community garden. A lot of the funding has been frozen, due to the economic situation, but some companies, like EnCana, have community investment programs with funding available. There are also people available through the BC Healthy Living Alliance, that can travel to communities to put on workshops to teach people how to use fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily lives.

Kux Kardos presented Councillor Mackay with a cheque for $5000.00 from the Canadian Cancer Society. More funding from the Alliance partners will be pursued in the fall, explained Mackay. It is the hope that someone on the community garden committee will work diligently at completing grant applications. To date, there has been an outpouring of support with donated logs, donated bobcat hours and also trees to plant in the garden. Once a committee has been formed, an action plan will be put in place which will outline the necessary steps to see the garden come to fruition. Once opened, the garden beds will be available to individuals as well as community groups. As of now, the community garden project is in need of volunteers with dedication as well as knowledge, in kind donations of building supplies and it needs funding and sponsors. If you are interested in helping out with this community project send an email to Michele Burton at mburton@tumblerridgelibrary.org.