Several students planted the seed to begin a community garden at Mount Royal, last winter.
When they harvested the garden this fall, they found a lot more than vegetables had grown over the summer.
“We all made such good friendships out of this experience,” says community garden club member Julia Koziell, a second-year environmental science student originally from Edmonton.
“It really does build community.”
That was evident as garden members greeted each other with a hug as they met up prior to an interview for this story.
Roughly 10 students, staff, faculty and even members of the surrounding community broke ground on their location beside the East Residence, where the garden now sits, on a sunny June 11 morning.
Vegies and more
The purpose of the garden was to grow more than just vegetables.
The committee’s proposal for the garden was heavy in social intent, defining the purpose as "building communities, improving the health of community members and reconnecting with the environment.”
The proposal goes on to say community gardens “combine social justice with environmental justice by reducing people’s dependency on destructive global industrial food systems. Community gardening provides a wide range of environmental and community benefits such as increasing social interaction and appreciation of social diversity, beautifies landscape and provides people with access to locally grown healthy food.”
As the committee harvested the fruits of their labour in advance of an autumn celebration at Wyckham House, it looked more like the Garden of Eden than Alberta’s Badlands.
A summer of unusually excessive rain didn’t hurt. The garden yielded over 30 varieties of vegetables, seeds and herbs including everything from tomatoes to mint leaves.
Make no mistake though — th bounty of the community garden didn’t just explode from the ground because Calgary’s soil is so rich.
A lot of hard work went into developing the garden.
There were procedural and logistical issues.
“It was tough organizing all the materials at a low cost,” says Koziell.
Even with the funding from the SAMRU Student Sustainability Club and an Arusha Centre Take Action Grant, they realized the costs were adding up more quickly than they’d have liked.
“We also would have liked to have had more volunteers,” says Sustainability Club Coordinator, Alana-Dawn Eirikson.
“We had a fantastic team this year but if we could get more staff and faculty involved next year that would be great since they’re the people who are here year round.”
Just like they spread work and made every hand count to maximize their volunteers, the garden benefitted from wise budgeting and some donations as well.
Second-year Environmental Science student Kelsey Morin says the committee had to use discretion to make each dollar count. The idea, she says, was to keep an eye towards long-term sustainability.
“We picked up these solid wooden benches, from the City of Calgary’s Devonian Gardens,” says Morin of the two wooden benches lining the garden's perimetre.
“They were selling the old ones off and doing some updating, so we got them at a great price, which helps give our garden a bit of atmosphere and it falls in line with the whole concept — that we reuse thingswhen possible, instead of buying brand new benches.”
The garden project brought together many different people, with many different skill sets.
Morin, who has an artistic flair, kept that in mind as she volunteered to design a welcome sign to be posted at the entrance to the garden site.
“Some key elements I used in the design were the community garden’s logo, a sunflower, and different depths and textures to try and represent the different types of people who all came together to create a successful garden.”
If anyone is interested in getting involved with the community garden as it moves forward please contact Alana-Dawn Eirikson at 8779.
— Steven Noble, Oct. 7, 2010