Building communities one garden at a time
While the weather outside might not really show it, spring is just around the corner, and with it comes the planting season.
Last Saturday, Regina residents prepared for spring during the city’s first Seedy Saturday event of the year. The event brings together gardening experts, local business owners, community groups, seed savers, and avid gardeners who come together to share and sell seeds and gardening essentials.
One of these avid gardeners is University of Regina student Ruth Easton, who, along with her volunteer work at the community gardens in North Central, loves to garden herself.
“I’ve always gardened. My granny gardened. My mother was a gardener, my parents both grew up on farms. It was part of my raising, that every spring we plant the vegetables, and every fall we harvested like mad. That was just growing up for me,” she said.
But gardening is not just for the experienced green thumb. As local business owner and sustainability educator Nikko Snyder explained, everyone needs to eat, and gardening is an easy way for people to learn how to grow their own food.
“Food is something that we all need, and it’s something that doesn’t actually cost money. If you have a little bit of land and a supply of water, you could really produce your own food,” she said. “In our culture, food is totally treated as a commodity – it’s something that we have to purchase.
A lot of really large companies control a majority of our food supply. So, I think it’s really empowering to be able to change that dynamic, and instead of relying on a corporation to provide us with something we need to live, to actually educate people to be able to do that for themselves is really empowering, and also an incredible way to build communities.”
Snyder’s business, Root and Branch, is one way Regina residents can learn about growing, preparing, preserving, and sharing their own sustainably produced food. “Rooted in a commitment to food security, sovereignty and justice for all,” Root and Branch offers workshops and training sessions for anyone interested in growing an edible garden.
Along with education and training, Easton suggested students volunteer in community run gardens, for a real hands-on learning experience.
“[Gardens] provide a space where people can talk…We’re so focused on our individual world, but [gardens are] open spaces, where people can come together. It forces people to form a community and take care of each other.” – Ruth Easton
In the city, the North Central Community Association runs various open community gardens in North Central, where volunteers are invited to help maintain and run the various plots of land. These gardens, vacant lots that have been transformed into green havens, have served as educational spaces where beginner and expert gardeners gather to learn from one another.
On campus, the student-run Green Patch garden is also another opportunity for volunteers to get their hands dirty around food issues. Started in 2012 by the Regina Public Interest Research Group, the Green Patch is part of an initiative to transform the U of R into an edible campus, providing students and community members with a place to learn about food security and sustainability, while producing high quality vegetables for a low cost. Last year, the project grew several pounds of fresh produce throughout the summer, and according to recent calculations based on current organic produce prices in Regina, the garden produced an estimated $1,189.85 worth of tomatoes and $1,554.49 worth of zucchini.
Beyond just educational platforms for producing food however, gardens are also places for building communities.
“[Gardens] provide a space where people can talk…We’re so focused on our individual world, but [gardens are] open spaces, where people can come together. It forces people to form a community and take care of each other,” said Easton
Rod McDonald, Regina writer of the Garden Report agrees. For him, gardening is not just a hobby, it’s a passion. And, according to McDonald, good gardeners love to share.
“[It’s] a simple statement, but a true one. Good gardeners share their time, their experience, their plants, to a point where there’s an old joke: you never ask a gardener how the garden is going if you have to be somewhere in the next hour or two,” he said. “As gardeners, we need to grow, no pun intended, and pass along to the new people our love for gardening and its many benefits.”
Photo by Taouba Khelifa