Last spring, mounting expenses, increased confinement, and concerns about food supply propelled a sudden interest in gardening.
“[At one point], everyone had a backyard with a garden,” states Kate Wilson, organizer of Eastwood Community Garden. “People were more connected with nature. Densification followed urbanization. With more people choosing to live close to work, not everyone has a garden now.”
That’s where community gardens play an important role.
“Over the years, there has been a resurgence of interest,” Wilson points out. “The evidence is the increase in demand for community gardens. The 2020 Eastwood pop-up community garden was a part of the City of Edmonton pilot program. There was a good public response from people from all ages and we hope to have one this year too.”
Wilson hopes to expand the garden by adding more plots. “Besides the mental respite, these gardens are a valuable source of fresh food, especially to low-income people who may not have access to large food retail outlets.”
Owing to security constraints, a pop-up garden is not an option for Alberta Avenue. Instead, the focus is on expanding the existing community garden.
“We are one of the best community gardens in the city,” says Ali Hammington, president of Alberta Avenue Community League. “Our approach is totally different. Thanks to funding grants, we plan to start a program where gardeners can donate seeds to community plots and distribute the harvest on Community Hub Nights. It is important that nutritious food is available to all, especially the less privileged.”
A beehive project is also underway. If everything goes as planned, Hammington hopes to have honey extraction done next year. Hammington planted her first garden last year, and enjoyed a full harvest thanks to tips offered by the garden committee, a team of gardeners at the community garden.
“Luckily, Spruce Avenue still has green spaces,” says Sabino Spagnuolo, communications director at Spruce Avenue Community League. “Last year’s pop-up gardens were an overall positive experience. Of course, COVID did play a role too,” he laughs. “With many public activities closed, people wanted a change. The application for our community garden is underway. Our program director, Ashley Ayume, is leading the planning efforts and we are thankful for the tremendous efforts put in.”
Spagnuolo hopes Spruce Avenue’s community garden will be an asset to the community when it opens to the public next year.
“Programs developed alongside will contribute to things like food security, too. This is not just a space to engage residents, it is an investment into the community,” continues Spagnuolo. “Pop-up gardens allowed us to work out logistics we would face and we would welcome them again, but developing a community garden has longer term goals which will positively impact many groups. We hope to have a group of experienced gardeners to share tips to budding gardening enthusiasts and retain the interest.”
Wilson, Spagnuolo, and Hammington all agree that demand for community gardens are on the rise and are convinced that the increased interest in gardening will continue over the years. People are cognizant of sudden changes in the economy, recognize the health benefits gardening offers, and want to do it right.
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