Planting seeds to boost Community Gardens
By Darren Lum
Published Dec. 5, 2017
With a chill in the air and the average temperature of each day dropping, gardening is far from most people’s mind.
However, for the people involved with the Haliburton Highlands Community Garden Network, it’s never too early to spread the word about the range of benefits, mental and physical, associated with gardening.
A community garden is a shared piece of land worked on by a group, which includes planting, tending and harvesting, construction of structures or fencing on private or publicly owned land.
Its goal is to provide residents with access to garden plots and supporting them in growing their own food. The garden network started in 2012 and the Central Food Network became a supporting partner in 2016.
For some participants, who may not have their own plot of land, it’s an opportunity to supplement diets with healthy, fresh produce. It provides security in knowing where the food comes from and is also a chance to socialize, share ideas and learn.
The network’s liaison is Kate Hall, public health food worker with HKPR Health Unit.
Most recently, she has been promoting the network to bring it more attention.
“What I’d like to do is just generate that interest again, revitalize and do some promotion and let people know we do have a community garden network,” she said in an interview during the summer.
There are 10 community gardens in the network and they are located in all four municipalities in the county.
Some of these gardens are not being fully used while Haliburton’s Victoria Street Community Garden expanded this past autumn due to demand and infusion of money from the United Way for the City of Kawartha Lakes.
To bring more participants, Hall said she will be reaching out to local condominium and long-term care residents as well as the wider county population. She has also been thinking about improving accessibility, which can be achieved with raised garden beds at some locations.
Along with the Haliburton Highlands Museum off of Bayshore Road, another community garden used to be at the Haliburton hospital. Hall said there has been discussion of possibly bringing back both.
“We’re exploring opportunities to get those two back up, but it depends if there is interest in the community,” she said.
The success of a community garden, she said, depends on user participation.
“That’s the thing about community gardens is I don’t build them. I don’t take responsibility for them. Really the interest has to come from the community and if there is interest there then I can help support them,” she said.
Hall said she can speak with municipal governments on behalf of the garden network and can assist with providing resources. She said the gardens vary in how they’re run, for example, whether there is an associated cost, or if each participant keeps their yield or if everything gets donated. The Victoria Street Community Garden has a gardener’s agreement for their users to abide by, which is included in its welcome packet.
This idea was presented to the leads of all the gardens at a recent meeting.
Hall said in addition to private citizens, the municipal governments can be a great support. She said municipalities can help with providing in-kind support, such as providing access to water, space on municipally owned property, or assistance with construction work. Policies in municipal official plans that support gardens and tapping into existing partnerships also helps.
Novice and beginner gardeners have learned from more experienced gardeners through this effort.
Hall said the educational Dig In series of workshops with Harvest Haliburton is ongoing. Certain topics of interest, she said, could be presented by particular guest speakers if enough interest is known.
Barbara Kraus, a local business owner and lead for the Gooderham Community Garden that started in 2012, said the importance of this garden is linked to the benefits of “food independence.”
“Food independence is a very important subject and so I also use the community garden as a teaching apparatus for anybody who is interested in learning about growing their own food and the techniques, but they may have the space to do that at home and don’t have space in the garden,” she said. “Beyond that I also use those beds to grow hot peppers for the hot sauce initiative that raises funds for the Heat Bank [Haliburton County] and things like that so I always keep two beds for teaching and that kind of thing for the community at large.”
She said keeping this garden is “critical” to a lone participant’s ability to supplement a diet with healthy produce. There is room to add more participants.
The ideal, she said, is to have anywhere from four to six gardening participants and for the garden to have a fence and shed erected. The garden is at the Gooderham community centre, at 1043 Community Centre Rd. and has five raised beds, measuring four-by-12 feet in area.
The original garden was in a flood area and has since been moved to higher ground in the park close to the Robert McCausland Community Centre. She appreciates that the municipality of Highlands East provided the land for the garden and helped to re-start the gardens.
Realistically, Kraus said besides donations, the garden could really use volunteer help in the form of watering duties during the evening hours. She said just one to two people are needed.
Funding could be used for compost and manure to keep the soil viable, the construction of a fence, a shed for storage to secure critical equipment and serve as a spot to have a clipboard with information exchange, ensuring communication between Kraus and participants.
Kraus can be reached at 705-559-5972. Planting will begin the first two weeks of June, she said.
At the northern end of the county, Dorset Community Garden’s Annette Schumacher said the garden is a hub of like-minded individuals, offering a social outing and a secure garden, protected from animals such as deer.
“The community garden offers folks an opportunity to work together and visit. Sharing ideas on planting and sharing advice and tips on improving our gardening techniques. It also offers a safe location for planting veggies. We’ve installed extensive fencing to protect our garden boxes from deer. For the most part, our personal yards don’t have that protection,” she wrote in an email.
The property is owned by Elizabeth and Brad Johnson, who own Portico Timber Frames, a construction company based in Dorset at 2761 Clan Mackay Rd. off Highway 35.
“It was Elizabeth’s wish that folks would benefit from having a garden and be able to mingle with folks interested in gardening. The Haliburton Community Garden Network assisted greatly in providing us with garden boxes, seeds, manure, and soil. Their generosity and support has been ongoing. Locally, Robinson’s General Store has been a supporter in our endeavours as well,” she wrote.
Seasonal visitors to the area use the garden property to supplement their summer diet.
“The gardens offer them an opportunity to grow fresh greens and also benefit from our garlic harvest. In our case the ideal candidate is looking for a small area to plant veggies which will enhance their table throughout the summer season,” she wrote.
The Victoria St. Community Garden is arguably among the largest of the county’s gardens with its large raised beds and participants that include area residents, Community Living employees and program participants. It is at the Victoria Street School and is located at 73 Victoria St. in Haliburton. Also in Dysart et al, there is the Eagle Lake Community Garden, which was resurrected two years ago. It is located on one acre of property owned by Eagle Lake Church at 2405 Eagle Lake Rd.
Highlands East has four gardens: two gardens in Wilberforce and one in Gooderham and Highland Grove.
Wilberforce's Maple View Apartments Community Garden is behind the community housing and apartments at 2117 Loop Rd. on property owned by Monmouth Township Non-Profit Housing Corporation. Its other is the Wilberforce Community Garden, on municipal property beside the Wilberforce library branch at 1101 Holmes Rd.
Up the road, at 5376 Loop Rd. in Highland Grove, is the Highland Grove Community Garden. It is private property owned by John Teljeur, supported by volunteers and is located at the World of Life Outreach. Produce there helps the area food bank.
Algonquin Highlands only has the one community garden, located in Dorset.
Minden has the Three Sisters Community Garden at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre, at 174 – 176 Bobcaygeon Rd. On the same property is a recent addition to the network, the One to Three Youth Community Garden, which was students’ effort, on the grounds of the Minden Hills Cultural Centre.
Minden also includes the Irondale Community Garden beside the Irondale Church.
Also in Minden is the Food Crusade Gardens, partnered with the Central Food Network, maintained by the Teljeur family. Their harvest is donated to food banks and community kitchen programs.
Anyone interested in participating within the network is encouraged to contact Hall, who can relay queries or requests to the various leads of the gardens.
Call Hall at the HKPR Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577. See updates and share information through the network’s Facebook page.