Creating a community garden

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Elkford, B.C., has realized the dream of establishing a community garden two years after the idea was first brainstormed. Jessica Stewart, community garden co-ordinator with the Elkford Snow in Summer Garden Club, is excited to watch the initiative grow.

“I think it’s just that desire to have access to more locally grown organic fruits and vegetables,” said Stewart when asked about the motivation to create the growing space. “There was also a need to create community in Elkford and this has been such an amazing way to meet people and share resources and ideas.”

A recent open house that showcased a successful first season saw about 50 visitors stop by to check out the 20 garden beds that are already built. Most of them are filled with vegetables ready for harvest and, with 18 participants already signed up for beds next year, the community garden is off to a great start.

How it's done

Elkford’s Snow in Summer Garden Club, a not-for-profit society, was the primary driving force in successfully establishing a community garden. There was lots to overcome, however, from fundraising to time commitments and permits. One of the biggest challenges involved finding an appropriate piece of land for the gardens. In the end, a win-win location was found on unused land belonging to the local Catholic church.

Once the land was confirmed, a flurry of activity allowed for the garden plots to be installed. Those involved took extra care to make the garden sustainable and created a truly beautiful space that will contribute to local food security. Gardeners have been growing all summer and the Elkford Community Garden is up and running.

“It just really brings people together,” said Stewart. “It was amazing how many people—whether they were involved or not—were supportive of the idea and supportive in coming out to our work bees. That’s such an amazing thing to be a part of. Something that’s positive and good and healthy for the community.”

Growing in the community

With a wide demographic of gardeners, Elkford Community Garden has truly been accepted by locals. The 4 x 4 or 4 x 8 beds are rented for $1.50 a square foot plus a $10 membership fee meaning the larger beds are rented for $58 annually. Most of the cost goes directly to insurance.

And what can a community do if they’re interested in implementing the benefits and starting a community garden? Stewart said a core group of dedicated members are a must-have. From there, an engaged community along with local companies and businesses can help get the job done. The gardens may be growing, but the Snow in Summer Garden Club looks forward to bringing education, programs and further growth to its initiative.

“Lots of people can’t believe how well (the garden has) been done,” said Stewart. “It’s very beautiful and the volunteers have done such a good job. It’s been really amazing the positive response we keep getting from people. Lots of people keep saying they can’t wait to get a bed next year, so that’s very exciting.”

Kristen Mitchell

Kristen studied at College of the Rockies in Cranbrook and has worked in a variety of industries, from agriculture to construction, retail to restaurants. She now brings her understanding of the area to Kootenay Business magazine. View all of Kristen Mitchell’s articles

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