Community Gardening Grows More than Just Vegetables

community gardening morden story pic 2018

A successful community gardening project in Morden is not just providing fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables, it’s also bringing together people of different ages and cultures to share the joy of growing and sharing food.

The project, started several years ago, now has three community gardens throughout the city, with 143 garden plots, 100 participants and a waiting list for a plot. It’s being coordinated by the Many Hands Resource Centre, which also offers a community kitchen where people can learn cooking skills and a monthly community meal program.

The gardening project recently received a Healthy Living Together grant from Southern Health-Santé Sud which helped establish a community equipment loaning program by purchasing some gardening supplies and tools that the gardeners all share.

Project successful on many levels
The community gardening project has been a success on many levels. In terms of health, it has helped enhance the nutrition of participants, provided physical activity and helped reduce mental stress. It has also brought people together and helped them develop new friendships. “It’s amazing how much visiting goes on at the garden and there’s a lot of pride in growing your own vegetables and sharing,” says Edith Lovatt, one of the project coordinators.

Many Hands has determined that more than 50 per cent of the plot renters are newcomers from other countries and the remainder are seniors and keen gardeners who don’t have garden space at their homes.

Anita Tway and her two children came to Morden just over a year ago from West Africa, where her family were farmers, so she had a great interest in the community gardening program. Tway grew lots of fresh vegetables in her plot last year, including some hot peppers that she likes to use in the traditional, spicy dishes her family enjoys. The program has helped her to make new friends and feel welcomed in the community. Tway, who does not drive, says people were always willing to help her out. “Whenever I was working in the garden, somebody would come and ask me if I needed a ride,” she says. “They were very kind.”

Participants have learned new skills from each other and been introduced to different cultures through their food. “I grew okra this year,” says Lovatt. “I’ve never grown okra before and didn’t know much about it, but some people offered their extra seeds and it was really cool. Some other people originally from Africa love to grow sweet potatoes for the leaves, which they stuff similar to how we make cabbage rolls. It’s so interesting to learn these things.”

Building community
It has been very gratifying to see the community engagement from this initiative and its impact beyond simply growing vegetables, says Cheryl Pearson, Healthy Living Facilitator for the area. “Gardeners have reaped benefits in terms of health - enhancing nutrition, saving money on food, addressing physical and mental health – inclusion through community building and sharing their cultures, and learning from key community partners and sectors who have joined together to create such a relevant meaningful and sustainable initiative,” she says.”