From tiny seeds to a bountiful harvest, a community garden patch has grown into a vibrant experience for YWCA Turning Points clients. Donning matching t-shirts with their unique logo, the self-proclaimed Earth Goddesses met each week during the growing season to tend to their garden plot. Located at Third Avenue North, the plot was one of several facilitated by the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre as part of the organization’s community involvement initiative.
The program is designed to give community partners the opportunity to plant, tend to and harvest produce to be used in the local food bank.
“Our group would meet from 4 – 6 pm each Wednesday for Weedless Wednesdays,” explained YWCA Turning Points Facilitator Alanda Root.
This is the first year the group has participated in the program and Root reported it to be a great success.
“There were always a lot of people coming out to help and having a lot of fun as we tended to the garden,” she said. A friendly competition was developed between the YWCA staff which cared for the neighbouring plot. Each group decorated their space with garden gnomes in the staff plot and stained glass in the client plot to add personality and fun to the experience.
The community garden is equipped with compost containers and rain water collection areas to keep the gardens productive and healthy. As each crop matured, the group would harvest the produce and leave it in designated crates for food bank personnel to collect. The vegetables were then taken to the food bank where they were distributed to those accessing the services.
“It was a great program that got us outdoors throughout the summer and gave us a chance to give back to the food bank,” said Root. “They were also very generous to us, allowing us to bring back vegetables that were in abundance.”
Following the final harvest last week the Earth Goddesses had the opportunity to make zucchini fries and roasted vegetables from their own garden.
“It’s really exciting to eat what you’ve grown yourself,” said Root.
The community garden also offered employment and learning opportunities to the clients. In addition to the volunteer time they put in on their own plot, many of them worked extended hours for the program. While earning a pay cheque the participants also had the opportunity to learn valuable gardening skills through the Gardening 101 program as they worked toward a gardening certificate.
The Garden Patch is home to the Healthy Yards YXE Demonstration Garden, a collaboration between the City of Saskatoon and University of Saskatchewan. The project features rain-water harvesting, various composting techniques, low-water gardening techniques, various types of mulch, season extensions, container gardening, and native plants. The public is welcome to tour the area on their own or with a guide as well as to sign up for gardening information sessions.
In the past five years, 100,000 pounds of produce has been harvested from the Garden Patch for distribution through the food bank.
Story by Terri Eger
Photos submitted by Alanda Root