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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Community gardens a growing phenomenon


Rita Aman, Medicine Hat Community Health Services
 
I grew up on a farm, and I remember the huge garden my mom kept. It seemed less of a hobby and more of a duty, because the garden provided for our family of seven. Vegetables were frozen, canned or kept in cold storage and lasted until the next garden harvest. I don’t recall having store-bought produce very often.

Maybe mom made gardening look easy or maybe I was too young to appreciate the time and effort that went into not only growing the produce but preserving it as well. The garden on the farm had unique challenges. There were cows/pigs/chickens/gophers, kids or other wild life that would get into the garden and trample or eat the plants and produce. Mom relied on rain to water the garden or hauled water a fair distance when it didn’t rain. I also remember in the fall the cold storage room full of jars and sacks of potatoes and carrots and the pleased look in mom’s eye. We were stocked up for another year.

Preparation is well underway in the local community gardens. Gardeners are anxiously waiting for the sun to shine so they can get seeds in the ground. I know some gardeners in the local community gardens take a plot because their parents gardened and they wanted to carry on the tradition. Quickly into the garden season they have a new found respect for their parents and report, “I didn’t know gardening was so much work!” But they also find so many things they enjoy about gardening, that isn’t just about having fresh produce.

We often talk about the benefits of gardening being increased food security, access to fresh produce and increased physical activity. I’d like to share some of the comments from our year-end evaluation from last year’s gardeners on what they liked about gardening:

- Meeting and visiting with gardeners

- I enjoyed the peace and quiet and knowing where my food came from (organic)

- Relax and mull thoughts over

- Fresh air, exercise, seeing things grow

- Growing my own produce to feed my family and seeing my kids take interest in gardening

- Exercise, meeting new people, planning new things

- The harvest

Community Gardens are sprouting up all over! In southern Alberta they include: two community garden sites in Medicine Hat and one in Redcliff; Grow It! Community Garden Association in Lethbridge; Synergy Farms Initiative in Lethbridge; The University of Lethbridge Campus Roots project; Growing Together in Brooks; Community Gardens in Coaldale; Crowsnest Pass and many others.

We share a common goal of improving the quality of life for everyone and believe healthy food is a right for all.

Rita Aman is a health promotion facilitator at Medicine Hat Community Health Services and can be reached at 403-502-8200 or Rita.Aman@albertahealthservices.ca.



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