Planting the seeds to a healthy community
April 30, 2014
By Darren Lum
Amandha Vollmer of Minden spoke passionately about the opportunity to share her knowledge and guidance through the Garden Buddies peer mentorship program.
Experienced gardeners have been paired with young families and individual learners who will acquire the knowledge to grow their own food. The program, which fosters and encourages a healthier lifestyle, is a partnership between SIRCH Community Services, Abbey Gardens and the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit.
Mentors like Vollmer, who has gardened for five years (with three here) met their learners at a pancake breakfast social on Saturday morning last week at the Stanhope Firefighters’ Community Hall to kick off Garden Buddies.
“The largest part of it is that you don’t know where to begin,” she said. “Some people want to plant like everything and they can’t harvest for example. There’s a lot of mistakes. It keeps people shy from it, but it’s actually pretty simple some of the basic things you can grow. You just need a little bit of a guide to start to do it. If you can grow food that is an amazing thing to be able to do.”
She characterized gardening in the county as intensive, involving a variety of challenges, including weather and soil and the short growing season.
“You just can’t plant and grow. You have to consider all these things,” she said.
The local business operator is partnered with Sunrise Apartments in Minden.
Communal gardening is high on her list and she believes in it for the future of the community.
Vollmer wants to encourage homeowners to convert front lawns to growing food.
With the community approach, the responsibility to care for the garden would rest with a large group of people instead of one.
“It fosters community. It fosters communication and it fosters food spreading to the right people so if you had a bumper crop of zucchini you’re giving it away as much as you can. There’s abundance and sharing the abundance is key,” she said.
Through the interactions a sharing of knowledge will continue.
There are 10 mentors who are partnered with 50 learners.
Every learner received a gardening starter kit (sun screen, knee pad, plot markers, marker, hand spade and rake, gardening gloves, water bladder and a gardening booklet), an assortment of heirloom seeds (radish, zucchini, squash, carrot and pea) and a bag of mixed soil or manure.
Garden Buddies, Haliburton In Transition and Harvest Haliburton paid for the approximate 60 varieties.
Learner Elisa Guthrie of Minden sits at an adjacent table with her year-and-a-half-old Brody, held in a sling on her chest, listening intently to gardening advice.
She smiles about the educational opportunities there will be for her baby and her six-year-old son, who will not only eat healthier, but also be able to assist her gardening.
“It’s good for the kids to be able to see how things grow. Where things come from and how to maintain it,” she said.
This will teach them, she said, to value food and know how to garden themselves.
Unlike the Internet, garden buddies provide personal advice that is important when troubleshooting.
“[A person to call] can help us out if we have an issue. If we have a bug or something that’s eating your cucumber and you want to get rid of it you can call someone. Somebody to just help you,” she said.
Guthrie is intent on building raised garden beds for carrots, lettuce and tomatoes and believes this will provide greater health and cost saving for her young family.
Originally from the area, Guthrie moved from Toronto close to a year ago with her husband of two years. Their townhouse lot provided little space for a garden unlike their new lot. She plans on helping her grandparents with their garden.
SIRCH’s executive director Gena Robertson sees this program as a way to get back to basics, similar to how she grew up when every body had a produce garden in their yard.
The best thing is that it recognizes and addresses fundamental hurdles for people when gardening, related to intimidation and a lack of enjoyment.
“It’s taking people who are passionate about gardening and know how to do it to teach the basics,” Robertson said.
Although she is not certain it will decrease food security issues for people, she knows it’s a start.
The program is possible through the Ontario Sports and Recreation Communities Fund, Harvest Haliburton, Minden Canadian Tire, Country Rose, Haliburton Home Hardware and Haliburton Rexall.