Algonquin student plants the seeds for a community garden

Kelsey Boggis-da Silva

Algonquin College student Kelsey Boggis-da Silva wants everyone in Stittsville to have the opportunity to start a garden, even if they don’t have enough room in the backyard, or any yard at all.

She’s organizing a meeting on Saturday, March 21 at Quitters Coffee at 2:00pm and is hoping to connect with people who want to help establish a community garden project.

“It not only would promote a sense of community, but allow those who don’t have the space or even expertise learn from neighbours and observation how to grow their own plants,” she says. “I think gardening is a wonderful, and important activity. We should know how our food is grown, how to grow our own food and care for the earth.”

She posted the idea to the Stittsville Neighbours group on Facebook and received dozens of comments in support and nearly 50 likes.

“The comments have been many, and all excited about the idea, with offers of support and suggestions. It’s been wonderful. It seems like it would be a project that could really get us together as a community,” she says.

A typical community garden is usually a co-operative effort between residents who share the costs to maintain a small plot of land, on public or private property. They grow vegetables and other plants for their own use and sometimes donate the produce to local food banks.

Boggis-da Silva is a business administration student at Algonquin so she’s hoping to put her management training to work out the details needed to get this project off the ground, like budgets, design, contracts and equipment.

One of the biggest challenges is finding a location for the garden.  She thinks the big space near Hazeldean and Stittsville Main that was once home to the Stittsville Flea Market would be great, but wants to get more feedback and ideas from the community.  Another idea is using space in Bell Park on the south end of Stittsville Main near Fernbank.

UPDATE: Shad Qadri says he’s been in contact with City staff about using the park between 67 and 77 West Ridge Drive for a community garden.

“My approach is goal-oriented. Look at the requirements of what is needed to reach that goal, put them in a logical order, access community resources the City has set aside for such endeavours and get our hands dirty. (Then we) rally the troops and put the people with specific talents in the right jobs, whether it be research, organization or community outreach,” she says.

She’s planted the seed, now she needs support from the community for the idea to take root and grow.

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The City of Ottawa provides funding for community garden projects through an annual grant to Just Food, a local non-profit organization that promotes sustainable food programs.  This year they will receive about $90,000 to help establish new gardens and support existing projects through the Community Gardening Network.

The network started with three or four gardens in central Ottawa nearly 20 years ago, and has grown to include more than 50 community gardens within the City of Ottawa, according to interim coordinator Jordan Bouchard.  Some of them have long waiting lists to get a plot.

“We’re building more each year,” he says. “Call me in three months and it will be a bit different!  It’s probably a fairly even split between gardens in central areas and gardens in the suburbs.”

“Our goal is to get as many people gardening in the City of Ottawa as possible.”

He says the number is actually much higher than 50, perhaps as many as 100, when you take into account about 30 gardens at local schools and other projects that aren’t part of the Community Gardening Network.

The group holds regular workshops throughout the year to help people in the community learn about what it takes to get a community garden project going.

He says community gardens can go just about anywhere, including private and public property, hydro corridors, Greenbelt land and park spaces.

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Stittsville does have an existing community garden on Stittsville Main Street near Cathcart.  It provides vegetables exclusively for the Stittsville Food Bank.

“Food Bank volunteers and Scouts helped build the boxes.  The horticultural society planted the vegetables and looked after the weeding and watering,” says Theresa Qadri, chair of the Stittsville Food Bank.

“Now the Food Bank volunteers plant the vegetables and work with the horticultural society in weeding and watering and harvesting. We are very thankful for our partnerships.  It is nice to know you can call on organizations to help the Food Bank and they respond with a yes so quickly,” says Qadri.

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For more information about Boggis-da Silva’s community garden project, check out the Stittsville Community Garden Initiative page on Facebook.


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