Surrounded by a vibrant and colourful array of flowers, berries, vegetables and herbs, nine women take turns explaining what draws them to their community garden.
“Being here grounds me.” “I learned to garden from my grandparents and now I can teach my children.” “The food is fresh and delicious.” “It gives me a purpose.” “Here, we’re like one big family.”
In the short video on Bell Manor Community Garden recently launched by Stonegate Community Health Centre, Welcome to Bell Manor Community Garden the gardeners describe many different benefits but one common theme: the community garden is a magical place.
Located in the Stonegate/Park Lawn community, Bell Manor Park serves as the backyard and open, green space to several thousand residents living in the 75 low-rise apartment buildings in the surrounding neighbourhood. Nestled in a corner of the park is Bell Manor Community Garden, started over 25 years ago by Stonegate Community Health Centre. Today, with over 30 plots provided free of charge to gardeners without access to their own land, the Garden is an integral part of the Centre’s Community Food Program.
“Many of our residents live on fixed or low incomes. Providing the opportunity to grow their own fresh, healthy food is often a necessity, not a luxury”, says Julia Graham, Community Food Program Coordinator.
In recent years, the Garden has served an even greater need. The local Valu-Mart, which provided the only walkable access to fresh food in the community, was closed two years ago to make way for condominiums. To help fill the gap, the Centre provides a range of food programs along with the Community Garden, including the seasonal Stonegate Farmer’s Market, the weekly Mobile Food Market, the Good Food Box, and more.
Graham says that thanks to generous funders, the Centre provides other assistance to gardeners where possible through donations of seedlings and equipment, along with regular educational workshops on saving seeds, container gardening, and food preparation that are open to the community. “We’re hoping to have additional donations this year to pay for raised beds, additional tools and garden bus tours.”
The Bell Manor Community gardeners hope that the video, which was funded through TD Friends of the Environment, will raise awareness of the importance of community gardens to health and wellbeing.
As Jean, one of the video participants, aptly sums up about her garden, “it gives me great joy”.