In her children’s novel Anne of Ingleside, Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote: “Nothing ever seems impossible in spring.” And for community gardeners from coast to coast, the allure of getting their hands in the soil and planning the seasonal bounty of flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables renders an experience that’s even better when shared.
Coming together to witness small green shoots stretch skyward and thrive in the sunshine, community gardening is also a way for local residents to increase food security, share culture and traditions, and pledge their commitment to sustainability and biodiversity.
For Albertan Devin Bateman, creating the Clairmont Community Garden in 2020 may have been a nudge to his fellow residents to get planting, but at the time, he never imagined his project to be this massively successful.
It all started with the realization that, in the hamlet of Clairmont (population: 2,800), just north of Grande Prairie, there are those who need a helping hand to put food on the table. Last year, the garden yielded 800 pounds of potatoes, 250 pounds of carrots and 40 pounds of tomatoes, as well as pumpkin, onion, zucchini and beans for donating to the local food bank.
The 5,000-square-foot greenspace has 26 raised beds, where, soon, strawberries, sugar snap peas and corn will grow, along with an orchard of 40 fruit trees, plus raspberry, blueberry, gooseberry and haskap berry bushes. Plans for a greenhouse are in the works to expand growing opportunities, plus a classroom for a gardening program geared to Clairmont Community School’s students in Grades 1 and 2.
Bateman hopes to expand beyond what he and his team started in Clairmont. He envisions a multitude of gardens “dedicated to growing fresh food for local food banks,” he says, “and educating children in the community.”
Here are three other community-garden initiatives in Alberta that showcase how greenspaces are vital to healthy cities and towns:
BRANDER COMMUNITY GARDEN, EDMONTON
This garden in the core of southwest Edmonton’s Riverbend community is just one in 80-plus success stories of urban gardens in Alberta’s capital city. Volunteers here regularly weed, water and harvest and, on Saturdays, gather for morning coffee and share gardening tasks. Their Wednesday Watering Club is often powered by the students from nearby St. Monica Catholic School. A second prospering garden is located at a nearby housing complex.
SUNALTA COMMUNITY GARDEN, CALGARY
More than 20 plots plus communal gardening beds are available here for those interested in growing their own vegetables and herbs in the residential neighbourhood of Sunalta in southwest Calgary. Participants benefit from workshops led by AMA’s Good to Grow community participant Janet Melrose, (aka Calgary’s Cottage Gardener) who covers topics like composting and saving seeds. Volunteer residents also help out at the Sunalta Community Wildflower Garden, situated on land donated by a former resident. Immersive events on-site include “Weeding on Wednesdays,” which encourages neighbours to socialize while tending to the garden and learning more about stewardship of the local landscape.
UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA COMMUNITY GARDENS, EDMONTON
Overseen by the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, these on-campus gardens at the University of Alberta serve as an outdoor classroom in Edmonton for students and faculty (and for staff to enjoy) and bridges the gap between academic research and real-life issues on food security. One of the three gardens is the 1.5-acre Prairie Urban Farm, where some 50 volunteers pitch in to help and share the bounty. The gardens’ produce is also donated to the Campus Food Bank for food hampers, snack stations and the weekly free breakfast. Last year, a market-box subscription of weekly harvests was launched for local residents and students.
Good to Grow
Join AMA’s Good to Grow online community to share, learn, and connect with other gardeners.