Sudbury Working Group

Local Independent News

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!
Not reviewed by editors. copyeditedfact checked [?]

Growing Food, Cultivating Community

by Lara Longo

Glenda Forward is the membership coordinator of the St. Anne Road Community Garden. (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Glenda Forward is the membership coordinator of the St. Anne Road Community Garden. (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“We recognize that it is important to hear all perspectives and understand that we can learn and grow through our relationships.” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“We recognize that it is important to hear all perspectives and understand that we can learn and grow through our relationships.” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Community gardens embrace an understanding that having access to basic healthy food is a human right. (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Community gardens embrace an understanding that having access to basic healthy food is a human right. (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
There is a concern about the fact that only a small portion of society can access good food. For those who are marginalized or living on social assistance, accessing healthy food is near impossible. (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
There is a concern about the fact that only a small portion of society can access good food. For those who are marginalized or living on social assistance, accessing healthy food is near impossible. (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“Sharing the food is one of the best ways to connect with people and the community. Food is such a grounding way to get to know each other.” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“Sharing the food is one of the best ways to connect with people and the community. Food is such a grounding way to get to know each other.” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“We can choose to eat differently and buy differently.” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“We can choose to eat differently and buy differently.” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“You can take and hour and garden and your thoughts will just roll and flow away, it’s so relaxing and magical. We hear it all the time from our members, it is great energy.” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“You can take and hour and garden and your thoughts will just roll and flow away, it’s so relaxing and magical. We hear it all the time from our members, it is great energy.” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“All are welcome! It’s a lovely haven, especially downtown where there is not a lot of green space” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“All are welcome! It’s a lovely haven, especially downtown where there is not a lot of green space” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“We need you to respect that it is our garden and we would really appreciate to have the opportunity to use that food and share it the way we want to share it. We just ask for respect.” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“We need you to respect that it is our garden and we would really appreciate to have the opportunity to use that food and share it the way we want to share it. We just ask for respect.” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“We believe that gardening in this way is a form of social activism. When you make the choice to garden and buy local, you are making a choice to not depend on mass suppliers of food. That is social activism.” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
“We believe that gardening in this way is a form of social activism. When you make the choice to garden and buy local, you are making a choice to not depend on mass suppliers of food. That is social activism.” (Photo by Larson Heinonen)

Spring is in the air. The sun is shining and the scent of new earth and awakened lakes sweeps through the wind, bringing a promise of renewal and growth. In this spirit of planting new seeds, I met with Glenda Forward, the membership coordinator of the St. Anne Road Community Garden in Sudbury, Ontario.  I was moved by Glenda’s passion for gardening and her commitment to bringing healthy, organic food to the community. In our conversation, we touched upon many areas including health and well-being, relationships and the power of community collaboration. We also made connections to the ways that a community garden effectively responds to broader social and political issues such as food security, the benefits of supporting local growers and creating equanimity by allowing healthy food to be accessible to all.  By the end of our conversation, it was clear that the community garden is much more than just growing food; it is about cultivating a vision of healthy community.

Forward describes the garden as a space for anyone who is interested in growing organic food. Membership is open to those interested in gardening; from the absolute beginner to the exceptional green thumb. The mandate of the garden calls for sharing of experiences among members, enriching a vision where each member learns from all levels present in the collective. In this sense, the garden functions as a co-operative: members collaborate, share and support one another, and all work together to maintain the functioning of the garden as a whole. Operationally, the garden is member driven, non-hierarchical and egalitarian. “In decision making, members are encouraged to listen to one another,” said Forward, “we recognize that it is important to hear all perspectives and understand that we can learn and grow through our relationships. We recognize that each person has something to share.”

One of the garden’s goals is accessibility. Many community gardens embrace an understanding that having access to basic healthy food is a human right. Furthermore, there is a concern about the fact that only a small portion of society can access good food. For those who are marginalized or living on social assistance, accessing healthy food is near impossible. Forward noted how “Sudbury has too many food banks. We have too many people using food banks because they are living well below the poverty line. They don’t have enough money for food all month-long, so they have to go to the food banks where traditionally they are offered only dried goods and canned foods often which are expired.”

The garden attempts to address this concern by offering fresh produce to the local food banks and soup kitchens through their ‘grow a row’ program. In addition to 3 rows of shared member garden space, 1 row is dedicated to the ‘grow a row’ initiative. Individual members of the garden can choose to donate a row to the program within their plot.  Forward explained that “the food produced in ‘grow a row’ is issued to people who are living on very meager existence. Our garden members can choose to ‘grow a row’ of food for any local food bank, which in turn distributes it to their people. The food is given whole and fresh and is divided and distributed to as many people possible.”

The bounty of gardening extends well beyond the consumption of food, it becomes an act of sharing, bringing people together in support one another. “The beauty of having a garden is that you produce so much food!” recounted Forward, “it is not possible to eat it all on your own. Sharing the food is one of the best ways to connect with people and the community. Food is such a grounding way to get to know each other, its something we have lost in the hustle and bustle of life.”

True to the mission of accessibility, the garden’s membership costs are affordable and flexible, offering anyone the opportunity to grow their own food.  A few plots are currently still available. Each plot is 4 x 8 feet and are priced as follows:

$50 for an organization (full)

$35 for individuals earning wages

$5 or pay what you can for  individuals without a wage.

“We are a group of community minded, environmentally responsible and socially conscious people. We believe that gardening in this way is a form of social activism. In life we often feel powerless in that we don’t have a lot of choices. When you make the choice to garden and buy local, you are making a choice to not depend on mass suppliers of food. We can choose to eat differently and buy differently. That is social activism.”

As our conversation unfolded, Forward revealed the many fringe benefits of gardening that drew us into topics of well-being, health, meditation and relaxation. I soaked up her words and took much pleasure in the beautiful imagery that emerged through her narratives. “When you’re in the garden, you get to work with life and with the soil. It grounds you and is just such a peaceful experience. The people who come to the garden, whether they have gardened all their life or whether they are just learning how to garden, get to have this experience of being grounded back with nature, and that is something we don’t get to enjoy everyday. It is like meditation, you don’t have to take an hour and meditate, you can take and hour and garden and your thoughts will just roll and flow away, it’s so relaxing and magical. We hear it all the time from our members, it is great energy.”

I found it refreshing to learn that anyone, whether a member or not, is free to enjoy the space. “The garden offers an opportunity to get to know each other in a safe way and there is something about sharing food that helps us to relax and to just be. Anyone can enjoy it! If you want to come and sit and enjoy the beauty of the garden and walk through, please do! All are welcome! It’s a lovely haven, especially downtown where there is not a lot of green space.”

Although the garden practices an ‘open to all’ mandate, Forward put a call out to respect the garden and resist the temptation to help yourself to the food! ( a challenge common to many community gardens). “The community garden is owned and operated by the people who garden there. We do everything we can to share the garden. We need you to respect that it is our garden and we would really appreciate to have the opportunity to use that food and share it the way we want to share it. We just ask for respect.”

If you are interested in supporting the garden, help is needed to raise money to keep the co-operative on top of maintenance and costs associated with wear and tear. The garden is currently dependent on its main sponsors for support (The Social Planning Council and The Sudbury Food Connection Network). If you are interested in volunteering, becoming a member, sponsor and/or making a donation please contact: st.anneroadgardenread@gmail.com

Photographs by Larson Heinonen.

Article and interview by Lara Longo.

This piece originally appeared at Larson's Gallery.


Socialize:
Want more grassroots coverage?
Join the Media Co-op today.

About the poster

Trusted by 1 other users.
Has posted 662 times.
View grassrootssudburymedia's profile »

Recent Posts:


grassrootssudburymedia (Grassroots Sudbury Media)
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
Member since July 2011

About:


Creative Commons license icon Creative Commons license icon

1199 words

Join the media co-op today
Things the Media Co-op does: Support
Things the Media Co-op does: Report
Things the Media Co-op does: Network
Things the Media Co-op does: Educate
Things the Media Co-op does: Discover
Things the Media Co-op does: Cooperate
Things the Media Co-op does: Build
Things the Media Co-op does: Amplify

About the Sudbury Working Group

The Sudbury working-group of The Media Co-op was formed to create independent media in the North, to speak to our issues and outlooks on our communities as well as the world around us. Independent media provides an avenue for people who are wishing to gain critical perspective on the issues that matter most to us, and to give a voice to those people and stories that you won't find in the mainstream media.

Currently, the Sudbury working group is on pause, due to a lack of members.  If you are keen to take on the challenge of creating and supporting local grassroots media, please get in touch.

Contact us at grassrootssudburymedia@gmail.com or follow us on Facebook.

If we become active again, we encourage you to support local grassroots media by:

  • Getting a membership. Membership fees are intended to pay local writers for local content and support emerging writers.  Membership forms are here
  • Submitting content. We are able to pay for a limited number of strong local pieces.  Contact us to pitch an idea, or for story ideas.   See our Editorial Policy here.  We encourage local grassroots groups to submit content about their work, issues and events.  

 

 

 

 

 

User login


Google+
Subscribe to the Dominion $25/year

The Media Co-op's flagship publication features in-depth reporting, original art, and the best grassroots news from across Canada and beyond. Sign up now!