On June 19, Andrea Peckford and her partner Adam Kean were busy readying their plot at the Gander Community Garden.
They had no idea that the next day Peckford would give birth to the couple’s first child. Apollo James Adam Kean came four weeks early and tipped the scales at six pounds, four ounces.
During a phone interview the day before the baby’s early arrival, the couple talked about how delighted they were to have a plot in the garden.
“We are going there tonight to plant some things,” an enthusiastic Peckford said.
They planned on planting bee seeds to help with pollination of the entire garden, along with onions, tomatoes and other vegetables.
When Kean lived in Lumsden, his family owned an organic farm and sold their crops to people looking to buy fresh produce.
Peckford is from Port Anson. Her family had a small vegetable garden, she said.
“My grandparents lived about five minutes down the road from me. I did everything from putting the eyes of the potatoes in the ground to covering them back up and putting kelp on top. Then you would wait and the cousins, at the end of the season, would have a contest to see who grew the biggest potato,” Peckford recalled.
It’s a feeling the couple wants to pass along to their own son, she says.
“We are really excited about the community garden and we hope to see it expand in the future,” Kean said.
Common gardening space
Jordan Lawrence handles media for the Gander Community Garden Committee (GCGC). Formed in 2014, the committee is comprised of volunteers who felt the town could benefit from a common gardening space open to all residents.
There are 30 beds for individuals, families and community groups and one bed with several tubs for various local summer programs to grow in, as an engagement pilot project.
There is also a shared garden to plant various types of vegetables as a community and a plot for Gander Academy students to plant potatoes.
“This year’s Grade 3 (class) planted the potatoes (on June 17) and next year’s Grade 3 class will come and dig them up in September,” Lawrence said.
Having community involvement – including the school children, members of the Boys and Girls Club and the Open Door Community Youth Network – involved in planting and growing is a way to inspire and educate the younger generation about the benefits of growing their own food, Lawrence said.
The GCGC and numerous community groups, including the Airials Active Wellness Centre, will help ensure the garden is looked after.
In previous years, crops included kale, celery, parsnip, beet, turnip, eggplant, spinach, onion, broccoli, as well as other nutritious vegetables. Everything from pear trees to cherry trees, rhubarb to gooseberries, raspberries to blackberries have also found a home in the garden.
The community garden is operated through a Land Use Agreement with the Anglican Church. The church has been very generous and supportive, Lawrence said, and offers the land for free.
There is also an advisory committee to Gander.
The committee relies on its membership to raise funds for the garden and welcomes donations. Local businesses and members of the community also support the initiative.
Recently, RisingYouthNL awarded Lawrence a $1,500 Community Service Grant in order for the committee to purchase a baby barn. The barn will increase the garden's capacity to house tools and materials required to keep the garden moving forward.
In addition to a food source, gardeners use their plots for various reasons, Lawrence said, including mental health and wellness, physical activity, or just a social experience to improve their happiness.
The committee urges any gardeners from last season to return to their same plot this year, as the plots remain with the owners until they are turned back over to the GCGC. It’s important members notify the committee to confirm whether they plan on using their plot this growing season.
The committee would also like to receive feedback from gardeners on their experience with the garden and suggestions for improvements. Lawrence suggests they attend the Wednesday Night Garden Social that takes place each week from 6 to 9 p.m.
TIPS FOR CREATING A SUCCESSFUL GARDEN
• Determine the purpose of your garden (level of enthusiasm for the project).
• Who is going to lead the project (committee-based ideally, the more democratic the better).
• Put together a contact list of casual volunteers.
• Find a suitable space.
• Be clear on the outcome you are looking for but be flexible, open, keep it a "living document."
• Have patience and perseverance.
• Design your garden. Don’t be afraid to fail, try something again, or try something completely different. What works for one person/group/community does not always work for another.
Courtesy of Jordan Lawrence and the GCGC
DID YOU KNOW?
• In 1951, there were 3,626 farms in NL. In 2016, there were 407
• In NL, 13.4 per cent of households are food insecure
• NL has a two to three day supply of produce if ferries are delayed
• More than 26,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians rely on food banks and two in five food bank users are children
• NL imports 71 per cent of the food consumed by people in this province
• In NL, 84 per cent of communities do not have a standard grocery store
NL’s rate of vegetable and fruit consumption is 20 per cent below the national average
Source: Food First NL Website - www.foodfirstnl.ca/what-is-food-security