For the Townsman/Bulletin
The Cranbrook Public Produce Garden has enjoyed a productive third season. This Garden is as much a community building and education asset as it is an accessible and productive source for harvesting your own local, healthy food. The Cranbrook Food Action Committee (CFAC), in partnership with the City of Cranbrook, is responsible for creating it but it takes a whole community to grow, maintain, and enjoy it!
Coming up soon is the annual Harvest Party, Thursday, Oct. 2, at 5 p.m., celebrating the abundance of the season through the harvest and planting garlic for next year. The apple press (available for free community loan through Wildsight Kimberley Cranbrook) will be on-hand, making delicious juice to enjoy with barbequed local sausages and fresh garden veggies. Bring some of your garden’s abundance to share or swap. The perfect way to toast the season!
The philosophy of the Garden is rooted in community. Decisions are made by the collective through a variety of ways; group brainstorms, input through Garden blackboards, and word-of-mouth feedback. “All who enter the garden gate are considered to have an equal voice and every task, including harvesting, maintenance, seeding, weeding, watering … the list goes on and on … are considered of equal worth and contribution to the working of this special space”, says Shannon Duncan, Project Manager with CFAC.
In year one the focus was mostly on developing the infrastructure and group efforts were the focus to get things started. In the second year, CFAC encouraged people to come and contribute more through individual decisions. This included things like sowing seeds freely without group decision making, with the intention of the harvest always to be shared with anyone who came in.
Generally, people were ready and willing to work, but less comfortable taking food home. Considering harvesting along with any other task became an important message. After all, part of the intention of the Garden is connecting more people to local food and the skills required to grow your own.
By the end of the year, more and more people were comfortable coming to the Garden and harvesting on their own, without looking guiltily over their shoulder to see if someone was watching and judging.
People are generally feeling more comfortable coming in to harvest, and participation in the maintenance of the Garden is steadily growing. It’s a measure of success that so many people are enjoying the Garden and that food is being regularly harvested. People are mostly working in the Garden on their own or in small groups with the focus on bigger group efforts put toward planning and specific projects.
“There is still a need for those group efforts to get some bigger projects done,” Duncan said. “Not only are some things impossible alone, but it’s so much fun to work on things together and it’s true that work becomes much lighter with many hands.”
Last Saturday an herb spiral was created through group effort. These kinds of projects are rewarding, while having the benefit for participants of learning hands-on how to replicate in their own yard.
The Garden is expanding its growing space as there are enough people to manage it. The herb spiral is the first of projects to be undertaken around the locally constructed pergola. Perennial vines will also be planted this fall to grow up and over the pergola, enhancing the benches recently installed and offering a refuge for gardeners or anyone passing by.
If you’ve been to the Garden, the Harvest Party is the perfect way to celebrate this inspiring and productive space. If you haven’t been to the Garden yet, it’s a great opportunity to come and check it out. Or just stop by any old time. The gate is never locked.