BY MIKE WILSON
SPECIAL TO THE MINTO EXPRESS
HARRISTON – A second public meeting was held on June 19 to discuss the possibility of community gardens becoming a reality within the Town of Minto by 2014.
Kelly Guthrie, an employee of the City of Guelph and an integral part of starting the community gardens projects in Guelph, was on hand to educate those in attendance on the start up process of such a project.
“There is much more to starting a community garden than picking a spot and putting a shovel in the ground,” said Guthrie.
She mentioned that before you think about putting the shovel in the ground, you need to sort out numerous logistical challenges.
“The City of Guelph said that it was a great idea, now go out and do these things,” said Guthrie. That included finding the people to form an oversight committee, people to work in the gardens, researching why a garden would be beneficial to the community, and making sure that you have the support of the community and council.
“And for some sites, you even have to figure out how to get water access as not all locations will have a readily available water source,” states Guthrie.
Once Guthrie got the project approved by council – on a “pilot” basis of two years – the matter of site selection was the major issue.
“There is much more to planting a garden than you would think,” she said. “Because of liability issues, you need to make sure that the soil is suitable for growing. Nobody wants anyone to get sick from contaminated soil.”
Once the sites were selected, they got to work on their gardens. What was pitched to city council as a food security project turned out to much more.
“We were told stories of how kids gained self-confidence from being a part of the garden, and how they now interact with people they otherwise would not have met if it weren’t for the garden,” stated Guthrie.
This is something that Heather Harvey is hoping will happen in Minto.
“This would be the first municipality in the county, outside of Guelph that would be participating in the program” said Harvey, who works for the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
The group talked about who would be key players in the creation of a public garden – ranging from service clubs and churches to government agencies – and that a meeting should be set up in the very near future to form a “steering” committee.
It was also the impression of Mandy Jones, the interim business and economic development co-ordinator for the town of Minto, that the town would be a resource for the community garden, and not the facilitator.
“In my mind, the town would be there as a resource to help set up meetings, lead people in the right direction,” said Jones. “And not be the ones responsible for the gardens. I would think we would leave that up to the committee that is formed to oversee the garden.”
She also pointed out this would be very similar to what the town currently does for the farmers markets in Harriston and Palmerston – they support them, but leave it up to the committees to make the decisions on vendors and other such things.
The idea of having a garden ready by 2014 – ideally Jones would like to see one in each community in Minto – was brought up, and it was decided work would have to start now.
“In our experience, turning over the soil in the spring and planting did not produce good results,” said Guthrie. It was suggested that if everything was to be approved and a suitable site selected by fall, it would be best to turn over the soil and cover crop the site this year and start planting next spring.
That is a tall order as Guthrie said it was close to eight months before the City of Guelph approved their plan.
It was decided that the key players in the creation of a community garden should be brought together very soon to try and make the garden a reality for 2014.
If you are interested in getting involved in the community garden project, you can contact Mandy Jones at the town office by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 519-338-2511.