GRANTON — It might seem strange that the installation of sewers could be the inspiration for an initiative that’s now putting food on the tables of four families, as well as providing much-appreciated fresh vegetables to the Ailsa Craig and District Food Bank. But according to Granton Community Gardens coordinator Terry Herbert, that’s exactly how the story goes.
“When they put in the sewers a few years ago, a friend and I were looking around at all the new homes in the town, and how they have such small yards,” Herbert recalled in a recent interview.
Portions of the properties had become unavailable for use due to the sewer installation. Plus, as a general trend as the village moved away from the traditional farmhouse-style development that had occurred in decades past, residential lot size has shrunk.
“You add the space that’s needed for kids to play, and maybe space for a deck. And we wondered, ‘where are they going to put a garden?’,” Herbert said.
Herbert, it quickly becomes obvious during the interview, is someone who believes everyone would benefit from having a bit of garden to call their own. So, basing her initiative on something she had seen put in place by the London Resource Centre, she set about creating the Granton Community Gardens.
She first approached her church, Granton-Wesley United, but it became apparent the land at the church was too heavily shaded to allow for the growth of a range of vegetables. The church was definitely supportive, though, and congregation members continue to play an active role in tending to the two 20-foot by 20-foot plots that are currently dedicated to growing food for the Ailsa Craig food bank.
Undeterred, Herbert then approached the local Lions Club, which helps maintain the nearby Granton Community Park. The park, it turned out, is owned by the Township of Lucan-Biddulph. And Herbert soon found out that the Township — including somebody who’s now one of the project’s biggest boosters, Councillor Alex Westman — was quite supportive of the idea.
To get the project underway three years ago, the Township gave Herbert access to a piece of land, as well as access to a shed on the park property for storage of gardening tools and other materials. Township staff even ran a water line to the site for irrigation purposes — something which definitely came in handy during the Community Gardens’ second year of operation, the frustratingly dry summer of 2012.
“They even came in and cut the sod, which was a big relief to all the people who thought they’d have to shovel away all that sod by hand,” remembers Terry’s husband, John Herbert.
A local farmer tilled the six garden plots and brought in a load of composted manure. As the third season of gardening reaches towards it climax, that pile of essential nutrients has dwindled to almost nothing, so it will soon be time to ask if a second load might be available.
Other contributions have come from Granton’s Thompsons grain elevator company (signage), Try Recycling (a composter and compost), and various community members (seeds for the food bank plots).
“So far this year, we’ve taken at least three loads of fresh vegetables to the food bank,” Herbert said. She added that, in the past, food bank representatives have made presentations to the Granton-Wesley congregation about the need for donations throughout the year, “so we know there’s a need.” This year, the Community Gardens plots include a greater number of root crops — carrots, potatoes, beets and parsnips — than in the past, in an effort to ensure a greater fresh vegetable harvest for the food bank around the time of Thanksgiving.
The other four Community Gardens plots are “rented” by families for $20 per year. Gardeners must agree to a set of rules, including organic production practices, no sale of goods from the plots (excess produce can, instead, be donated to the food bank), and removal of all stakes and tomato cages at the end of the season. If the plot is not tended to, it can be weed-whacked or “re-assigned” to another gardener after two weeks notice.
This year, inspired by the success of the Granton project, a new community garden began in nearby Lucan. An information sheet handed out by Herbert to prospective Granton Community Gardeners answers the question of “why” someone would want to participate with, among others, the following points:
• To provide fresh, safe, affordable herbs, vegetables;
• Help build a strong sense of community;
• Create a welcome relief to the stress of everyday life;
• Provide opportunities for hands-on learning about growing, harvesting, and preparing fresh produce.
Just think: All this, simply because sewers were installed along the streets of the village!
To find out more, visit the Granton Gardeners page on Facebook, or contact Herbert at grantongardeners @gmail.com or 519-229-2751.