Cold Lake Community Garden Society celebrates 10 years of growth and community support

Kathy Gauthier, recently elected president on May 8, recently shared the society's journey and plans.

“We started as a society in 2014 under the leadership of Kathy Aust, and with some guidance from the City as well. And so that was in 2014, so we're celebrating 10 years this year,” says Gauthier.

The society manages a garden comprised of 48 rental beds and a community garden section. Each bed rental costs $35 for the first one, with decreasing prices for additional beds within a family. The City has played a crucial role in providing water and maintaining the grass, which has supported the society’s efforts.

“The gardens are actually comprised of two separate sections. So the section that we have has 48 beds and they are for rental for private use,” says Gauthier.

“We didn't have water to start with, but the City did come in with water for us, which makes our lives a lot easier, and so the City has been very supportive with some of the grass maintenance... and sometimes they'll bring us... compost, which feeds the garden.”

Despite being an independent society, collaboration with the City has been invaluable. However, the community garden faced challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic due to reduced volunteer availability and restrictions.

A second section of the garden is called the “community garden,” which is under construction right now.

“There were less volunteers to look after it and there were so many restrictions that we just didn't have the volunteer base to keep it running,” she says, speaking to the pandemic. The food previously grown in that section was donated to the food bank, Gauthier explains.

The society plans to rejuvenate the community garden, bringing in new compost and soil to restart the food donation program.

“Unfortunately, we've let that program kind of fall to the wayside for the last couple of years just because of the situation, but our plan is to get that back in good order and bring in some new compost, new soil and get the community portion of the gardens up again so that we would be again donating to the food bank and other community programs,” she says.

Additionally, the society provides six elevated garden beds for seniors, free of charge, to make gardening accessible. The raised beds eliminate the need to bend over and work on your knees.

The community garden offers a vital service for those without personal garden space, such as condo or apartment dwellers, and plays a role in offsetting grocery bills amid rising inflation.

Gauthier acknowledges that not everyone has space to grow a garden, so, “this is an opportunity to come and garden and grow your own food. Especially right now when inflation is getting higher and higher."

To support gardeners, the society also provides tools and equipment.

“We have tools there. We have a tool cabinet that has shovels and rakes and hoes, as well as wheelbarrows, and we do supply the hoses as well, so that people that come to the gardens do not have to have their own equipment.”

All that is required is a pair of gardening gloves.

Growing its numbers

The society is focused on increasing its membership and reaching full capacity once again.

“We are working at building our numbers again,” says Gauthier. While the garden had been at full capacity in the past, last year it was only at 54 per cent capacity.

“And so what community gardeners did is we took on a lot of those extra beds and we tried to maintain them so that they would be rentable again this year. And this year, we're making a focus on trying to get the word out there.”

Katherine Blackburn, the society’s secretary, highlights the benefits of the society’s location and upcoming events.

“We're right next to the orchard. The orchard is for everyone to pick from, but the garden is not, because the garden is specific to its members,” explains Blackburn.

A plant exchange was scheduled for Sunday, with the community garden used as an exchange spot.

For more information or to get involved with the Cold Lake Community Garden Society, reach out by email to

Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lakeland This Week