'You don't have to steal from us' says 5-year-old Montreal gardener

Beatrice and Cameron Wallis were sad to find people had been stealing from their family garden in Montreal. (Chloë Ranaldi/CBC - image credit)
Beatrice and Cameron Wallis were sad to find people had been stealing from their family garden in Montreal. (Chloë Ranaldi/CBC - image credit)

Five-year-old Beatrice Wallis saunters through her family's garden in Montreal's Ville-Émard neighbourhood, pointing excitedly at the peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, mint, carrots and flowers she's been tending over the last three months.

"I'm excited that our veggies will grow and we will have some before winter," she said.

But Beatrice and her family won't be able to reap all the fruits of their labour since people have been stealing some food from their planters.

Her father, Cameron Wallis, said when the first pepper disappeared he thought it had been taken by some animals. But as more vegetables vanished — including a 500-gram cucumber — the family realized it was likely people who were helping themselves to their garden.

"We're sad and disappointed, she's been watching them grow for three months and didn't get to enjoy it," said Wallis. "It's not so much about the vegetable itself."

Chloë Ranaldi/CBC
Chloë Ranaldi/CBC

The garden started as a way to liven the family home's entrance while doubling as a fun father-daughter activity.

"I thought it was an awesome way [to spend time together], instead of being in front of a screen, it's something we could do together and continue to upkeep," said Wallis.

Wallis printed a sign describing his daughter's love for the garden with a photo of the two of them pasted onto it and stuck it in the garden so people might think twice before stealing.

"If you are hungry or need food please just knock on our door. My dad would be happy to make you something to eat or buy you groceries. You don't have to steal from us," the sign reads.

Stealing possibly linked to food insecurity

Urban agriculturist Sean Manning said having your planters pillaged is heartbreaking for any gardener, but people stealing food from gardens is indicative of a bigger problem.

"When we have people that are getting to the point where they feel they have to take vegetables from someone else's vegetable garden, they're clearly really in need of some help and the food security system is under a lot of pressure," he said.

With the economic instability many are feeling because of the pandemic and inflation, food insecurity is increasing, said Manning. Community and solidarity gardens, food subsidy programs and food banks are ways to mitigate the problem.

As for the Wallis family, they say those in need are welcome to come in for a sandwich or to be connected to community organizations.

"I'd like to think the people who took it really needed it and it wasn't just some pranksters. But if you are in need, knock on our door and we'll do what we can," said Wallis.