On Saturday, September 25, Communities in Bloom volunteer Jeannine Steinke was supposed to host a workshop on harvesting and storing potatoes. Communities in Bloom gardeners had planned to provide the informative event as they harvested the donation garden beds they had taken care of all summer. Unfortunately, COVID 19 restrictions proved to be a barrier, and they decided to cancel the workshop.
With potatoes still to harvest, Steinke and her children spent the afternoon gathering them at the Whitecourt Community Garden. “We have five beds that Communities in Bloom planted up to give to the Whitecourt Food Bank and local soup kitchens.” She said that the one bed was very prolific and had already provided beets, onions and multiple crops of beans. “I just pulled all of the beans to dry the leftover ones for seeds to give away so that people will have seeds for next year.”
Steinke said that they had pulled four big bags of potatoes out of the beds and that she was thrilled. “I’ll be taking these home to cure them for a bit, and then they will be donated. We have purple ones, fingerlings and others. The ones that are more damaged that need to be used within the next week, I’ll get them to the soup kitchen quicker,” she explained.
“I’m really happy that it was a good experience this year. It was good to meet some of the other gardeners here and start seeing that community build. I think Communities in Bloom and the Community Garden go hand in hand, so it’ll be nice to continue to work together. It’s just too bad COVID got in the way of workshops because I know there were quite a few interested people.”
She said that Communities in Bloom utilized beds that hadn’t been rented by community members and that they wouldn’t take space away from those that needed it. “We never want to take space from other gardeners. We use the space that is left over. These were the five beds not used up. If there was a need to make more beds, then we have lots of room to make more in here,” she said as she pointed to several open areas within the boundary of the Community Garden fence. “If we see that need, then that’s what we can put our money towards is helping build more beds that can go to the food bank.”
Since she would be coming down to the Community Garden all summer long to care for the donation beds, Steinke said she decided to rent a couple of beds for her children so that they could have something to get into while visiting the garden. “I have my own gardens at home, but I rented two plots this year for my kids because I wanted them to have a bit more purpose in coming here with me.” At that moment, her children (three of her four) were checking out their beds and picking out some potatoes for supper that evening.
Getting to donate healthy, fresh foods grown locally felt good said, Steinke. “I think with everything that we have given, we know it’s going to good homes and to people that need it, so it feels good. That’s the whole purpose is to be able to help other people and also to educate other people. Many people didn’t even realize that these gardens existed and the fact that they aren’t very expensive. The more people that use them, the better this area will get. It’s a good little gem in Whitecourt.”
She said that often people think it’s a private group but said it’s open for anyone in the community to join. “There are also apple trees, and the apples are free to give to anybody, and the dirt is free to use too. There are tools to use, and water is supplied. Quite honestly, it’s a pretty good spot. Look at how much fits in these beds. That’s a winter’s crop of potatoes for a family my size with four kids.”
Steinke said that she is looking forward to giving over the potatoes and starting over again next year. “Now that we know how things worked this year, I think it’ll be something we can revisit next year and every year and maybe grow with the other gardeners.” The next steps for the gardens will be to put the plots to bed for the winter, and Steinke said she had hoped to do a workshop on that. “Covid has put a pause on that, but I will be putting pointers online and teaching people that way.” Those interested in learning her tips and tricks to putting your garden beds to sleep for the best results come spring are encouraged to follow the Whitecourt Communities in Bloom Facebook page.
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press