Non-profits turn to gardening to support people living in poverty

·3 min read
A summer student, Jeffson, has been working in the new vegetable garden at the Outflow Ministries farm in Kars. (Submitted by Jayme Hall - image credit)
A summer student, Jeffson, has been working in the new vegetable garden at the Outflow Ministries farm in Kars. (Submitted by Jayme Hall - image credit)

Two new gardening projects to support people living in poverty are taking shape in King's County and Fredericton.

Outflow Ministries of Saint John says the first batch of vegetables is just about ready for harvesting at its new farm in Kars Parish, and the John Howard Society of Fredericton says a community garden is being constructed behind the Oak Centre at the corner of Regent Street and the Vanier Highway.

The Kars farm was donated to Outflow in 2013 by the family of Gary Thomas of the Penobsquis area, said the faith-based group's co-founder Jayme Hall.

Outflow runs a men's shelter, dental clinic, community pantry, training and employment programs and serves five meals a week, all aimed at reducing unemployment, hunger, homelessness, and medical costs for people living in poverty.

Submitted by Jayme Hall
Submitted by Jayme Hall

Two students who were hired for the summer have put in a garden at the Kars farm, said Hall, and some cucumbers and lettuce are ready for harvesting.

The produce will probably be used in the cafe at Catapult Coffee & Studio, he said.

That's a social enterprise on Princess Street in Saint John where the group says it offers people who face barriers to employment a chance to build work skills and experience.

Besides the new garden, Outflow has also made some renovations to the farm house in Kars and is installing several tiny homes on-site, he said.

Submitted by Jayme Hall
Submitted by Jayme Hall

It plans to use the facility for short-term tourist rentals to the public, as well as retreats for people who were homeless or have been in trouble with the law and are ready to rehabilitate.

"It's a beautiful property — overlooks the Belleisle Bay," Hall told Information Morning Saint John, in an interview about the tiny home project in June.

"With what we do in the city … there's all kinds of people that we meet that are in a place of life where they're ready to move forward … they're coming clean or they're off of substances and they're ready for a new chapter of their life."

Hall said he hopes one or two cottages will be available by fall.

Community garden

Meanwhile, in Fredericton, a new fence was recently erected behind the Oak Centre, an emergency shelter and supportive housing complex operated by the John Howard Society.

Behind it, 45 garden beds are being built, said April Sullivan, one of the people who helped plan the project.

John Howard Society of Fredericton/Facebook
John Howard Society of Fredericton/Facebook

A community garden has been a goal of the organization for about a decade, she said, and now with the new Oak Centre, it finally has a large enough space to make it happen.

"Next summer, each resident of the Oak Centre will have the opportunity to grow their own vegetables, flowers, fruits and herbs," the group said in a social media post.

Thirteen of the beds will be raised, it said, to accommodate people with limited mobility.

John Howard Society of Fredericton/Facebook
John Howard Society of Fredericton/Facebook

Sullivan is an intensive case manager with the society's Housing First program. She said the garden should help with food insecurity and promote a healthy lifestyle for people living at the Oak Centre, who are transitioning from homelessness to stable housing.

It will give residents an opportunity to spend time outdoors getting fresh air and doing physical activity, she said, while they also socialize and learn new skills.

Gardening relieves stress and improves health, she noted.

For privacy reasons, Oak Centre has a policy against asking its residents to do interviews while they are in a vulnerable state. But Sullivan said one man who helped build the garden boxes told her he was "extremely excited" about the opportunity to be part of the project and happy it's going ahead.