Why this communal garden in Calgary donates almost everything it grows

·2 min read
Raised plant beds are scattered across what used to be a tennis court in a southeast Calgary community. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC - image credit)
Raised plant beds are scattered across what used to be a tennis court in a southeast Calgary community. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC - image credit)

Twelve years ago, the Twin Views Communal Garden in southeast Calgary was a tennis court that had fallen into neglect.

The Dover Community Association took it on as a place to grow food — and give away almost everything they harvest.

Last year, volunteers donated over 400 pounds (180 kilograms) of produce to the Calgary Food Bank and other organizations.

"When we first started, we had just that one central bed, and it looked so lonely," said Sandra Shade, a volunteer.

Now, the former tennis court is home to raised garden beds and a small greenhouse, growing potatoes, carrots, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, acorn squashes, peas, onions, bell peppers — even quinoa.

"Once it starts growing, it really is a beautiful green oasis," said Shade.

Amid high rates of inflation, gardens like the one in Dover offer both a practical response to food insecurity and a way to bring people together. Volunteers tend to the garden, and two local schools bring kids to learn about growing food. There's even live music every second Friday throughout the summer.

"We come, we work together as a community and at the end of the crop we just give it away to whoever needs it — from the food bank to the community at large, the churches, whoever," said Evadnie Swaby, another volunteer.

"It is very important, and I wish we had some more beds here so that we could do more."

Paula Duhatschek/CBC
Paula Duhatschek/CBC

About 40 per cent of the emergency food hampers at the Calgary Food Bank have perishable goods that come from the grocery store or gardens around the city.

"There's something to be said for a freshly picked carrot, or you've got fresh potatoes out of the ground, and there's that essence of this is what a community is about," said James McAra, CEO of the Calgary Food Bank.

McAra said that with a rise in the cost of living, the communal garden demonstrates a way of giving back that doesn't cause a financial strain. He anticipates demand for the food bank this year to increase anywhere from 20 to 30 per cent compared with last year. That means thousands more people.

"A community garden is never going to feed Calgary — it's just not at that scale — but the community garden does something else," said McAra.

"Not only does it provide food for the food bank, but it also provides care, kindness and hope for the people who are involved in that, and they get to be involved rather than being excluded."

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