Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Program for low income people on the Westshore to garden

There is a program out on the Westshore called Gardening Neighbours. The program pairs experienced veggie gardeners with people that want to learn. There was a good article in the Goldstream Gazette about it.

The application deadline has been shifted to April 23rd, it originally was April 12th. More details are available at the Westshore Harvest website.

By Amy Dove - Goldstream News Gazette

Project connects green thumbs with ‘brown thumbs’

Terrie Barnhard’s backyard is a testament to resourceful gardening.

Her compost bins are reconstructed pallets sourced from local hardware stores. Shelves near the work bench came from a wooden crate used to transport a fridge. Inside, this year’s beans and eggplants are sprouting in milk cartons.

“It’s all fun. It’s just live and learn,” Barnhard says. “I’m still in awe of all of it. This is all new.”

None of it would have happened without the guidance from the Gardening Neighbours program, she says. The Langford resident was one of 15 people paired with a garden mentor and walked through the 2009 growing season. The free program, through Capital Families Association, helps people plan, plant and harvest a garden. Supplies from seeds to trowels are included.

A larger grant from The Victoria Foundation has doubled the spaces this year, allowing for 30 individuals or families. The focus is on helping those with limited income or living in subsidized housing and senior’s complexes, says co-ordinator Cindy MacDonald. Experience is not required and gardens can be tailored to fit in backyards or on patios.

“The tricky part is how to grow what and where, and that’s what we offer people,” she says. “There is no better food than your own. It’s good for so many reasons and it’s not that hard.”

The program builds a network of support, with last year’s group starting a newsletter to share tips and news. They were able to draw inspiration from what other people were doing too, Barnhard says.

“When we went to other gardens, you kind of take note of what people use,” she adds. She now has packages of seeds, some of which will be a surprise when they grow, from different people.

“I have never seen red sunflowers,” she says, glancing down at her pots. “Let’s hope I haven’t killed them yet! You don’t see the humor in it until you are actually doing it.”

The program is expanding this year to include a “fee-for- service” program. Gardeners who don’t meet the criteria for Gardening Neighbours, but could use a little help, can receive a personal garden plan, seeds and three mentor visits for $200. Two workshops are also open to the public May 8 and June 26 for $10 each.

For more information or to get an application for Gardening Neighbours, e-mail Capital Families Association WestShore Harvest co-ordintor Jennifer Girard at or go to Applications are due April 12.

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