Monday, 2 November 2015

How Did Our Garden Grow? Fort Calgary's Community Garden in 2015

Fort Calgary, the 2014 recipient of the Robert R. Janes Award for Social Responsibility, hosted a Modelling What Works workshop to share their experience connecting with their community through their Community Garden. Workshop participants came away with knowledge, plans, and enthusiasm to inform and encourage their own socially responsible work – and were able to get their hands dirty in the garden!

Gardening on the prairies is not for the faint of heart! Although Fort Calgary’s community garden was blessed with a warm spring and warm fall the summer can best described as a “challenge!”

Two major hailstorms back to back in the afternoons of August 4th and August 5th, ultimately affected the yield but despite that we had another successful summer. The hail came at a time of peak harvest which was very unfortunate. It was devastating to watch an act of god destroy such good intentions and hard work  – but that turned quickly to watching Mother Nature’s amazing power to heal. The hailstorms were also a nice reminder of what life was like on the prairies. A hailstorm could mean a very stressful and bleak winter to settlers who relied on their garden to feed their families.

Fortunately, our Suncor Energy Foundation garden measures success in many ways. While the yield was down we continued to offer a variety of vegetables and herbs to The Women’s Centre in Bridgeland, two Wood’s Homes youth at risk programs, and the Alex’s Homebase community kitchen program – all social agencies in Calgary. The garden continues to employ from the hard to employ sector and was home to numerous volunteers throughout the summer.

The garden location at the west end of the new Elbow River bridge increased the garden profile significantly. There is an estimated 300,000 people using the bridge annually - many of them now stopping to learn about Fort Calgary and the garden. The Mountie scarecrow continues to be the star and subtly educates passers-by on the roots of the Fort.

We continue to be proud recipients of the Robert R. Janes Award. For those of you who attended the garden workshop in the spring, the lettuce that you planted that day was harvested several times and is now producing seed for next year!

In another couple of weeks we will put the garden to bed for the winter – so it will be ready to “grow” next spring. Stay tuned!

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