Foodies Plant the Seeds of Food Security

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
May 28th, 2009

The Rossland Foodies, as they have affectionately named themselves, have been planting the seeds of an ambitious community gardening network in the minds of key stakeholders as of late, with the hopes of harvesting their hard work and effort in the near future.

The three phase plan as presented to city council by Ami Haworth this week would appear to fit beautifully with Rossland’s OCP and general aspirations to environmental consciousness. Increasing local food production and food security not only provides a fun community building atmosphere around the gardens but is also great for a community’s overall health and well being, as attested to by Brandie Marcon, a community nutritionist with Interior Health who has added her written support to the project.

“Community gardens are exceptional in their ability to address an array of public health and livability issues across the lifespan.”

With stated goals of creating community spaces for all to enjoy, increasing access to more locally-produced food, providing a positive learning and teaching environment for all ages, creating opportunities for people to learn new skills, take pride in their accomplishments, and to cooperatively work with others in the community, the project is certainly noble in its desires.

Phase one of the project  would involve one garden site; organizers hope to rent out between eight and sixteen 4’x’8’x20” plots in raised beds to interested Rosslanders. Since incorporating the community in the project builds a sense of ownership, plans potentially include setting aside beds for schools to use as a teaching tool and one large bed from which the produce could be sold at the planned Farmers’ Market.

It is estimated that a plot rental would cost approximately five dollars with an additional five dollar fee to become a member of the Kootenay Food Strategy Society. The money would go toward providing insurance for the garden project.

Working with city planner Mike Maturo on the project, organizers have identified the best site  for the first garden as being the north end of Jubilee Park. Assistance from the city has been requested in the form of a complimentary city water hook up along with a contract to use the land. Discussions with the city are on going to determine the ultimate location of the garden as there be some alternate usage conflicts on the Jubilee site, as noted by councillors following Haworth’s presentation.

If all goes according to plan, the expectation is to have the necessary items in place by early summer of this year. This will allow the group time for community consultation, securing funding, buying or soliciting donations or materials to build and prepare the site. The first planting is set to begin in the spring of 2010.

Should the first community garden prove successful, phase two would involved the development of a network of additional community garden sites around the city following the same design and format. Potential sites could include the Cliff Street right of way across from the old Cooke Avenue school site, Rossglen Park or somewhere in the Chinese gardens area near Redstone.

Among the largest threats to the project as identified by the project coordinators and council would be that of vandalism–both of the human and animal variety. Plans to address this have already been developed, including necessary fencing around the garden as well as community involvement programs. While preventing vandalism full stop is unlikely, through working with the schools and incorporating as many folks, young and old, as possible in the project organizers hope that people will take ownership and pride in the garden, reducing  the possibility of damage caused by ne’r do wells, nogoodniks, ursine intruders, and other outside agitators.

By 2012 it is hoped that the third phase of creating a community composting facility and a community greenhouse will be underway. An innovative and green solution to locating the community greenhouse might include building it in the arena parking lot and using waste heat from the rink’s refrigeration system to heat the greenhouse, thereby extending the local growing season.

Similar projects have been undertaken successfully in the area, particularly in Kaslo where for the past several years a community garden has been operating as well as a program encouraging local residents to convert their lawns into vegetable gardens. Making local food security a municipal issue, Kaslo took the leap and became the third municipality in BC and the eighth in all of Canada to officially adopt a food charter. New Denver is another BC community to do so.

For now the Foodies will continue to work with city staff to address the necessary issues, and the matter will come back before council in the near future with a request for official city support. Interested folks are encouraged to get in touch with the Rossland Foodies or Ami Haworth to help further the project.

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