Gardening in Almonte: Gardening with youth in Mississippi Mills

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David

I am convinced that the health of our society can be improved by spreading the knowledge of gardening and of growing our own food, especially with our youth. I have worked with many groups over the growing season and I have to say that I have been most appreciative of the enthusiastic reception that I have always received from the leaders at the new Mississippi Mills Youth Centre (MMYC).

While the adult leaders have been enthusiastic, I’m not sure the kids have embraced gardening quite as much. Dealing with youth has been fascinating – I’m guessing that it is just not cool for young males to take much of an interest in gardening. However male youth did seem to take a lot more interest when youth of the female gender became involved. And while they seem to hang back, it becomes obvious that they are absorbing more than they are letting on.

I stopped in last week to talk about preparing the garden for winter. In the waning days of the growing season the tomatoes are barely hanging on while the cool-weather plants, such as arugula and kale are really coming into their own. I was able to convince some of the kids to eat some arugula but astonishingly some of them actually spit it out – apparently it is not to everyone’s taste!

There has been a whole lot growing since this spring when a dozen or enthusiastic volunteers got together on Saturday at the new MMYC on Main Street in Almonte (the former Mac’s Milk right beside Milano’s Pizza). We built five garden boxes out of rough-cut cedar and placed them in front of the Youth Centre building in a very visible location! The addition of a picnic table has helped to convert this ‘cast-off of our urban car culture’ into an urban oasis. The garden is a joint project of the MMYC and the Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardening Program. We are grateful to the Town of Mississippi Mills for providing funding for this project.

The garden boxes produced fresh veggies for the participants in the MMYC programs as they learned about growing and harvesting veggies. The garden has been very productive as it is in a very favourable micro-climate for veggies that like lots of heat (southern exposures, against the south-facing wall of the youth centre building and surrounded by asphalt).

The MMYC continues to get involved in community projects. A pumpkin walk has been created by volunteers from the MMYC and the Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens in Augusta Street Park. Our first annual “Pumpkin Parade” will take place on Wednesday, November 1st.  In Toronto, Pumpkin Parades started in Sorauren Park back in 2004 and have since expanded across the city. There are now over 30 events in city parks! Sorauren Park sees as many as 2000 pumpkins at their event each year!

This November 1, the tradition begins at 5 pm just before sundown, in Augusta Street Park when folks from neighbourhoods across Mississippi Mills are encouraged to bring their jack-o’-lanterns to place on the park’s accessible walkway for one final showing before they hit the Augusta compost pile.

The Pumpkin Parade in Augusta Street Park is a family friendly event for all ages and abilities. See you on November 1 from 5 – 7:30 with your family and friends. Don’t forget your jack o’ lantern and candle.