Gardening in Almonte: Vignettes from a Garden Party

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David

This past Saturday we had a garden party at the Carleton Place Community Garden on Townline Road in Carleton Place to announce the winner in the Great Veggie Grow-Off and to celebrate the rejuvenation and expansion of the garden.

At high noon the excitement was palpable as the winner was announced. With a drum roll from our guest musicians, our judge, CBC gardening celebrity Ed Lawrence, announced the winner and presented the trophy to the municipality of Mississippi Mills – which just a few days prior had been in a virtual tie with Carleton Place. In the following photo Ed and Mississippi Mills mayor Shaun McLaughlin share gardening tips with a couple of fans.

The total contribution county-wide this year of about 7,000 pounds was about 30 per cent below last year’s total as many gardeners reported much lower than usual harvests as the unending rain in the spring and summer wreaked havoc with many gardens.

The garden party also celebrated a major expansion and rejuvenation of the Carleton Place Community Garden to an 8,000 square foot oasis. In fact some of the crowd were easily distracted birders who spotted migrating warblers in the surrounding vegetation – to me one more indicator of the healthy ecosystem that has been created.

The project was a joint effort of the Carleton Place Community Gardeners in partnership with the Lanark County Food Bank (aka the Hunger Stop) funded by a $4,700 grant from a program administered by the Ontario Association of Food Banks with funding coming from Sysco, a large food wholesaling and distribution company. Many local businesses also contributed to the cause with discounts and gifts.

We were able to expand the garden, recycle rotted lumber, construct new accessible raised beds, add new gardening boxes, add a substantial shed, bring in truckloads of soil, mushroom compost and wood chips and create large beds for growing produce for the food bank.

A delicious soup was created from donated vegetables by local chef Ian Carswell and music was provided by a trio of musicians dubbed the ‘Hackberry Boys Unplugged’.

The musicians are part of a new Carleton Place men’s group, the Hackberry Men’s Shed. (The Men’s Shed movement aims to help men come together, stay productive, and contribute to the community, based on the reality that many men after retirement have time on their hands and a tendency to suffer from isolation, loneliness, and depression.) The Carleton Place group designed and built the garden shed and other structures that are part of the garden and have now moved on to building bat-houses for the Canadian Wildlife Federation!

There remain a few available garden beds and it was quite reassuring to meet several local folk that are looking to use a gardening box next year. There are also several projects that we would like to add. To see how you might get involved contact the food bank at 613-257-8546 for more information.

It is not my intent to weigh-in on political issues; rather I just want to say a word or two about the gentlemen that happen to be mayors of our two municipalities of Mississippi Mills and Carleton Place. I make no judgement on whether all of their decisions have been wise or whether they have made mistakes – I have made enough mistakes and bad judgement calls in my life!

I can only speak from my own personal experience of the actions of these two. In my work with food security issues and with community gardens they have both been incredibly supportive – participating at meetings and events and going way beyond ‘photo-op’ participation – to the extent of growing an extra row for the Food Bank, encouraging volunteers or dumping soil into garden boxes.  They both worked to create more hype in the veggie challenge as both mayors trash-talked the opposition. These are people who really care about the health of our communities.

All nine Lanark communities were challenged on May 1st to grow and donate to their local food bank. This Community Challenge, now in its fourth year, expanded last year to include gardeners in communities across Lanark supporting all four of the food banks in the County.

The focus at the garden party on Saturday was clearly on the two municipalities of Carleton Place and Mississippi Mills as 70 per cent of the food donated was attributed to these two municipalities. The Great Veggie Grow-off has not yet created the kind of excitement in the rest of Lanark County that it has in Carleton Place and Mississippi Mills. Perhaps it is just a matter of time before the excitement spreads or perhaps this kind of challenge works best with two towns in close proximity with some history of rivalry!