Augusta Street Park 3 July 9 2014A conversation with two green thumbs.

Issued on May 1st, the Workers’ Day, the ‘Great Veggie Grow-off’ has ‘pitted’ the towns of Mississippi Mills, Carleton Place and Beckwith against each other in a friendly competition to see which can grow the most local produce for the Lanark County Food Bank. The ‘grow-off’ offers local gardeners a higher purpose to plant another row for others less fortunate.

“Having the Great Veggie Grow Off has been a very positive thing for the St. Gregory’s Next Door Community Gardens,” said Carleton Place community garden coordinator and local market gardener, Ray Elgersma. “At the beginning of the season a number of beds were simply weeds because the beds had been neglected or were not used during the 2013 gardening season. Today all beds are used and our crops are flourishing. We have a number of new gardeners. But more importantly we have a greater connectedness to our community.”

“There seems to be a new appetite for community gardens,” added Master Gardener, David Hinks. “This spring citizen gardeners came out in droves to help create new ‘Neighbourhood Tomato Community Garden’ garden beds in Almonte’s Augusta Street Park. There is new interest in the beds behind the library as well. We have some individual plots, as well as some collaborative gardens, even some specifically earmarked with the produce going to the food bank. It’s great to help the food bank with their mission to provide safe and nutritional food for persons in need.”

To date the total amount of food donated from the three communities is over 700 lbs. Citizens are urged to share their bounty from their personal gardens with the food bank. Make sure when you drop off your produce to mention the name of your town. You have until October 11, at 10:30 am when the final weigh-in will occur at the Carleton Place Farmers’ Market. It is the final day of the market and it corresponds with World Food Day.

“The partnership established this year between the Mills, Lanark Food Bank and St. Gregory’s has meant new energy, greater purpose, and healthy outcomes for producers and the Food Bank, and an improved sense of community for those engaged with the gardens,” stated Ray. “Regardless of whether Beckwith, Mississippi Mills or Carleton Place community wins with the greatest contribution of food to the food bank, it’s win-win for us with renewed interest by a number of local community members in the growing of local healthy food.”

Ray Elgersma is the acting chair of the Two Rivers Local Food Hub, and a passionate Market Gardener. Ray can often be found weeding at St. Gregory’s and always at the Carleton Place Farmers’ Market each Saturday morning.

David Hinks is a Master Gardener, member of the board of the Lanark County Food Bank, a weekly garden column contributor to the Millstone News ( and can be found weeding garden plots in Almonte’s Augusta Street Park, at his home on Augusta Street, in Clayton, or at his garlic plots in an Ottawa community garden.

Both are passionate about strengthening the links between farmers, farmers’ markets, the local food hub, community gardens, and the food bank.