by Hannah Larkin
Accessible community gardens are planting roots in Mississippi Mills. The Neighbourhood Tomato is designed to engage the residents of Mississippi Mills in growing fruits and vegetables while allowing for intergenerational connections, skill sharing, and learning.
Mills Community Support summer student Hannah Larkin with Otesha cyclists.
The Neighbourhood Tomato project consists of raised accessible garden beds at various community locations around Almonte, with hopes of expanding to the surrounding area of Mississippi Mills in years to come. As we strive to become an age-friendly, inclusive community, these boxes are easily accessed by people of all ages and abilities as they are 4x12x2 feet high. The materials for this year’s nine raised garden beds were purchased at three local sawmills and were assembled by Almonte and District High School students as well as by people the Mills Community Support Corporation supports.
On Thursday, June 16th, the Otesha bicycle theatre group cycled through Almonte as part of Mississippi Mills bicycle month and lent a hand to the Neighbourhood Tomato. Otesha is a group of youth from across Canada who cycle across the country while raising awareness about sustainability and healthy, local produce. The group that passed through Almonte began their journey in Kitchener, Ontario May 1st and were en route to Ottawa where they would end their cycling tour June 22nd.
The group performed a play at Almonte and District High School about a student who was trying to decide what to do with the rest of his life and in the process was transported to the future, where our world was a very different place. This play taught students about reducing our footprints by reusing clothes and supporting local farmers and produce – right along the lines of the Neighbourhood Tomato.
Following their performance, the group cycled around Almonte to check out the Neighbourhood Tomato boxes at the Edward Street residence and Mills Community Support. At the Mills, they were not afraid to get their hands dirty and helped to plant the first tomato plants to mark the beginning of the Neighbourhood Tomato. The plants are now thriving and have begun to produce fruit.
Garden boxes have since also been installed at Almonte General Hospital and Almonte Country Haven with nine yards of soil donated by Richard Larose of Mother Earth, mushroom compost from the Rotary Club, and a generous donation from The Hub. An extra row will be planted in each box as part of a “Plant an Extra Row” campaign for the Lanark County Food Bank.