By Yuki Hayashi
Powell Park Community Garden was a riot of colours last harvest season. From the deep greens of kale and Savoy cabbage to the dusky aubergine of eggplants, and the sun-kissed hues of yellow, orange and red (thank you, tomatoes!), the garden was a feast for the eyes. It was also a source of free produce for park users and community fridges, and a dynamic meet-up spot for neighbours and community groups.
Like other community gardens, Powell Park relies on volunteers and garden members to operate each year. Approximately 30 members pay an annual fee to rent a plot: $25 for a 4-foot-by-8-foot plot, or $40 for an 8-by-8 plot. Subsidies are available to ensure that price isn’t a barrier to membership. Plot holders can grow whatever they want and enjoy the fruits (or veggies!) of their labour all season long.
What makes Powell Park Community Garden unique, however, it its focus on community sharing. Several sizeable communal plots grow produce that garden members can take home. These communal crops are also shared at the garden gate. Park users can often find a chair laden with bags of tomatoes and basil, monster zucchini, colourful squash or leafy greens—it’s all free, fresh and up for grabs!
Volunteers also deliver extra produce to the community fridges located at John and Barton Street, Ottawa Street, and Compass Community Health Services.
The garden itself is often open to visitors, and it’s not unusual to see kids swarming the garden’s raspberry or tomato bushes, teens weeding a communal plot, or a local church group hosting a potluck on the grass.
The secret to this garden’s community focus is volunteer engagement. While it can be a challenge maintaining volunteer energy all season long, 2023 will bring a renewed focus on shared labour, with work parties and volunteer assignments where garden members will each “own” a specific area of the communal plots to focus on. For example, Member A may become our resident herb guru, while Member B becomes the eggplant expert and Member C is the green bean wrangler.
We’re hoping this approach will promote participation, accountability and knowledge sharing. Ideally, it will also allow us to grow more, share more—crucial in a period of rising food costs and inflation—and hopefully have more fun, too.
Interested in joining in? Plots for the 2023 season will be available in March and new members who can commit to regular, ongoing volunteer work are welcome to join. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.