by Marcia Hamm Wiebe, Master Gardener
Our garden known as Green Futures North, in Brandon, MB is the second largest community garden in the city. Samaritan House Ministries is able to tend this garden with the following partnerships:
The City of Brandon has offered access to the land free of charge since 2012. The Parks Department also offers soil and compost as needed for the gardeners to add to their raised beds.
The 81 raised beds (dimensions 4 feet x 12 feet) were given to the community garden by Enactus, a student group at Brandon University. The following is a description of the Enactus group from their Facebook page:
“We create programs to address social, economic, and environmental issues in our community. These programs incorporate financial literacy education, environmentalism and entrepreneurial practices to improve the livelihoods of the people in our community. Last year, our team put over 3,500 volunteer hours into eight projects. Working with a variety of local groups, we’ve helped form community gardens, taught new immigrants about Canada’s financial system, and helped small businesses create an online presence.”
The garden offers a combination of raised beds and a large in ground plot to community members along with a generous amount of space tended by volunteers to bring fresh produce into the Samaritan House Food Bank. This year along with spaghetti squash, zucchini, carrots and tomatoes, sweet potatoes were added to the list of vegetables harvested for food hampers. The sweet potato plants were donated by the Assiniboine Community College horticultural (ACC) program. The following is an excerpt from an article published on the ACC Blog, written in August 2018 about the sweet potato research done at ACC:
“Dr. Rao is working with the Vineland Research & Innovation Centre, located in Lincoln, Ontario and funded by the federal and Ontario governments.
“They’re working on sweet potato breeding. There are challenges in growing a subtropical crop in a temperate region, which is a colder region. They are trying to develop a strain with early maturity,” because of the high number of days with frost in Manitoba.”
The sweet potato harvest was surprisingly good as the plants were started late. The potatoes were well received by the food bank clients.
Samaritan House Ministries has been able to provide summer students to tend the food bank gardens and assist the community gardeners over the summer months. This year we had excellent staff with lots of horticultural experience, and one staff was able to continue employment at a local greenhouse business.
The garden also attracts volunteers and without dedicated volunteers the food bank would not be able to keep up with the watering during the dry times. And the weeding all the time! Our garden is very fortunate to have a well for watering. During the long dry stretches of hot weather we are able to keep the veggies growing as long as we can keep pumping and carrying water.
The various partnerships that come together to make this garden thrive are a testament to the ability of communities to work together for common goals and the common good.
Marcia Hamm Wiebe, Master Gardener
Marcia works at the Samaritan House Resource Centre where she coordinates the food bank.