With the help Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) summer students Morgan Vance and Thomas Brine, berry patches were installed at four community gardens in Cumberland County over the summer. Berry patches, ranging in size from 8 to 24 bushes, were planted at the Springhill Community Garden, the Parrsboro Community Garden, the Amherst Community Garden, and the Joggins Fossil Institute (JFI).
A variety of fruit shrubs, including high-bush blueberry, currant, and hascap bushes were planted. In Springhill, where vandalism has been an issue at the community garden, a perimeter of “picky bushes” was planted, to help form a natural fence around the garden. A mixture of raspberries, quince and gooseberry bushes were used for this exclosure. A tiny rhubarb patch was also added at the Springhill garden. All of our plant stock was locally-sourced through Coastal Gardens (Pugwash, NS: https://www.facebook.com/coastalgardenspugwash).
Our hope is that once the berry patches are well-established, they will provide a source of food for community gardeners and for supplying food skills workshops, such as jam making. One of my colleagues on the EAC Food Team, Satya, refers to jam-making as the “gateway” to food preservation. She also suggested we might try dehydrating the fruit and making fruit leathers as a healthier alternative to jam. The hascap bushes that were planted last summer in Springhill, produced an abundance of fruit after just one year and that community is using them for a jam making workshop. They are thinking of substituting sugar with stevia as an experiment in making a healthier fruit spread, which will make my food team mate happy!
The Youth Conservation Corps (http://clean.ns.ca/programs/youth-engagement/nova-scotia-youth-conservation-corps-2/), is a youth employment program run by the Clean Foundation of Nova Scotia. The highly successful program has been in existence for over a decade, providing youth across the province with meaningful environmental work experience.
Thomas and Morgan were employed through a partnership with the Joggins Fossil Institute (JFI) (http://jogginsfossilcliffs.net/) and based at the Centre, where they primarily supported green landscaping and community food projects at the JFI including planting and maintaining a Chef’s Garden, a large pollinator garden, and a Children’s Learning Garden which serves the local summer day camp children.
Above: Thomas and Morgan planting berry patch at the JFI
Both students reported that they felt they learned a lot about green landscaping and gardening as a result of their summer experience. When asked what was their most valuable learning, both stressed that continual care is required for plants to thrive. “Plants, such as the berry bushes we planted, need to be nurtured, which amounts to a lot of weeding and watering, especially over the dry, hot summer”. They also commented that they enjoyed working with local children at the Learning Garden and that the biggest accomplishment to them was the feeling of pride for having contributed to the betterment of so many gardens throughout the community.
Above: Berry patch installation at the Amherst Community Garden
Below: Small berry patch planted at the Parrsboro Community Garden
Many thanks go out to both Thomas and Morgan for their hard work over the summer, as well as to the Joggins Fossil Institute for the support they gave to the students and for partnering with the Our Food Project on hiring them. Finally, a huge thanks is due to the Clean Foundation of NS, for operating such a great and beneficial program. Without the Youth Conservation Corps program the Joggins/River Hebert area, which is extremely impoverished, would have very few summer employment opportunities for our local youth. This year the Foundation employed over 50 youth across the province in environment-related work. Congrats to all!
Blog by Su Morin, Community Food Coordinator – Our Food Project, Cumberland