Despite having a challenging growing season this year here in Cumberland County, our local farms and community gardens are doing really well. With above normal temperatures and a drought to boot, some farmers were very worried about their wells running dry, but I have not heard of that actually happening thankfully. While farmers and gardeners had their hands full with irrigating, on the plus side, there was less weeding to do than in wetter years, and very few mosquitoes! I also attribute not getting tomato blight for the first year in a long time to the dry spell.
In Springhill, all twenty raised beds at the community garden were in use this summer, including 3 senior’s beds and a children’s summer camp plot. The garden also has a communal herb garden, berry and potato patches, as well as a beautiful pollinator garden. A small medicine garden was also added this summer. Gardeners got together in August for a potluck picnic, which was organized by our fabulous summer student / nutrition intern, Rene. A good time was had by all and everyone tried to bring a dish using something from their own garden, or locally grown…so a lovely kale salad, fresh cukes in tzatziki sauce, fresh blueberries, and zucchini bread were just a few of the yummy dishes on the menu.
Above: Karen from Maggie’s Place shows off her kale salad at the Springhill Community Garden picnic
Above: Bumble bee on catnip plant in the newly established medicine garden at the Springhill Garden
Gardens at the Joggins Fossil Institute (http://jogginsfossilcliffs.net/), are also doing well this year. The Children’s Learning Garden, now in its 4th year, provides garden programming to children attending summer day camp. For most of the children, this is their first experience with gardening and they seem to absolutely love it, especially watering the garden with sprinkly cans. This year, the children planted rainbow carrots, sunflowers, and 4 different varieties of heirloom beans. Some of the beans will be eaten, but most are being saved and will be used in local seed exchanges and to plant again next year. This is a unique partnership with Seeds of Diversity Canada which helps preserve rare local varieties of bean seed. One such seed is the “Saturday Night Baked Bean”, a white navy bean which has been handed down from local 87 year old master gardener Hope Harrison of Lower Maccan (below). Currently, Hope’s bean seed is being grown out at Side By Each Farm for induction into the Regional Seed Bank, located in Truro. http://www.dal.ca/news/2014/10/21/saving-seeds–atlantic-canada-s-first-regional-seed-bank-finds-i.html
Above: Hope Harrison, holding a jar of “Saturday Night Baked Beans”, a bean seed that will soon be inducted into the Atlantic Regional Seed Bank.
Speaking of seeds, I attended the first local seed saving workshop of the season at Side By Each Farm on Saturday (https://www.facebook.com/sidebyeachfarm/). Though it was a small turnout, the weather was great and the group enjoyed harvesting a variety of seeds around the farm and learning tips from farmer Del about how to dry, clean and store seeds. Silvana Castillo, (pictured below) owner of the sole seed company in Cumberland County, La Finquita (http://www.lafinquita.ca/), was on hand for the workshop.
A new community garden has popped up in Wentworth. A group of volunteers (pictured below), built three raised beds at the local elementary school, which was recently purchased by the town. The plan is to turn the old school into a rec. centre and to expand the community gardening program in the future. This makes a total of 9 community gardens spread throughout the county now…one in almost every community in Cumberland!
An 8 x 16 ft. greenhouse was erected over the summer at the Cyrus Eaton Elementary School in Pugwash. To get things started in the new greenhouse, the grade 2 class has planted some greens and herbs with seed donated by La Finquita Seed Co., in the hopes of having enough to taste test and to make some simple herb salad dressings to sell as a school fundraiser to raise money for their “Local Christmas Dinner”. The grade 6 class has paired up students to help water seedlings and to maintain the greenhouse on a daily basis. This project was headed up by local food champion Jennifer Houghtaling, whose passion and dedication toward getting nutritious local food into the school has inspired us all.
The Amherst Community Garden has a large pumpkin patch this year, thanks to local youth from the Schools Plus afterschool program (https://schoolsplus.ednet.ns.ca/sites/default/files/Final%20ASP%20Pamphlet.pdf).The group is contemplating starting up an urban potato farm at the garden next year. The idea would be to turn a portion of the garden into a social enterprise and to sell the organic “eco-taters” through the local food store in town (https://www.manasseh.ca/).
The Cost-Share CSA is going very well, with over 20 families subscribed. This project connects low-income families directly with local farms for a weekly fresh food box for half price. Thanks to a small grant from the Public Service Agency of Canada, we were able to supply a few fully subsidized food boxes to a local senior’s residence this summer. The recipients were so pleased with their weekly food boxes and did their best to share recipes and any extra produce they had with others. We are hoping to raise enough money to continue some full subsidies to low income families or seniors on fixed incomes again next year. To learn how you can help support this innovative program, see: https://ecologyaction.ca/costshareCSA
Above: Jocelyn and Marcus show off their local Cost-Share veggie box!
In other exciting news, the Cumberland Food Action Network (CFAN) is planning its first ever AGM. The group incorporated just over a year ago as part of a formalization process, and to help access funding to do the great community food work they do in the County. This small but mighty group, relatively new on the local food scene, has big plans in the coming months, including sponsoring farm-to-school events, a local community radio food show, and much more. Check out the CFAN website at: http://cumberlandfoodactionnetwork.ca/
Blog Written By: Su Morin, Ecology Action Centre, Community Food Coordinator – Cumberland County.
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