Part of the story is in the final numbers: 260 pounds of tomatoes, 300 pounds of carrots, 900 cobs of corn and 150 peppers. The other part is noting that this impressive haul of produce came thanks to the work of a group of volunteers who took an empty lot and turned it into Outlook’s first Community Garden.
Two local citizens, with a wealth of experience in food production, spearheaded a committee that undertook the effort. Connie Achtymichuk, Provincial Specialist, Vegetable Crops; and Garth Weiterman, Professional Agrologist, Water & Soils Specialist, and farmer; chaired the initial meetings to gauge public interest and begin gathering input and ideas.
Weiterman looked at possible locations and Achtymichuk researched models used in other places. An offer of a site by Barrie Spigott gave the garden a location at 311 Selkirk Street, and the decision was made to grow vegetables collectively for distribution in large part through the food bank.
Before anything could be planted, a great deal of site preparation was undertaken by Spigott, Weiterman and Glen Annand as they hauled dirt, sprayed, rototilled, spread fertilizer, and picked rocks and roots.
With the garden plot ready to go, a call was put out to volunteers and on May 23 there were 11 people who gathered to plant corn and carrots. The following week Connie & Ken Achtymichuk transplanted tomato plants.
Weiterman and Achytmichuk spent many hours carefully watering and tending the garden, as well as speaking to local businesses and the Town of Outlook about various needs the project had. Riverbend Coop and Outlook Rentals offered panels to fence the area, and the Town installed a separate water meter off the house located next door to the garden.
As the growing season progressed volunteers continued to water, weed and hoe what was shaping up to be a bountiful garden. Donations of tools from community residents were gratefully accepted, and the work continued including transplanting corn to fill in some gaps, general clean-up of the lot, mowing grass and careful care and watering of the plants. Weiterman put in many hours on many different days working on a drip irrigation system, and along with Annand’s help and some donated parts from Richard’s Home Hardware, had the vast majority of the garden drip irrigated by the middle of July.
An eager group of people met to take the first harvest from the garden on August 20, the first of several weekly harvests that saw the delivery of carrots, tomatoes and peppers to the food bank for distribution. Entire families joined in on the efforts on some of these evenings, not only working in the garden, but also helping to deliver the produce to the food bank. Week after week the totals grew and it even allowed the group to take tomatoes and corn to Luther Place, Golden Acres and the High Rise. Weiterman remarked, “Amazing for about 4,200 square feet!”
With hundreds of pounds of vegetables distributed and the growing season at its end, it was time to remove and roll up all the drip and header lines, remove the fencing, and take stock of what was a very successful inaugural community garden. It would not have happened had it not been for the expertise and vision of Achtymichuk and Weiterman, along with the individuals, families and businesses that showed their support at each phase of the project. At the start of this endeavor Connie Achtymichuk remarked this was about more than just a garden. She said, “I have a passion for gardening and would love to see this happen here. This is not only about growing our own food. This is more about building community.”
Given the number of people who came together to make this happen, who volunteered time and talents, provided inputs, and sweat alongside each other in this common goal, it truly was a garden for--and by--the community.
Building on the success of its first season, the committee is in the planning stages for the 2020 Community Garden. They will be exploring additional initiatives with a possible expansion of the work that took place this year. An organizational meeting will be held Tuesday, February 18, 7:00 pm in the Fireside Room at Bethlehem Lutheran Church for anyone interested in being part of Outlook’s Community Garden.