This morning the Province announced that allotment gardens and community gardens will be allowed to continue this year.
The gardens had been included in earlier restrictions that prohibit use of parks and other recreational amenities to help stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
A media release issued by the Province today said that the “gardens are an essential source of fresh food for some individuals and families, including those who face food insecurity.”
In a conversation with Huntsville Doppler on April 24, Kim Scott, who organizes the Klahanie Community Garden in River Mill Park, said that while the garden can be an important source of fresh food for people with food insecurity or those who live in apartments and don’t have the space for a garden, they provide more than that.
“I do believe we need to stay in place as much as possible [during this pandemic],” said Scott. “That being said, we also need to get out and walk and exercise and be mentally healthy. And for a lot of people that means getting your hands dirty and being in the garden. Although the garden plots are small and you’re not going to cure food insecurity you will get a little bit of food from your plot and you will get a lot of mental and physical security.”
Six weeks ago, she had encouraged users of the garden’s 24 plots to plant their seeds indoors, both as preparation in case the garden would be permitted to operate and also for the hope it provides.
“If you know that you’re going to have a garden plot, you’re going to start, I think, being more joyous and hopeful that better things are going to happen even if you’re not in the garden today,” she said. “It’s a sign of a hopeful future.”
There are a few garden plots available for this year for people living in apartments or a rental situation where a garden is not permitted. Anyone interested can email Kim Scott at email@example.com.
Scott had written a letter of support for a motion presented to District Council on April 20, recommending that council ask the Province to include community gardens, garden centres and nurseries on its list of essential services. According to Deputy Mayor Nancy Alcock, who also sits on District Council, the motion passed unanimously. Huntsville’s Town Council had a similar motion on their agenda for their electronic meeting this Wednesday.
“Community gardening isn’t just for fun, it’s an essential service. It’s essential for those that do it for mental health, physical health, too…they are producing food not only for themselves but also food for, in a number of cases, our not-for-profits like The Table,” said Alcock. “Right now more than ever they should be open. They just are so much an essential service now more than ever.”
She concurred with Scott that they are also important for well-being. “We know that mental health issues are increasing during the pandemic. People are being asked to stay inside. It’s hard on a lot of people. And food security issues are really being highlighted in the pandemic.”
Alcock said that, in her mind, community gardens and a general desire to turn to gardening right now are also symbolic of larger food-related issues. “If you think back to the Second World War and everybody, because of food rations, had victory gardens…So many of our seniors have gardens because they recall. On so many different levels the community gardens are incredibly important and also essential.”
In addition to providing support for some food banks, at least one community garden also supports healthy eating in a healthcare setting.
Community Living Huntsville’s (CLH) community garden provides fresh produce to Huntsville Hospital.
“Community Living Huntsville is always amazed at the generosity of the community and the community garden allows us to give back to the community,” said Suzanne Willett, executive director at CLH.
It’s also an opportunity for all abilities of gardeners to connect, she said, adding that with the pandemic, “The safety of the people we support and ourselves are of the utmost importance. [Operation of the garden this spring] would all depend on the direction we are getting from the health unit—we would follow those best practices.”
In the coming days, local medical officers of health will provide information to the gardens on how they can operate safely, including physical distancing and cleaning and disinfecting of shared equipment and surfaces.
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