Arts & Life

Community gardens offer more than a spot to grow food

Fresh from the garden takes on a whole new meaning when the produce on your plate has been reaped from your own little plot. However, for residents of apartments and condominiums, or those otherwise short of yard space, cultivating a garden may seem like a bit of an impossible dream.

If you have resigned yourself to tending a tiny plot of soil on your balcony, perhaps community gardening is your perfect solution. While it might be a bit late in the season to take up a new gardening project, it might be perfect timing to lay the groundwork for your own grow space in a community garden plot for 2016.

With over twenty years of experience, Riverview Garden Society President Rod Kueneman spoke to the short and long term benefits of community gardening. Kueneman is considered an expert in the field, and highly advocates in favor of this lifestyle.

Besides the obvious benefit of supplying his own fresh food, Kueneman said that he and the gardeners he has worked alongside over the years have formed their own little community. Through sharing work and experiences, the gardeners have become a family, and enjoy the deep and abiding bonds of friendship.

While community gardens are found throughout the city, most are not accessible to those with limited mobility. Riverview Gardens are, so seniors residing at or in care at Riverview Health Centre are able to take advantage of the outdoor activities involved with gardening.

West Broadway community garden. Photo from www.westbroadway.mb
West Broadway community garden. Photo from www.westbroadway.mb

Some of the benefits beyond having access to local, organic, fresh food are providing beauty and diversity to the community, and knowledge and skill transfer to the gardeners. Local community initiatives are a positive way to respond to the serious food quality and security issues that are a problem in our society, and are a way to help local communities become cohesive, prepare and become resilient in the face of the serious ecological, energy, and financial crises which are already unfolding.

Wayne Antony, community garden enthusiast, spent many years living in the country, and when he returned to the city he found that his passion for gardening required more space than a back yard could provide. In an effort to extend his growth potential, Antony joined the 120 strong community of gardeners at Riverview Gardens.

Antony fervently supports the idea of citizens supplementing their dining tables with home grown produce. He believes that working in the soil with plants and seeds has a huge therapeutic effect, by calming us and connecting us with the earth.

Gardening keeps the skills of growing food for ourselves alive, and takes it back from corporations whose interests lie in maximizing profit rather than providing safe and nutritious food. Gardening has a politicizing effect on everyone, and demonstrates that not everything in our lives should be controlled and duplicated by technology.

From the insights shared by Kueneman and Antony, we are able to derive a deep, direct, and meaningful connection to the Earth and the bounty that is ours to harvest. Through community gardens, we are able to join in with groups of likeminded people, sharing in the rewards of effort and reaping the gift of freshly grown produce.

When you layer in the health benefits of spending time out of doors and being active, gardening truly is an all-around rewarding venture.

Additionally, when your crops come in bumper, friends and neighbors alike will benefit from your excess of fall tomatoes and cucumbers! Another big plus is having the option to pickle and freeze excess veggies to sustain your family through our long Manitoba winters.

Garden plots are open from May through to October, giving gardeners many months with which to enjoy both the experience of gardening and the pleasure of filling their pantries. With multiple neighborhood locations to choose from, chances are strong that there is a community garden close to your home. Places like the West Broadway Community Organization, Elmwood Community Garden, Bishop Grandin Greenway, and St. Matthews Maryland Church all offer opportunities to get involved with community gardening.

Registration information and a full list of Community Gardens in Winnipeg is available on