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Ecole secondaire Hanmer students Stefany Lemieux, 17, left, Sarah Poulin, 15, and Abby Lafave, 14, spread soil over cardboard for an edible forest garden last year. The City of Greater Sudbury is now promoting the creation of vegetable gardens at homes across the city with the free delivery of topsoil. The goal is to have residents share a portion of their harvest with others.

John Lappa/Sudbury Star

The city could be a whole lot greener in the months to come.

City council voted Tuesday to approve a one-time disbursement of HCI funds that will enable Sudburians to cultivate their neighbourhoods while staying active during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Garden soil will be delivered free of charge throughout the month of May to 25 residences in each of Greater Sudbury’s 12 wards. Residents may choose soil for a 10 x 10-foot garden or a 5 x 5-foot plot.  

The idea, coined the Home Garden project, is offered by the Sudbury Community Garden Network, Sudbury Shared Harvest and the Sudbury Food Bank in partnership with the Greater Sudbury Food Policy Council, the City of Greater Sudbury and local businesses. 

The goal is to create 300 new vegetable gardens at homes across the city — as many as 25 new gardens per ward. Residents are encouraged to share a portion of their harvest with others.

“We have been working to improve food security in Sudbury for a number of years now,” said Carrie Regenstreif, executive director of Sudbury Shared Harvest. “Giving people the tools and encouraging people to learn to grow their own food at home has always been a big part of that.”

The pandemic has“made it more obvious that depending on food that is transported from thousands of miles away is risky,” said Regenstreif, while noting this “has always been the case.”

Sudbury Shared Harvest is also providing free webinars in collaboration with the library, “because we wanted to offer something that is available to everyone,” Regenstreif added.

Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland, Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer and Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh introduced the motion jointly. In it, they asked “that the City of Greater Sudbury direct that a one-time grant in the amount of $30,000 be awarded to the Sudbury Food Bank from the Healthy Community Initiatives fund to support the Cultivate Your Neighbourhood program.” 

They recommended that $2,500 be withdrawn from each ward’s HCI allotment to cover the $30,000 cost of the program.  

As McIntosh pointed out, this is an eco-friendly program that aims to introduce neophyte gardeners to the joys of growing their own food. It is not intended for seasoned gardeners, but would be especially beneficial to those who may have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus. The goal is to get seeds in the ground by the new moon in early June, McIntosh said. 

This initiative aims to promote food security and encourage physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also strives “to provide residents with the means to contribute to community wellness and an activity to improve mental and physical well-being; increase food security across the city by engaging more neighbourhood and home gardening; provide fresh food to local food banks and meal providers; and increase gardening interest and skills among diverse vulnerable, newly economically-challenged populations as a result of COVID-19.”

As McCausland said, many of the events that were meant to take place throughout the wards will not happen this year because of the pandemic, so the money that was earmarked for those happenings has become available. 

“Gardening is a safe and healthy activity that people can do across the city,” he said. “Part of what I was thinking was that this is a great way to find new direction for some of those funds, which will provide a great outlet for the community.” 

Residents are encouraged to get their hands dirty. Those who are new to gardening can benefit from the project by picking up free seeds in several locations in Greater Sudbury, and learning how to grow vegetables and herbs using online resources and webinars. 

“Many community partners have been collaborating to offer Cultivate Your Neighbourhood programs for a number of years, including projects to enhance community gardens and involve primary school children at the gardens,” Colleen Zilio, chair of the Sudbury Community Garden Network, said. “This year, we want to help people start their own home gardens so they can grow food and discover the joy of gardening. This project is for residents who do not already have a vegetable garden and is especially beneficial for those who are temporarily unemployed during the pandemic. Gardening is great for physical and mental health, and community wellness.”

Councillors were overwhelmingly supportive of the motion and McCausland, Sizer and McIntosh received unanimous support. 

“In Ward 12 we know first-hand the value of community gardens,” Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann said. “Community gardens were first installed at Louie Street in 2010. Through that came community participation that was unprecedented. … Now, with the situation being so dire, we can only imagine how valuable these gardens are going to be.”

The Sudbury Community Garden Network has free seeds and seedlings available for pick-up at various locations. You can also learn to grow your own garden at sudburycommunitygardens.ca/cultivate. 

To register for free soil, visit sudburycommunitygardens.ca/soil. Participation in the program is first come, first served.

Local businesses and volunteers who would like to support this non-profit initiative are most welcome and appreciated. Please call and leave a message at 705-674-4455 ext. 4236 to donate or volunteer.

mkkeown@postmedia.com

City funds veggie gardens across wards
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