Below is a column I wrote about starting a community garden in 2009 for Sun Media. Some wonderful memories in here and I'm sure a few spelling mistakes, too.
The veggies are in the ground.
In the depths of winter 2009 the idea for a community garden project sprung to life, most likely at Vino's wine bar in Port Hope where I had spent several weeks (or months) wrapping up a demanding hotel review with some help from my friend Quinn. I was briefly inundated with work, and he had just been laid off from mining in the Yukon. In between bouts of creative writing, we talked about what we’d do this summer, and how the slumping economy might affect us and others in the months to come. We also thought it would be great to have a backyard in which we could grow vegetables for the community, listen to tunes while we turn the Earth, and perhaps even lounge in a hammock.
Now that we’ve literally buried the idea, as of this past Monday, we’re not quite sure how we'll share the wealth. Outside of our original plan to give a portion of our veggies to those who've donated land and time, we wanted to make fresh produce available to those in need, and possibly even sell some on Saturday's at the Port Hope Farmer's Market, and to local restaurants that are interested in the 100 mile diet. Looking at our first planted plot and realizing that we have more than enough to feed the community, I asked the guys again, and more seriously this time, “What are we going to do with all this?”
Growing as you read, are two varieties of tomatoes, chard, broccoli, eggplant, butternut squash, zucchini, potatoes, jalapenos, cayenne and so many yellow peppers. Also in abundance are onions, which were delivered to our second plot on Elgin Street, after we realized there was simply not enough room in our Martha Street garden.
"We can sell some of it. It's an option," said Quinn. "Right now it's a project. The whole idea is to see what we can do." He added, "I don't want to say, 'Yeah, that we can do it.' I might get hungry."
I'm not a pepper fan, but I love spinach and the spinach we planted looked a little weak, not quite like Pop Eye, and the others are certain these little plants may not make it to the salad stage. So I made spinach my special project, something I’ll provide a little extra care for this summer. I've never been a big gardener - my experience amounts to a few tomatoes and cucumbers in a small backyard patch - and I certainly don’t pretend to know what I’m doing, but I’ve always liked the idea of growing a real vegetable garden. I’ve always thought it would be fun to make salsa and enter my concoction at the Port Hope Fall fair. That never happened, however, because of my chocolate lab puppy (at the time) who trampled on those dreams. Now we have Mila, the dog that hangs around our garden drooling on rocks, waiting to play a game of fetch.
"I like her, but she can't be stepping in the garden," I overheard Quinn or Rick talking about her. Being involved with a community garden project, I'm realizing, is much more than digging up the ground, and getting dirty - a strong coat of nail polish is a must. It's so much more. It's about fresh air and fresh ideas. It's about sharing. It's not only about being in the sun on a Monday afternoon, or listening to tunes and laughing, or realizing that with every Swiss chard in the ground is another leg squat less at the end of my day.
It was nice to see Connor and Andrea come out to take a piece of our land and turn it into a beautiful little herb garden. When they walked in, and began to dig, for the first time, it seemed like our garden project was really about community. While Andrea planted her seeds, Connor built a charming stone wall to separate their plot from the other veggies, and give it their own signature look.
"We've only been here an hour and now we have a little garden with chives in it," Andrea said before scheming out a spot for some rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, dill and cilantro. Save for a couple of equipment failures and our only source music coming from Rick's red cavalier, I do believe it'll be a savoury summer in Port Hope this year.