Welcome to a Community Impact Story

Growing community, one plant at a time

According to George Bagaco, founder of Food for Life Canada, “No man, woman or child should have to go to bed hungry while stores, restaurants and other food suppliers are tossing food in our landfills.” The largest food recovery program in Halton Region, Food for Life also conducts outreach such as the new Applemead Program.  

Working with Forestview Community Church as an administrative partner, Applemead Co-operative Homes set out in 2011 to create an eco-friendly community garden with grants from the church and the Burlington Community Foundation.

Applemead’s community garden is profiled with others in Halton region

Applemead Co-operative members started to develop a community garden at the end of May 2011. According to Crystal McNerney, resident and Volunteer Community Resources Coordinator, “We had unused land available with access to water and members believed a community garden would provide us greater access to healthy food, help bring members of the community together, and offer us an opportunity to learn gardening skills from each other.”

Crystal shares, “We decided our community garden would consist of 19 gardens that are 20 feet by 4 feet. Each patch was used to grow one or two fruits or vegetables that were exchanged with the 20 families participating in the garden. The harvest was also distributed during our Food for Life program and shared among neighbours.”

“Participating members of the garden contributed funds and plants towards for the garden and our Co-op provided us with some soil.” Crystal says, “Then the hard work began. We rented a sod stripper to assist with preparing the garden beds. A tremendous number of rolls of sod were redistributed to many back and front yards in our Co-op.”

The children in the community worked hard to help sod the yards for people who could not do it themselves. Children also helped with adding soil and mushroom compost to the beds. They enjoyed helping with planting, watering and harvesting.

Member Lee Scott, believes the garden is one of the best things that ever happened to the community because it is bringing everyone closer together. “It is fantastic to see everyone from children to seniors so involved in the garden. Children and adults alike learned a lot, tried new foods and developed stronger relationships with their neighbours.”

The garden created new social and learning opportunities for the community as big screen movie nights were held in the garden and the Oakville Sustainable Food Partnership(OSFP) provided a canning workshop to help residents learn how to preserve the foods they had grown.

“The first time the members put the knowledge gained from the OSFP to the test,” Crystal recalls, “we successfully preserved 17L of spaghetti sauce and made 19 apple crisps. It was a fun and rewarding experience.”

Applemead’s first gardens yielded a wealth of produce, including: beans, bitter melons, broccoli, butternut lettuce, cabbages, cherry tomatoes, collard, eggplant, English cucumbers, kale, leeks and spinach.

“In the future, we hope to learn how to collect seeds and use them to start plants in the greenhouse we recently erected.” Crystal says, “More families are eager to get involved in the community garden so we are looking into the possibility of expanding the garden next year. We also hope to get an early start next year, box our garden beds and reduce our water costs through the use of cisterns.”

In November 2011, Applemead was among three successful community gardens that were highlighted in a special “Growing & Sharing – Community Gardens in Halton” presentation at Oakville Central Library.

“We are very grateful for all the help we received as our community garden would not have been possible without the knowledge and support we have received from the Burlington Community Foundation, Forestview Church OSFP and Sean James of Fernridge Landscaping.” Crystal shares, “We look forward to achieving new milestones with our community garden and welcome the opportunity to share our experience with others.”  

“The Applemead Community Garden is a great example of how generous donors are building community vitality.” Says Colleen Mulholland, Executive Director, Burlington Community Foundation, “It is inspiring to see how planting seeds and nurturing local produce can bring people together.”

More information on the Applemead’s Community Garden. Give now by contacting Colleen Mulholland at 905-639-0744 x222 or cmulholland@burlingtonfoundation.org. Discover our more than 55 funds created by local donors & fundholders or agencies that you can donate to through us directly, or by visiting Canada Helps.