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Community Garden Celebrates 10 Years

November 22, 2023
Photo: John Calvin Christian Reformed Church

Glenwood Drive Community Garden in Truro, N.S., began with a dream and what one member of John Calvin Christian Reformed Church described as “an empty, soggy field” behind the church building.

Ten years later the land is providing over 30 families with garden plots, along with the benefits of fresh produce, time spent outside, and a sense of community. Today, says Karla Winham in a video about the garden’s tenth anniversary, “The Glenwood Drive Community Garden is a community that shares and gives back. A place to try new things and learn about the natural world. And most of all a community that grows beautiful friendships.”

The vision for the garden was and remains to provide “a place of beauty, fellowship, and peace for growing, learning, eating, and having fun,” states the John Calvin CRC website. By sharing the space, church members hoped to connect with the community around them and to model environmental stewardship.

They explored the feasibility of the idea by growing a test garden in 2011, and they quickly learned that the space needed better drainage and a proper deer fence. During the next two years volunteers from the church prepared the land, cleaned up garbage, and presented their vision to the wider community through farmers’ markets and local agricultural and conservation groups.

In 2013 Glenwood Drive Community Garden opened to the public, with garden plots for about a dozen people. The next year a grant from the Christian Reformed Church in North America allowed the church to expand the garden and add a greenhouse and garden shed, a pumpkin patch, and some raised beds for better accessibility.

In the following years, with help from other grants, fundraisers, and in-kind donations from local organizations, the garden crew added a rainwater irrigation system, gravel walks between garden plots, a butterfly garden, and more raised garden beds.

In Glenwood Drive Community Garden today, the nearly 50 10-by-10-foot garden plots are available to any members of the community for a yearly fee of $20 per plot. Gardeners are expected to follow written guidelines and rules about keeping weeds down, harvesting only from their own plot, sharing excess produce instead of composting it, using organic gardening methods, and participating in spring and fall work parties to set up and winterize the garden.

Grace is given for gardeners of varying abilities, and training is available on topics from pest and weed control to canning and preserving. To ensure optimal use of the land, gardeners agree to begin planting their plot before July 1 or to forfeit it to another gardener on the waiting list.

The church’s hope of connecting with the community through the garden project has been a success: most of the gardeners maintaining plots in Glenwood Drive Community Garden are not members of John Calvin CRC.

Garden coordinator Lia Alkema noted that this year two Ukrainian families new to Canada joined the community garden and expressed appreciation for the opportunities it gave them to find community.

“They were there for most of our volunteer workdays and were always willing to lend a helping hand,” she added.

The community garden project has also given confidence and a missional outlet to members of John Calvin CRC who have engaged in it. Another benefit, said Winham, is the church’s growing connectedness to other churches in the area, and its engagement in wider local discussions such as affordable housing and food security. The community garden “has made us a player on the Christian community ‘team,’” she explained.

Since establishing Glenwood Drive Community Garden, John Calvin CRC has begun other projects that show care for the community, including housing a daycare and regularly hosting community groups.

And in 2020 the congregation reached out to provide a COVID-19 grant from World Renew and Diaconal Ministries Canada, expertise, and seedlings to help a community near Halifax start their own community garden.

While expanding ecumenical ties is a work in progress, Winham said, members are proud of the garden and the connection it brings. “From its small beginnings, the Glenwood Drive Community Garden has grown into a community of its own, held together by a love of gardening and a passion for fresh food,” she said.