In this pilot year for the Community Gardens Project the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve (RMBR) is working in conjunction with the Erickson, Sandy Lake, Onanole and area Service to Seniors to establish a senior friendly garden area. The garden has been created on an underutilized lot adjacent to the RMBR office in Erickson. This will put the yard site to great use to help provide residents in our communities with fresh nutritious produce and to bring seniors together in an outdoor activity that is helping to build a strong and vibrant community. The long term goal of this project will be to establish senior friendly community gardens throughout all the communities of the RMBR.
The garden boxes were built on site using a local craftsman and were created to be senior and wheelchair or scooter friendly for those with mobility challenges.
Local contractors helped to fill the garden boxes with drainage material and soil.
The gardens boxes have been planted – now to watch them grow!
Community Garden Grows More Than Just Plants: Erickson’s new raised beds also promote social interaction and well being.
by Candy Irwin
The Town of Erickson has its’ first community garden! The newly constructed garden plots are located at the Riding Mountain Biosphere Reserve (RMBR) Office at 61-2nd Street N.E., close to Erickson Collegiate Institute (ECI). Happily, the provincial ‘New Horizons For Seniors’ grant, jointly applied for by Services To Seniors and the RMBR, ticked all the required boxes, particularly “engaging seniors within the community and fostering community participation.” This resulted in a $19,500 grant to help cover the cost of the project.
The first phase of the community garden is 10 raised-bed boxes that are 12 feet in length, 4 feet wide and 28 inches in height. This design is so that each area of the garden can be accessed without treading on it. And, most importantly, planting, maintenance and harvesting can be accomplished within easy reach and without too much bending, which may be difficult for some.
Five of the boxes are already spoken for, but 5 more are available for individuals, couples or families to ‘get growing.’ If the plots are successful and well-utilized, 10 more boxes are on the wish list. The use of a plot is without charge to those who apply. It is requested, however, that 10% of the produce be donated to a local food bank for the benefit of those in need.
There are well-proven economic, nutritional, social and ecological benefits harvested from an investment in community gardens. The most obvious benefit is that growing your own produce saves you money, not only at the grocery store, but in the cost of fuel, if you think about it. And, what could be more nutritious and satisfying than growing and healthily preparing your own fresh food – from the plant to your dinner plate in a flash!
The social benefits are surprising. Gardening has, traditionally, been part of the rural life-style. But when a senior moves into more manageable housing, that part of their culture is lost. In a community garden, people will be able to continue that aspect of their lives, while socializing and sharing information about gardening with others.
Not only does gardening become a venue for healthy exercise, it provides an opportunity for satisfying labour, the results of which can be lip-smackingly enjoyed! I wonder how many friendships have been formed or re-kindled in a community garden? And, who frowns when they’re digging in rich, fragrant soil, unless it’s to wonder what pesky insect has been snacking on their beans?
Part of the plan for the Erickson Community Garden is to involve the ECI Horticulture Class, so it will be wonderful to see seniors and students working together towards a common goal.
Ecologically, plants put oxygen into the air, which benefits us all and green spaces beautify and make our neighbourhoods more welcoming. Community gardens attract visitors, too.
Gardeners feel connected to the earth and to the seasons and will often extend their interest to composting and collecting rainwater.