by Ann St Arnaud
Somewhere, deep in the womb of Sun Youth Organization, are the growing seeds of a (hopefully) fruitful summer.
For many years, we have been cultivating our own vegetable seedlings indoors, which are to be tended to by our campers this summer. Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, rosemary and thyme — we cultivate a wide variety of plants to nurture the curiosity of our children.
One of the many activites offered in our summer day camp, gardening teaches campers about healthy food habits, the origin of food, environmental issues and problems related to food waste. The gardening workshops are given every week by an animator from Sentier Urbain. Part of the vegetables campers grow goes to preparing their meals while the rest is given to Sun Youth’s food bank.
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Because food security is an important issue, we wanted to be able to offer fresh produce to families visiting our food bank. In 2014 with the financial support of Foresters Financial and their volunteers, we implemented our own community vegetable garden on the grounds of our warehouse. Not only did Foresters supply all the hardware used in building the gardening beds, they supplied the soil, the seeds and the plants that grow in the garden every summer.
Foresters Financial has continued to support the garden with new additions including: an irrigation system, a lettuce wall, a support structure for the gardeners to enjoy shade while working, the addition of grape vines, small fruit trees and asparagus. Through this initiative, we were able to produce close to 2000 pounds of vegetables for the beneficiaries of our food bank. Families receiving food assistance contribute on a volunteer basis by taking part in maintaining the garden.
Urban agriculture has its charm but also its challenges. We’ve had to find ways to curb the enthusiasm of the urban jungle towards our gardens: groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and insects have proven fierce contenders for Mother Nature’s fruits. Aside from the help of an unexpected friend, a sparrowhawk, we have been lucky enough to count on the reliable support the city of Montreal and the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation in our endeavours.
Sentier Urbain is an organization promoting social environmentalism. Visit their web site sentierurbain.org. Foresters Financial offers volunteering opportunities to its members.