Ur­ban gar­den­ers notch an­other har­vest record

Out­put rises by 3,800 pounds while num­ber of vol­un­teers also in­creases

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY+REGION - MOR­GAN MODJESKI mmod­jeski@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/_Mor­ganMod­jeski

The amount of food pro­duced at the Saska­toon Food Bank and Learn­ing Cen­tre’s ur­ban gar­den is go­ing through a growth spurt as 2018 was the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive record year for the ur­ban agri­cul­ture project.

The 2018 sea­son saw a to­tal har­vest of 21,720 pounds, an in­crease of more than 3,800 lbs. when com­pared to the record set the pre­vi­ous year in 2017 of 17,824 lbs. of food.

The record-break­ing har­vest came as some­what of a sur­prise for the food bank’s ur­ban agri­cul­ture pro­gram man­ager, Adrian Werner, as the gar­den had a short and dry grow­ing sea­son.

The pro­duce is used to help fill the food bank’s emer­gency food bas­kets.

“It re­ally al­lows us to say that we’ve ar­rived,” he said, “that we have fig­ured out how to do these projects in ways that are vi­able.”

Werner said the main fo­cus of the gar­den patch has al­ways been demon­stra­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and pro­duc­tion — and this year’s record yield demon­strates how a vol­un­teer-driven com­mu­nity gar­den can pro­duce mar­ket-gar­den level yields.

Along­side see­ing a jump in the amount of food pro­duced, Werner said 2018 was a record year for the num­ber of vol­un­teer hours ex­e­cuted at the gar­den patch, jump­ing to roughly 3,829 hours com­pared the pre­vi­ous record set in 2017 of about 2,983 hours.

“Peo­ple know that the gar­den patch is a great place to vol­un­teer,” Werner said, as it’s also a place where peo­ple can get work ex­pe­ri­ence or even a ref­er­ence.

“It cre­ates a com­mu­nity that peo­ple want to spend time at and we’ve re­ally reaped the ben­e­fit over years of in­vest­ing in our vol­un­teers.”

Yvonne Han­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of CHEP Good Food Inc., said while the work the food bank gar­den patch is do­ing is im­por­tant, she feels there needs to be more “ac­cess points” in a com­mu­nity where peo­ple are able to get healthy food, as ris­ing food prices can put a strain on a city’s most vul­ner­a­ble.

“The food bank and the fact that they have had a bumper crop is great, but it is a stop-gap mea­sure. We have to still think of it as a food bank,” she said.

“So … out­side of think­ing of a food bank, how are we ac­tu­ally try­ing to pro­mote healthy eat­ing within our com­mu­nity at large, es­pe­cially for peo­ple who are vul­ner­a­ble — peo­ple who are low in­come. How can we make it so that food is al­ways ac­ces­si­ble, affordable and healthy?”

Han­son said more peo­ple are re­al­iz­ing the ben­e­fits of hav­ing con­trol over their food sys­tem, as there is a “huge, long wait­ing list” for peo­ple who want to grow their own food.

“Peo­ple rec­og­nize the value of good food and they also rec­og­nize that it feels pretty good to be able to have con­trol over your own food sys­tem and know what goes into your food — into the pro­duc­tion of it,” she said.

Han­son said the end goal should be to en­sure ev­ery­body has con­trol over their food.

“Un­for­tu­nately, we’re liv­ing in a place in a so­ci­ety where there is a dis­crep­ancy of those that have and those that don’t, and the folks that don’t, we can’t leave them go­ing hun­gry, so we have to re­spond some­how,” she said. “At the end of the day, what we should be shoot­ing for is that ev­ery­body has au­ton­omy over their own food sys­tem.”

MATT OL­SON

Adrian Werner, the ur­ban agri­cul­ture man­ager with the Saska­toon Food Bank, sur­veys the Food Bank’s gar­den patch in down­town Saska­toon ear­lier this week af­ter the veg­eta­bles were har­vested.

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