Community garden helps immigrants plant roots
Yun-tae Kim takes three buses to reach the community garden where she grows her vegetables.
She sells some of the produce to buy yarn to knit the garments she’ll give to charities.
The community garden she works at near W.P. Wagner High School is run by the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (SAGE).
The group started its Urban Farming Project this March to encourage social interaction among isolated immigrants.
SAGE now has four community gardens and is seeking a central location to help reduce travel times.
Joung-soon Lee also takes three buses — but prefers that to staying home alone. “Here, I can meet others and do work. That’s really good,” she said.
“I have met people from different communities,” said Hee-joo Kim.
She has lived in Canada since 1990, but until she came to the community garden, she said, “I had no opportunity to min- gle with mainstream people.”
The three Korean-Canadian women all attend English language programs through SAGE. They spoke to The Journal through an interpreter.
Asked how growing conditions here compare to those in Korea, Lee said: “Korea has better weather.”
“But here, the soil is rich,” Hee-joo Kim said. “Korean bok choy grows best.”
Their fastest-growing crop is sesame, from which they can harvest the leaves three times in one season.
“Next year they’ll have four harvests,” said Soon-il Kwon of Multicultural Health Brokers, which helps with the project.
Alsita Sorasio, who arrived from Argentina four years ago, grows potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions, lettuce, beans, squash, spinach and radishes in the Park West community garden.
She also practises her English, speak- ing with Maureen Elhatton, SAGE’s urban farming manager. “And I practise my Spanish,” Elhatton said.
“The program, for me, is good,” Sorasio said. “I live in an apartment. I have no soil.” The SAGE Urban Farming project has given seniors an opportunity for satisfying, useful activity, and has helped them meet members of other immigrant communities, Elhatton said.
The group is looking for a central garden, she said.
Several homeowners have offered their backyard gardens, but Elhatton hopes a business, government department or social agency will lend them a larger tract, suitable for several users.
SAGE needs 3,000 square feet with access to transit and water — for which they would pay — to help more immigrants plant roots in our community.
Hee-Joo Kim, Joung-Soon Lee, Yun-tae Kim and Elsita Sorsio hold bundles of swiss chard they just picked from their community garden plot.