Com­mu­nity gar­den helps im­mi­grants plant roots

Edmonton Journal - - CITY PLUS - RON CHALMERS

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.

CAN­DACE EL­LIOTT, THE JOUR­NAL

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.

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