Community garden plans take another step forward

Duane Hicks

The process to start a community garden in the north end of town has taken another step forward.
But while organizers say it’s too late to start growing this year, there still is plenty of work to do to get ready for next spring.
A public meeting was held Monday night, as part of the regular council meeting, regarding a temporary use bylaw to allow for town property located at Elizabeth Street West and Lillie Avenue to be used as a community garden.
Council will vote on the bylaw at its next meeting (Aug. 9).
Becky Holden, acting chair of the “Community Garden Team,” said that assuming the group gets approval to work the property, they will get started this fall.
“There’s a lot of work just to get it ready to plant,“ she explained. “It means we have to bring some soil in . . . I think we’ll be looking at building some plots and just getting the property ready.
“There’s going to be land maintenance before we have something that looks like a garden,” she stressed.
Then in early spring, the team will start promoting the garden to local residents, outlining what it is and how they can use it.
Holden said the basic idea of the community garden, in which a limited number of residents will be able to plant and grow vegetables, is to enable people to have access to healthy, affordable food.
“As well, there’s lot of gaps in knowledge for skills in gardening, so we really want to be able to provide people with skills so they are able to have their own gardens,” she added.
“The community garden is a great place to start gardening because there will be support to maintain, prepare, and plant.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn about gardening,” she enthused.
Holden noted it also is a great family activity—a good thing people can do with their children.
“It provides education about where your food comes from and how it gets to our plate,” she remarked.
“We also wants to encourage families not only to eat meals together, but to prepare meals together.”
Holden thinks a community garden has a lot of potential, and that organizers definitely recognize there’s a need for it in Fort Frances based on rising food costs.
“It’s really important to sustain ourselves and be able to get food without having to rely on grocery stores or it being shipped in from far away. . . .
“We can be a more sustainable community if we have food,” she reasoned.
Gardening also can be a good hobby since it requires people to get outside and get active, Holden added.
The “Community Garden Team” consists of representatives from the Northwestern Health Unit, Northern Community Development Services, Sunset Country Métis, United Native Friendship Centre, Rainy River District Social Services Administration Services, and local gardeners.
But Holden said they’re always looking for additional support and volunteers, whether it’s in-kind donations or gardening expertise.
“Our doors are always open,” she stressed. “If anybody wants more information, they can contact me.
“We’re always happy to have more people on a planning team,” said Holden, who can be contacted at the Northwestern Health Unit office here (274-9827).
“Come spring, it’s really going to be a community project,” she explained. “It’s up to people who want plots to come out and let us know they want them.
“We’ll be there to help people, but the garden’s only going to get planted if community members are wanting it,” she reiterated.
Holden said the Town of Fort Frances is providing a “huge in-kind” donation to the project by providing the property, as well as covering the legal costs for the garden’s liability waiver.
“The Town of Fort Frances, it’s good they’ve taken this opportunity to partner with us and recognize the need for a community garden,” she remarked.
“It’s helpful they’re providing us with [the] property.
“I am really excited with the location,” she added. “The process that we’re going through, although lengthy, will be advantageous to us in the end.
“Although it took a little longer than we were hoping, it will let us use the land a little bit longer, I think.”
The land will be used for a “trial run” to ensure no adverse affects, and thus the temporary use bylaw as opposed to a permanent rezoning.
Use of the property is subject to terms and conditions, such as the property is to be clean and well-kept, the garden shall be developed at no cost to the town, no activity shall occur after dark, vegetables from the garden shall not be sold from the property or any other location, and no pesticides shall be used, among many others.
The second item addressed at Monday night’s public meeting was a zoning bylaw amendment at 990 Scott St. (Community Living Fort Frances and District) to permit residential use.
According to a preliminary planning report, the proposal is to re-purpose the property and utilize an area once used as an office for residential use, serving as appropriate housing with support for people who may not otherwise be in a position to live independently.
The bylaw relevant to this amendment also will be voted on at council’s Aug. 9 meeting.