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Seeds planted, big dreams growing at Nelson greenhouses

SEEDS volunteer Joanne Emily helps a group of Grade 3 students from Hume School plant radishes. The 12 pots of radishes planted at the Lakeside park greenhouse in early December will be harvested in March. - Kirsten Hildebrand photo
SEEDS volunteer Joanne Emily helps a group of Grade 3 students from Hume School plant radishes. The 12 pots of radishes planted at the Lakeside park greenhouse in early December will be harvested in March.
— image credit: Kirsten Hildebrand photo

More than seeds in soil, ideas are sprouting in the greenhouses at Lakeside Park.

SEEDS (Seniors Environment Development Society) is a vital group of seniors who see great promise in growing food together, says program coordinator Lee Reid.

“There’s a tremendous amount of potential,” says Reid. “We felt like we really wanted to make a difference.”

After getting immediate approval of their idea from City council last June, SEEDS went ahead and made themselves at home in the once underused municipal greenhouses at Lakeside.

“They [the City] really wanted this. They want to see sustainable food production. They’re behind market gardens and they want to see more greenspace in Nelson,” Reid relays.

Reid was inspired to get her hands in the dirt one day as she walked in Lakeside Park. She wondered if there was a way that seniors like her could do more to grow food in the community.

“We wanted to see these greenhouses, which used to be beautiful, renewed and we thought this would renew us too,” Reid says.

A flower gardener, Reid had “never planted a vegetable in her life.” She and the seniors who came on board practiced their planting in the summer and after “many disasters,” pu in their first crop indoors on September 7. About 60 pots were filled while cameras rolled.

“You can see the group of seniors and city councillor Candace Batycki all crawling around in the dirt, mixing up the fertilizer and the worm castings,” describes Reid.

SEEDS has had two harvests of vegetables and greens since. But the bounty doesn’t end there. Where the project inspires is in the cooperative effort of volunteers and the people they’ve attracted to the greenhouse — everyone having their own reasons to get involved.

Joanne Emily is retired from a career in community health. With an interest in nutrition, this project appealed to her as healthy food makes its way from greenhouse pots to Our Daily Bread and the Nelson Food Cupboard.

She remembers the greenhouses being full with tours on offer.

“I am elated to see them back in use,” says Emily. “That we can still be gardening at this time of year when usually we’re grey and blue is really amazing.”

Darlene Avis has always been a gardener, along side her parents as a child, and this year is overwintering in her own greenhouse. As a volunteer for the Food Cupboard, she’s wanted to see a project like this for some time.

“How do you get the spare fruit and vegetables to the people who need it… I wanted to see how I could be more instrumental,” she says. “I see people are being fed. I’ve seen the food growing amazingly. I see cooperation and lots of help. I see this is going to be a life-long thing, where people continue to do this not just as volunteers, that will be expanding for years to come.”

And the project is expanding. Reid explains SEEDS’ September plant filled one-third of the greenhouse. A plant in February should fill the entire greenhouse. If all goes well, they plan to expand to two greenhouses next fall.

“We’d like to just fill them with food,” Reid says.

SEEDS isn’t interested in competing with local market gardeners who grow summer crops. This is more about local security of food that has to be imported over the winter. According to Reid, her crew is concerned about climate change and what that means for the dinner table.

“We all took a look at what’s needed to move Nelson along toward food security,” Reid says.

The seniors involved bring a wealth of knowledge from careers they’ve had before retirement. They’re pleased to be passing on this experience within the greenhouse that acts as a educational community centre, says Reid.

“If people ask us to do a program, we set it up,” says Reid.

People with barriers to employment have come through gaining experience and job skills and school kids are learning about planning and gardening.

SEED member Mike Freund has always been into gardening and beekeeping. He works with the seniors and talks about why they’ve gotten lots of school kids involved.

“It’s an education for the kids and it’s also a good fit with the seniors to help — it involves everybody,” he says.

School groups have come in to help with planting, harvesting and even building garden boxes in a project led by Freund. He says the kids are attentive and do exactly what they’ve been asked to do and “they do it very well,” he says.

They’re given a sensory experience and asked to talk about what they see, what they smell, how the soil feels and even what they think the plants might be saying to each other.

“They’re very interested and they want to come back,” Freund says.

The plants are thriving on the good nature that fills the greenhouse, he says, and the mental health component of SEEDS is huge.

“It’s an interaction between all the people that are involved,” says Freund. “It just creates a better feeling for everybody and everybody gets motivated.

Reid couldn’t agree more describing the people that come through the greenhouse as full of wonder and very open to the gardening experience.

“When people are talking together and relating and smiling… it gives them a sense of connection,” she says.

As the remaining plants are now cocooned for overwintering, until the next planting cycle in February, dreams of offering workshops, helping feed seniors on a fixed income, building a compost and even having their produce available in local restaurants thrive. Reid is thrilled about the project’s growth.

“We’ve only been going for four months so this is pretty amazing how this is happening,” she says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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