Every day, twice a day, Elaine Douglas makes the short walk from her home to Beamsville District Secondary School (BDSS) to tend to the crops.
She admits that 7 a.m. can come fast; however, there’s a sense of peace when it’s just her, the early morning sun, a few chirping birds and dozens of vegetables and herbs.
“It’s a wonderful way to get your hands in some dirt,” said Douglas, who earlier this summer heeded the call from Community Care of West Niagara (CCWN) and volunteered to help bring some community garden plots at BDSS back to life.
Students at the school had planted some crops during the school year, but with summer vacation in full swing and no one closely tending them, the raised beds were getting out of hand.
However, in the past several weeks, Douglas has led the charge, getting the beds that still had live plants under control and planting seeds in several other beds on the site. They’re now starting to bear fruit, which Douglas hauls over to CCWN for distribution to the agency’s clients.
“Anything like this is really a bonus for us,” said Lynda O’Donnell, manager of community engagement for CCWN.
Fresh produce is often a challenge for food banks like CCWN. Fortunately, they receive produce through partnerships with groups like Feed Ontario or Second Harvest. Local farmers are also often generous and donate produce.
However, the community garden at BDSS can provide a steady, reliable and not overbearing amount of fresh vegetables and herbs, which is important when you’re dealing with perishables.
Douglas started a YouTube channel documenting the progress at the gardens, called Just Keep Growin, and also runs a Facebook page called Community Care Garden, where she organizes some of the other volunteers who come to assist her.
With BDSS set to close when the new West Niagara Secondary School opens, the future of the garden is uncertain. However, O’Donnell and Douglas are hopeful they’ll be able to run it for at least another year, after which they’ll have to see what happens with the high school property.
In the meantime, Douglas would love to continue to expand beyond the 22 raised beds they currently have. There’s a section that could be a potato garden with a little extra help.
Anyone interested can visit Douglas’ YouTube channel or join the Facebook page for more information.