Heather Beaton shakes her head and laughs as she watches two-year-old daughter Ryanne digging in the box garden behind the Dalhousie Women’s Centre, her hands and the rolled-based sleeves of her raincoat covered in wet soil.
“It’s my dirt!” says Ryanne, holding up her hands for mom to see. “My dirt!”
Further investigation in the garden yields a few fat worms that squiggle away from Ryanne’s curious fingers.
“My tickle-me worm,” pronounces Ryanne, a wide smile on her little face.
The Dalhousie Women’s Centre, located at 6286 South Street, has opened up its gardens to anyone who wants to dig, plant seeds and watch vegetables and herbs grow. Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon have been set aside for the “Mom & Me Community Garden” project, but moms and kids can come anytime. And it isn’t just for moms, for that matter. Dads, grandparents and caregivers are welcome too.
In the centre’s backyard there is a trio of box gardens, already dotted with green, healthy seedlings. By summer’s end, the boxes will be laden with broccoli, squash, celery, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, fennel, cantaloupe and watermelon. There are various herbs too, including peppermint, rosemary, oregano and basil. Last summer, there was so much produce that women’s centre director Elizabeth McCormack was peddling cucumbers around campus to anyone who would take them.
This year’s harvest will go to Alice Housing, second stage housing for women and children fleeing domestic abuse, and to the student sustainability group SustainDal, which serves vegetarian food to students on a pay-what-you-can basis Tuesdays at lunch during the academic year.
“It seems humble,” says Ms. McCormack, surveying the backyard. “But there’s a lot that will come out of here—it grows very intensely you might say.”
But then, the actual veggies are not really the point of the garden—it’s about opening up the Dalhousie Women’s Centre to the community. It’s about showing kids how food is grown and giving them a place to get their hands dirty.
“It’s about the process, about getting people out, about giving them opportunities,” says an enthusiastic Ms. McCormack. “And whether all that yields a tomato or two is an absolute bonus.”
The garden project was started by student volunteer Jenny Mason back in May. Since then, there have been regulars who come to check on the progress of the seeds they’ve planted, plus a team of volunteers who help out.
If you’re interested in dropping by or volunteering, Ms. McCormack at the Dalhousie Women’s Centre would love to hear from you. You can call 494-2432 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
LINK: Community spotlight: Dalhousie Women’s Centre on HRM Parent
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