Providing Vegetable Planters for our Community at a Time of Need
A new campaign called “Growing Together” is going to help people grow a little bit of their own fresh food. The Georgian Bay Biosphere is working with partners to have ready-to-grow planters of vegetables and herbs safely delivered under Covid-19. The campaign goal is to get 1,000 planters distributed in the area that can be easily maintained and harvested to boost health and well-being in the community. DONATE HERE!
According to GBBR President, volunteer Ron Chase: “Georgian Bay Biosphere and its partners recognize that this is an especially difficult time that invites the community to respond. Many organizations are on the front lines and we all wonder what we can do to support the growing number of individuals and families in need? As a charity, we are in a position to actively raise donations for our “GrowingTogether” campaign. The idea is to purchase large pots of vegetables and herbs that give people an option to independently grow some of their own food. We are excited to play a role in this collaborative community effort!”
“Our container gardening program will fill a gap in food security and food sustainability in the region – one that has increased since Covid-19,” says Dr. Becky Pollock, GBBR executive director. “We want to provide a little extra fresh food over the growing season to add to our northern diet. It encourages our community to think about growing more of its own food and supports people who want to start a garden in their backyard. For those without the space, our container garden is a perfect addition to a sunny window, balcony or back step. Ideally, after all this, people will keep gardening and more volunteers can be involved in growing veggie plants for programs like these. The program name says it all… we’re Growing Together!”
Vegetable planters can safely be delivered to community partners for pick-up by participants and be easily maintained and harvested for a healthy supplement to any diet. Partner agencies will order the number of vegetable planters that they then distribute to participants, through their networks.
Partners include food banks, social services, community gardens, shelters, health clinics, First Nations, seniors services and other centres that could receive planters for participants. The number available will depend on the donations campaign and other funding that is received from May to July.
Planters are approximately 25″ in diameter and 18” deep that will be filled with soil and a variety of vegetable plants and herbs. Soil will be enhanced with slow-release fertilizer to give plants the nutrients they need to thrive. Ready-to-grow planters will be prepared & delivered to partner organizations by area garden centres, farms and nurseries.
Agencies will coordinate how participants pick-up their vegetable planter or have their volunteers safely deliver. Each planter will have a variety of vegetables, starting with early crops that can be harvested and then allow larger summer plants to expand. Other vegetables and fruits include: lettuce, arugula, kale, green onion, cherry tomato, baby eggplant, slicing tomato or sweet pepper. Herbs such as basil, parsley and thyme provide fragrance, food seasoning, and attract pollinators with their flowers.
Participants do not choose what vegetables they receive and the planters are not available to the general public – just in large deliveries to each partner agency who will then distribute them. The public is encouraged to contact garden centres in the region who take orders by phone to make their own pick up arrangements. Home gardeners are encouraged to plant a little extra this year to donate fresh produce to area food programs.
“We are working hard to ensure each plant is labelled and we’ve created an information sheet for new gardeners to answer most of the common questions about container gardening,” says Delaina Arnold, GBBR Education Coordinator. “There are some tricks, like planters need a sunny spot like a window, back step or porch but out of the wind. They really need to be watered regularly (sometimes daily if the top 2 inches of soil dry out) but not be swamped. By watching your plants, you can quickly tell if they’re happy or not. Our website will provide more information for backyard gardeners – everything from starting seeds to composting.” Gardening is available at georgianbaybiosphere.com/gardens.
Benefits of the program are: increased food security through basic gardening skills, some healthy fresh produce, the mental health benefits of tending plants, education materials to enhance gardening success, and children’s activities like ‘Kids Can Grow’ along with reusable planters. They can even be planted again at the end of summer with cool weather crops like lettuce and spinach.
Pollock says: “Since 2008, we have been committed to promoting food sustainability, gardening and food preparation skills. Our ‘GrowingTogether’ campaign will meet a short-term need but contribute to long-term food security and community well-being. The GBBR raised $11,000 in April to match with all new donations. Our goal is to raise enough funds to supply at least 1,000 planters in our area and to support all interested gardeners with online resources, tips, and eventually workshops again.”
“GrowingTogether” partners currently include: Harvest Share food bank, the Friendship Centre, Community Living Parry Sound, Muskoka Community Foundation, United Way of North East Ontario the Mary Street Centre and Community Kitchens, District of Parry Sound Social Services Administration Board, Wasauksing First Nation, Parry Sound Area Food Collaborative, North Bay-Parry Sound District Health Unit, Rotary Club of Parry Sound, Shawanaga First Nation Healing Centre, Esprit Place, volunteers in Britt, the Township of Georgian Bay’s Baxter Ward food bank in Honey Harbour and volunteers in Mactier. Planters can be prepared by Little Garden Greenhouses, Windermere Garden Centre, Bala Garden Centre, and others.
Jennifer Schnier is the Director of Sustainability at the Township of Georgian Bay. She says: “GBBR has provided a simple way to get fresh food into the hands of those who need it right now and to support local businesses and workers at area garden centres. The Township is working with partners across the District of Muskoka to expand this wonderful program. Food security and sustainable solutions are an absolute priority and we want to support that.”