Mountain group part of N2N community garden network
By Mark Newman, News Staff
What will some east Mountain paramedics be doing in the coming weeks to ease the day-to-day pressure and strain of their job?
Perhaps a little gardening.
Paramedics working out of Station 32 at Upper Ottawa andLimeridge Road are slated to begin planting a 34-plot community garden on green space behind the station this weekend with the produce going to the food bank at Neighbour to Neighbour Centre, seniors living in the city housing building next door and anyone in the area who needs food.
“It is therapeutic for us because we’re under a lot of stress in our job and this is a fantastic release for us,” said Joe Cox, one of the 12 paramedics at the station who is overseeing the volunteer garden for the second year in a row.
Cox noted there’s a buzz in the station about getting the growing season started.
“The paramedics are concerned with the people in the community so we wanted to take the green space that wasn’t being utilized…and make it productive for people in the community,” Cox said.
He said Fortinos has supplied free seedlings and the TD Friends of the Environment has given them $5,000 to help pay for garden supplies and cover some of Neighbour to Neighbour’s cost of hiring three summer students who will be overseeing the community garden network.
Even though they didn’t get planting until June, Cox said they managed to hand over more than 1,300 pounds of produce to the food bank and 500 pounds to the seniors’ complex last year.
This year he’s hoping to grow more than 2,000 pounds of produce.
“We grow everything,” Cox said.
Some residents from the seniors’ complex are expected to help out in the garden again this year, said Cox who added he would like to see unused green space at all city fire and paramedic stations turned into community gardens.
Station 32 is one of 22 volunteer-run community gardens and partner sites across the Mountain that is working with Neighbour to Neighbour Centre this year.
Clare Wagner, manager of community food at the centre, said the fresh produce is often snapped up as soon as it reaches the food bank shelves.
“The people using the food bank really love that service,” said Wagner, who noted about 1,300 Mountain families use the food bank each month
Last year the food bank received more than 30,000 pounds of vegetables from the gardens and Wagner is hoping to see that number jump to as much as 40,000 pounds this year.
The centre will also be helping run food programs at some garden locations to teach ways of preparing meals using the produce grown there including dishes that reflect the ethnic diversity of the Mountain.