Community garden volunteers honoured

The 2013 Don Bush Environmental Stewardship Award will be presented March 29

The 2013 Don Bush Environmental Stewardship Award will be presented to Esther Brysch and the Hope Community Garden on Saturday by Hope Mountain Centre.

The garden at the corner of Coquihalla Street and 4th Avenue was established in 2010 through Free Rein Associates, who leased the property from Esso for five years and administrated the project until last fall when Hope Community Services took over. The garden began with a grant from the Public Health Agency of Canada through the Fraser Health Authority. The plan was to provide food security to residents of Hope by growing their own food and sharing it with people in need.

In 2011, Brysch was asked if she would like to coordinate the garden project. She agreed to take on the challenge, motivated by a desire to meet people with similar interests and give back to the community she lives in. Brysch began teaching people to grow their own food, coordinating volunteers and sharing the yield through the food bank and the Joshua Project. The project started with six members and has since grown to 21, and the number of plots has increased from six to 26. Three school classes became plot holders and a kindergarten class brought spuds in tubs to grow at the garden. Seven more garden plot boxes were also constructed last year.

Gardeners sign up and pay for a plot for one year – $25 per outdoor plot, $50 per greenhouse plot and $15 for pots in the greenhouse.

Besides tending their own plots, they take turns with general clean up duties and meet about five times a year for work bees that end with a campfire social at the garden. This social gathering is a highlight for many members.

The Don Bush Environmental Stewardship Award recognizes Brysch’s passion and commitment to the environment and keeping the community green. Her enthusiasm for growing food started 18 years ago on an organic vegetable farm in Salmon Arm. What really motivated her was tasting fresh vegetables right out of the field, watching little seeds grow and working outside with her hands.

Brysch’s vision for the Hope Community Garden includes getting more people involved in the garden learning to grow sustainable food, including older residents and those in wheelchairs using raised garden beds. She would also like to see schools and youth groups using the garden for life skills education. In 2014, there are more plots for rent and a new co-op has been established.

Many groups, businesses and individuals have helped establish Hope Community Garden. From planting and weeding to supplying a greenhouse and laying waterlines, the community of Hope has shown its support for this project. Financial and in-kind support has been provided by Free Rein Associates, Emil Anderson Construction, TD Canada Trust, Ministry of Transportation, District of Hope, CUPE local 458, Thunderbird Motel Project, Hope Garden Centre, Rona, Spectra Energy, First Waste Disposal and the Smith Family.

Through a grant application while still administered by Free Rein, the Hope Community Garden received $2,000 from TD Friends of the Environment Foundation in 2013. This grant will be used to offer youth the possibility to learn life skills and increase employment opportunities. It will also be used to reduce poverty and hunger through hands-on food education. High school students will be growing vegetables with the guidance of their home economics teacher and the harvest will be donated to the local food bank. Local students will also use the garden to learn about environmental science, agricultural life cycles and food security.

The Hope Community Garden will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 29 with garden tours and an opportunity to register for your own plot.

At 11 a.m., Hope Mountain Centre will present the Don Bush Environmental Stewardship Award to Esther Brysch and the Hope Community Garden volunteers. Refreshments will be on site as well as a craft activity for children.

If you are unable to attend but would like to become involved, contact Hope Community Services for information and to register for a garden plot. The office is located at 434 Wallace St. and can be reached at 604-869-2466.