It has been said that gardening is an exercise in optimism, the triumph of hope over experience.
In the case of Hope’s community garden, it has been the optimism and dedication of Peter Bailey and a small group of volunteers and gardening enthusiasts that have kept the Hope Community Garden alive.
Now, with the move of the garden to its new location on the district’s Morrison Park property, adjacent to Coquihalla Elementary School, it’s possible that the project will finally be able to put down roots for the long term.
The move was necessitated by the sale of their old location at the site of the old Imperial Oil property, where the garden had made its home since 2013.
“The whole property came up for sale and the district acquired it and plan to develop it for housing. From a social perspective, it’s a good thing; a necessary thing that has to happen for the health of the community,” Bailey said.
It was Bailey who spearheaded the community garden project in 2013 and who solicited funding and sponsorship to make the project happen in the first place.
And despite his understanding that the land previously occupied by the garden will contribute to a healthier community through much-needed additional housing, the need to find a new location for what has become an integral part of the community has been trying.
“I can say that the district has been just wonderful in helping us find this new location, as has the school division,” Bailey said.
“We are now in discussion with funders and our amazing community sponsors to find a way of paying for the move. The greenhouse at the old location has to be moved to a new foundation and the site needs to be fenced. The total cost of the move is estimated at $30,000 so it’s quite a challenge.”
Part of that challenge may have been addressed at the Nov. 14 district council meeting, where it was suggested by Coun. Bob Erickson that the community garden be allowed to retain the chain link fencing that surrounded the old garden site and move it to the new location. That move would save the garden approximately $12,000.
As well, Mayor Wilfried Vicktor intimated that with upcoming budget deliberations, more assistance for the project was a possibility.
“We’re really pleased that this is coming together. It was wonderful that we were able to make the Morrison Park space available, and the location by the school is going to make it even more desirable as the kids have played an important part of the project from the beginning,” Vicktor said.
He added that, before offering up the Morrison Park site, the district contacted the Morrison family, who had originally donated the land as a park, for their blessing.
“They were very much in favour of its use as a garden, so we were able to make it happen. We had to check, though. It’s a matter of respect.”
The community garden offers plots for about 35 residents.
“Some of them grow vegetables for their own use, and a bunch of them come and grow for the food bank,” Bailey said.
“We also have three Grade 2 and 3 classrooms who have their own plots and grow vegetables. Those kids are wonderful and even help out with the weeding on other plots.”
The participation of the children in the project has obvious educational benefits that transcend the simple harvesting of food crops.
Bailey said the children learn about where their food comes from and gain an appreciation of the work and care involved in producing the food that eventually appears on their table.
If everything falls into place as Bailey hopes, the greenhouse will be moved, the site will be fenced and the garden plots established before the planting season for next year.
It may be a bit optimistic, Bailey acknowledged, but then, optimism is what gardening is all about.