MINDEMOYA – The Manitoulin Food Bank will have a direct line of fresh produce this year thanks to a new initiative through the Manitoulin Community Fresh Food Initiative (MCFFI) and Child Poverty Task Force that will see a dedicated plot at the community garden in Mindemoya exclusively for the use of the food bank.
“Last year, a few of us who had gardens ended up taking the food bank a fair amount of produce; we harvested more than we needed for ourselves and they seemed to appreciate the donations so we’re trying to make it more of a co-operative,” says Sue Rumble, a volunteer at the Central Manitoulin Community Garden.
The majority of the food bank’s offerings to date have been non-perishable packaged and canned goods, staples in food banks everywhere due to their longer shelf lives. Fresh foods have been largely limited to donations from grocery stores of hardy produce such as potatoes and carrots.
“To get fresh lettuce and peas or beans, and beets—fresh, from-the-ground produce—I think is something special,” Ms. Rumble says.
The MCFFI has been working to expand and implement community gardens in communities throughout the Manitoulin area, including within the seven area First Nations and as backyard gardens at places such as schools. They provide lumber, soil, tools and nutrient mixes to help each community maximize its gardening successes. This is an important program that has plenty of real-world impacts.
“Food security is an issue on the Island. Gardening seems to be a lost art that we’re trying to bring back, so people will be able to reduce their carbon footprint by growing their own food,” says Ms. Rumble.
The Central Manitoulin Community Garden is located at Community Living Manitoulin, just west of Mindemoya’s core. Community gardeners also have access to an adjacent greenhouse on the ground that Community Living owns but has offered for use.
Keeping the grounds well-maintained is an intensive job that requires many hands to operate successfully.
“Right now, it’s mainly five seniors and one non-senior as gardeners so we could really use some help with the physical part of it,” says Ms. Rumble, who is actively searching to bring more volunteers into the fold of the operation.
“They don’t have to be young and they don’t have to be strong, they just have to be willing,” she adds with a laugh.
Another new initiative for 2019 is the community garden’s pick-your-own pumpkin patch in collaboration with the 4-H Club.
“I was just talking with their leader, they’re going to hopefully make us some scarecrows to put in there. We’re hopefully going to be developing a real community around the garden, and we’ve got lots of people from different areas of expertise to co-ordinate,” says Ms. Rumble.
This year is the third and final year for the original funding grant to support the MCFFI. To celebrate the successes, show the public what the program has accomplished and generate support for ongoing funding, there will be a garden tour throughout the summer that visits the many community gardens around the Island.
“July 24 is the date that our garden is going to be highlighted, and we’re ready to have, I guess you could say a ‘pre-pumpkin party,’ because we won’t be ready for harvesting,” says Ms. Rumble. “Hopefully we will have enough of a showing that kids can make a craft of some sort to attach to a pumpkin so they can come back in the fall when it’s grown.”
Ms. Rumble is also requesting that Islanders donate perennial plants such as rhubarb which can be divided or ‘split’ in the spring to form two separate plants.
“We don’t have the budget to go buy these things, but it would be really nice to have some perennials in the garden,” she says.
Should any Central Manitoulin readers wish to offer their volunteer assistance to their township’s community garden, they are requested to contact Ms. Rumble at 705-377-4112.