The Garden Thymes

by Peggy Brown

The Western Manitoulin Community Garden (WMCG) operates as a not for profit under the auspices of the Northern Ontario Permaculture Association (NOPRI). This has enabled us to hire two employees through the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program offered by the federal government. We are very grateful to MP Carol Hughes for her support of this initiative.

CSJ has been offering not for profits like our community garden a 100 percent grant during COVID to provide much needed summer employment for youth in places like rural Manitoulin where jobs can often be difficult to find, especially during this pandemic. 

However, the grant will only be 40 percent in subsequent years. We are taking advantage of the government’s generous offer of the summer youth program this year. 

However, we are working hard to not only grow food for community programs but also to raise funds to make our garden a people place. We raised some funds last summer selling produce to Local Food Manitoulin for their good food boxes and also at markets and we hope to do the same this year, so we can raise enough monies to be able to provide summer jobs every year for young people in our community. 

It is wonderful to see their enthusiasm about growing food and learning so many aspects of horticulture, as well as their leadership development in dealing with the public and taking charge of the jobs at hand. The CSJ program provides young people an opportunity to earn money for their future education, to learn about gardening and growing their own food and about local community needs and how they can help make a difference.

The WMCG has hired two young people, Luke Heinen and Cheyenne Barnes, for this summer. They will tend the community food garden, supervised by Chuc Willson, and generally keep the garden spaces in order. They will also care for the herb and perennial gardens that the Kids Can Grow (KCG) group from C.C. McLean Public School usually look after. 

Linda Willlson, coordinator of the KCG program, is always saying how much we miss the school kids at the garden. They bring so much joy, grow so energetically and really add an amazing element to the community there. We are really hoping they will return to the garden once it is safe for them again. The summer employees will also develop a composting program this summer for garden members in order to start creating viable compost to use in the garden. Luke returns from last year and Cheyenne brings a wealth of experience in gardening and work experience that will be invaluable in their work this summer.

We have lots of special tasks lined up for the students this summer, from the composting program, to the painting of garden signs to the creation of scarecrows which help to keep the critters away. So, as you drive by the garden look for the scarecrows as they appear this summer.