Stettler officially launched its third community gardens last month, in Sept. 2015, an indication of what is possible if communities come together and care enough to build something.
Speaking about the benefits of community gardens, Rob Spencer, chair, Stettler community gardens subcommittee of theHeartland Beautification Committee, said, “There are a number of benefits of community gardens, because first of all, we have repurposed some waste or less attractive spaces into a functional and, in most cases, more attractive space.”“Additionally, those spaces are now creating a community or social space for people to come together and interact,”Spencer added. “People have a space where they can grow their own healthy vegetables, as well as capture some horticultural therapy of growing plants at a low cost.”
When community members participate in community gardens, either as a gardener or volunteer, they take away a sense of ownership or buy-in, which help them to protect the space.
Discussing the etiquette of people who are a part of this venture, Spencer said, “They are positive and respectful and care about the success of the overall space.”
However, community gardens are only possible if organizations are willing to award grants and funding.
Acknowledging the generosity of these organizations, Spencer said, “We’ve been able to access funds each year from theTown of Stettler’s Heartland Beautification Committee’s budget.”
“Additionally, we’ve received close to $20,000 from two separate grants from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation(TDFEF), one for about $18,000 to build the second community gardens and a second for $2,000 for trees/shrubs at the third community gardens,” added Spencer.
No community project is complete without volunteers.
According to Spencer, all the community gardens were made possible by a “tonne of in-kind hours of labour from the schools”, the community and other donations from businesses, mostly in the form of discounts or donations of tools.
Recalling how the first community gardens in Stettler came about, Spencer said, “The initial concept came about throughAlberta Health Services and a group of people from various groups and organizations in the community, as well as individuals.”
“The idea was to decide what they would look like in Stettler, which led to the formation of a community forum, held to discuss it and then it just grew from there,” said Spencer.
In a world where interaction has been minimized by technological advances, the concept of social spaces such as the community gardens is unique.
“I think that community gardens are an important part of Stettler, as it brings so many people together that wouldn’t interact otherwise and I expect that they’ll continue to contribute for years to come,” said Spencer. “Depending on the format of the gardens, they can serve a range of purposes, with ours, we are accomplishing what we set out to accomplish.”