Through education about healthy, sustainable food, Growing Green Neighbours hopes to bring together the community.
The organization’s main goal is to create a community where everyone has access to nutritious food, which can be sustained over time, said Lorna White, former board chairperson.
“We encourage people to grow gardens,” said White, adding that the group also set up a communal garden. “We had community dinners every second month which encouraged people to develop fellowship and interest and concern for each other.”
Cindy Adekat, Sylvan Lake’s community program liaison, brought the group together after noticing the town’s many organizations dedicated to food security. Hoping to bridge the gap between them, she invited them to come together and form what eventually turned into Growing Green Neighbours. With a grant from Growing Food Security in Alberta, they were able to create the communal garden, and purchase supplies for the community dinners.
The dinners were free and open to anyone in town. Expenses were returned through a voluntary donation jar at the entrance. Many women with children, whose husbands were working elsewhere, attended the dinners, said White.
“The community dinners provided a chance for fellowship with members of the community, and provided nutritious food for people who needed it,” said White. “People are proud and don’t want gifts, they want to help themselves as much as possible.”
In addition to the dinners, the group provides advice and a common area for gardeners who might not otherwise have the space in their own yard. The Town of Sylvan Lake provided the soil needed, and maintains the garden every summer.
“It was for them to grow their own vegetables and sort of get involved with growing their own food,” said White. “I’m amazed how it’s picked up. There are young couples literally living off growing food.”
Debbie Oostindie is a member of the group’ committee, and uses the communal garden.
“It is a passion of mine. It has to do with awareness about food and eating locally and the environment,” said Oostindie. “It’s a fantastic way to help the community.”
Oostindie shares her plot in the garden and the produce she grows with two friends. The three have also gotten their children of ages 16, 12, and 10 involved with gardening.
Our Lady of the Rosary School maintains its own community garden on its grounds. Growing Green provided a number of tools and seeds for the program. The group has also worked with other organizations in the community, including Sylvan Lake Food Bank and Meals on Wheels.
Growing Green’s activities have slowed in the past year due to declining volunteers, who help with the community dinners. As a result, the dinners have been put on hold.
“I think it’s a beneficial group to the community and I’d like to see it grow,” said Oostindie.
Those wishing to become involved may contact Cindy Adekat at 403-887-1137.