A community garden can mean a variety of things to residents. For some, it is simply a place to grow vegetables or herbs in the company of friends and neighbours. Community members might think of a community garden as a place to reconnect with nature and escape the urban atmosphere of a municipality. Physical exercise, and an area that apartment dwellers/small lot owners would normally not have access to are valid and important reasons to develop gardens within a town or city.
Urban agriculture is becoming a popular activity in metropolitans around the world, as people realize the intrinsic value of ‘getting one’s hands dirty’ and growing healthier alternatives to grocery store foodstuffs. The Town of Stratford, along with the Stratford Area Watershed Improvement Group has developed a community garden in the heart of this expanding, bustling community.
Benefits of a Community Garden
Community gardens can provide a wide variety of benefits to residents. Some include (but are not limited to):
- Providing members of the community with fresh, healthy and local food
- Providing gardeners with regular exercise and recreation
- Bringing neighbours together to learn from each other about food and gardening
- Teaching children about nutrition, life sciences, sustainability and giving them an overall sense of where their food comes from
- Creating beautiful green spaces for all to enjoy
- Creating habitat for some species of wildlife
- Reducing Stratford residents’ ecological footprint
- Providing an object of pride in one’s community
Stratford Community Gardens
A community garden has been on the agenda of both the town and watershed group for the last several years. In fact, the watershed group had this goal within its Watershed Management Plan in the hopes of someday bringing a community garden to life within the Town of Stratford. The 2012 Stratford Resident Survey indicated a strong desire for gardens; this was especially evident amongst the growing number of renters and recent immigrants. Both parties developed a proposal for a community garden in January, 2013, which was unanimously approved by the Town Council. The stage was set, and work has been ongoing since late May 2013.
The large area across from Cotton Park was chosen as the ideal location. This property is a relatively flat and open area, which receives at least 8 hours of sun per day. It is located on Bunbury Road, which exits left off the Trans-Canada Highway immediately after the Hillsborough Bridge. It is easily accessible by automobile, bus, or on foot as sidewalks are located on Bunbury Road. This location is centrally located, and in the general vicinity of apartments, condos, and senior’s housing.
Hundreds of hours have been put into this project, with Town and watershed employees, volunteers and committee members getting their hands dirty to construct the beautiful & elegant gardens we see today. Funding was graciously allotted to this project by the Town of Stratford, Wal-mart Evergreen Fund and the Stratford Area Watershed Improvement Group to ensure gardeners could get their fruits, vegetables and flowers in by June 2013.
The town and watershed group understand that the gardening needs and desires of households will vary; therefore, three plot sizes were chosen to accommodate everyone. Plot sizes are as follows:
- 6×12 ft (24 plots) – $20/season
- 10×17.5 ft (8 plots) – $30/season
- 10×40 ft (4 plots)*
*The large plots are designated for community groups and local organizations who would like to garden (free-of-charge)
Work is ongoing in the gardens. Now that the gardens themselves have been created and prepared, focus will shift to constructing a picnic/rest area, walkway into the gardens, and a proper parking lot for gardeners. Please note that this large-scale project will be completed in stages; watch for new developments.
A Garden is Not Just a Garden
A community garden is often more than just a garden; it is the people who care for and love the plants in which they nourish and cherish, and the community that views it as a gathering place for learning and socialization. A community garden will not exist unless residents are willing to put the time, effort, sweat, laughter and tears into making it a communal success.
Community gardens have been a success for many years in cities, towns and villages around the world; but developing a core group of supporters is vital in ensuring this project is successful in the long-term.
If you are interested in renting a plot or would like to sit on the Community Garden Committee, please contact Kelley Arnold, Watershed Coordinator at 367-3605 or KArnold@townofstratford.ca, or Joanne Weir, Assistant Director of Parks & Recreation, at 367-4288 or JWeir@townofstratford.ca .
The Stratford Area Watershed Improvement Group has a Community Gardens Page on their website as well. Check it out here!
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