Hooray for HUGS: Embracing Community Food Security in Bayers Westwood

The 2014 growing season has been a busy time for the HUGS Community Garden. Despite challenging weather and a generous helping of slugs the garden is looking better than ever. In a previous post I talked a little about the HUGS Revitalization Project. In a nutshell, this large garden in the West End of Halifax had fallen into a state of inactivity. In collaboration with the Bayers Westwood Family Resource Centre (BWFRC), and the Bayers Westwood community, the EAC’s Food Team has been helping to breathe life back into the project.

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The primary objective was to equip the garden with the basic infrastructure necessary to any successful garden. With funds raised over the course of the last year, we’ve since installed a fence, a storage shed, and a 1000L water tank. The fence has helped to define the space in the community and protect veggies from stray soccer balls and curious pets. The shed has increased our ability to host volunteers, and safely store our tools without threat of theft or weathering. And of course a permanent water source has meant greater success for crops and the ability to accommodate more community members in the garden.

HUGS Spring 2013

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HUGS Spring 2014

Things have come a long way from last June when dandelions stood waste high, and only a handful of guerilla gardeners tried their luck at growing veggies in the abandoned plots. The buzz in the community around the garden is audible. You can tell people are really excited to see the project thriving. Regular workdays have been consistently well attended, drawing garden members and interested residents alike to spend the evening in the garden. Children and youth attendance has also been high. Each work evening a rabble of kids from the neighborhood trounce down to the garden, work gloves and trowels in hand, and set about planting, weeding, mulching, watering, or whatever other task their instructed to do with shocking enthusiasm.

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Occupancy is at 100% and the waiting list for plots continues to grow. So…we are continuing to expand. This month we will be building two waist-high raised beds to better accommodate the needs of residents with limited mobility. In encouraging greater participation from the community, we want to make sure that the garden is accessible to all. The beds will serve the needs of mostly seniors, but we’ll be utilizing the energy of a weekly youth group to lug soil into the beds and prepare them for planting.

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There is much to be celebrated this year but the work continues. Our increasing focus is now on communications and capacity building. Effectively sharing the story of the garden with the community can be a challenge, especially given the diverse backgrounds of residents who live there. So we’re reaching out in other languages and using other mediums to do our best to let everyone know about this important project in the community. Connected to this is building the capacity of resident volunteers and staff persons at the Family Resource Centre to ensure the long term sustainability of this project.

If you would like to get involved in the garden, receive news about our activities, or attend an event, drop me a line for more info: will@ecologyaction.ca

A special thanks to our funders: TD Friends of the Environment Fund and the Evergreen Green Grants.

Author: Will Fawcett Hill. Community Food Programmer, Ecology Action Centre.

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