Sandy Wetterstorm

Healthy mix growing at the Houston Community Garden

Members of the Dungate community forest shared donations and a crispy lunch the Houston Community Garden on Aug. 25.

“I’ve got zucchinis!” shouts gardener Phyllis Wiebe in surprise—it’s been a cold, wet year to grow summer veggies.

But Wiebe’s purple beans and carrots sprouted okay, and her first crop of mystery onion—Egyptian or Prairie, depending who you ask—stand among the tallest plants in the Houston Community Garden.

Looking around the 35 raised beds and several tilled rows here at Copeland Ave. and 3rd Street, a healthy mix of beets, kale, potatoes, herbs, flowers and other greens is growing well despite the cold.

And sharing a fresh lunch on picnic tables at the edge of the garden, there is also a healthy mix of people.

Volunteers from the Dungate Community Forest came to the Aug. 25 barbecue to present donations to the garden, the Moricetown ski club, the Houston Spanx fastball team. A scholarship also went to a Houston Secondary graduate, Jordyn Saretsky.

Russell Tijoe, a director at Dungate community forest, said a few words to start off the barbecue.

Tiljoe told the gardeners that what they are doing harkens back to a time when people lived off the land, and that those people survived so that we could.

The garden is a good idea, he added, especially for young people.

“They get to see where food comes from,” he said. “It doesn’t only come from the grocery store.”

Like the garden, the Dungate community forest east of Houston faced a tough season—low timber prices meant this is the first summer in three years they’ve been able to present so many donations.

But today, it’s clear that both the forest and the garden are thriving in a tough climate.

New perennial beds line the garden this year, which is now filled to capacity. Fresh, graffiti-style letters spell “Community” on the side of the garden kiosk, and the composting toilet is working—a big improvement on walking to the outhouse at the Northside park baseball diamond across the street.

The beds, the kiosk, even the toilet were all planned, planted, or painted by volunteers.

Started by Houston Link to Learning in 2002, the garden runs a mix of informal education programs along with its raised beds and market garden.

Belinda Lacombe, a literacy coordinator with Houston Link to Learning, said the garden grew up as a way to support families who don’t have enough time to help their kids do homework or improve their own literacy skills because they are too busy working to put food on the table.

Each family who has a bed at the garden pays for it by volunteering, Lacombe said. Gardeners help sell produce at the farmer’s market, teach workshops like basket-weaving, or help to plan and build things like the garden kiosk.

With every task, she said, there are opportunities to build literacy skills, whether it’s using fractions to design a shed or designing posters to advertise garden events.

Watching it all grow up from her house across the street is Pat Cox, a teacher at Houston Secondary.

“I love it,” she said. “I get to see it every day.”

Not only does Cox see good things growing out her window, she said she also sees it in her classroom, where she knows some of her students are eating well thanks to the garden.

Arranging events like the BBQ, the upcoming Harvest Festival, and even a set of Tai Chi lessons this summer is the garden’s coordinator, Sandy Wetterstrom.

The garden is lucky to have sponsors like the Bulkley Valley Credit Union, the Vancouver Foundation, Dungate and others, she said.

With their help, she said, the garden can make it easier for volunteers to join. During the Tai Chi sessions, for example,  the garden arranged childcare so that young mothers could join in—something they would like to do again next year.

Gardeners also pitch in to help each other, she said, sharing beds or watering one another’s plants if someone is away.

An avid gardener herself, Wetterstrom said that at the simplest level, the garden is about providing simple, healthy food choices, whether that means home-grown potatoes trying a new dish of crispy kale.

“There’s just no comparison to eating a carrot you’ve just picked from your own garden,” she said.

Just Posted

Better dangerous goods response wanted

Regional district directors to consider resolution tomorrow

Marijuana to be legal in Canada Oct. 17: Trudeau

Prime Minister made the announcement during question period in the House of Commons

‘Daddy bonus’ common in B.C. workplaces, study finds

UBC researchers say dads don’t have to be number one in the office to get a raise

Highway to Granisle to be sealcoated

Project to be completed by this fall

Houston student preparing for B.C. Summer Games

She wants to encourage more girls to play baseball

In reversal, Trump signs executive order to stop family separation

President had been wrongly insisting he had no choice but to separate families apprehended at border

B.C. ‘will be ready’ for marijuana legalization

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says some stores open by Oct. 17

UPDATED: Polygamous wife appeals conviction in B.C. child bride case

Emily Blackmore was found guilty of taking her underage daughter to U.S. to marry church leader

B.C. sets deadline for Indigenous salmon farm consent

All 120 operations will need agreements by 2022, province says

Family of 4 from Oregon believed to be missing in northern B.C.

RCMP, Search and Rescue crews searching area where vehicle was abandoned

B.C. creates public registry to track real estate owners

The first registry of its kind in Canada aims to end the hidden property ownership

Police watchdog called to Kelowna after car destroyed in crash

A motor vehicle incident has closed Highway 33 in both directions

BC SPCA receives 400 reports of dogs in hot cars so far this year

Society is again urging people to leave their pets at home if they can’t keep them safe in the heat

8 B.C. communities rank as the friendliest in Canada

Eight B.C. communities can claim they are the friendliest in the country.

Most Read