Carrots and Friendship

Community Gardens Plant Seeds in the Neighbourhood

by Susan Zuidema

Pastor Terry Ciona of Pleasant Valley Church can’t wait to get planting, which is a bit of a shock to those who know his track record with plants and gardens.  This is the first year that Pleasant Valley Church will be planting and maintaining Princess Anne’s community garden and Terry couldn’t be more excited.

“I come from a family with deep roots in farming, but I think it skipped me.  During our engagement, my fiancée gave me a fern.  I loved that fern.  But in three short weeks, it was dead.  I was horrified,” Terry admitted. 

This lack of a green thumb didn’t keep Terry from “ploughing ahead” when in the fall of 2018, Cheryl Antoski, Brantford’s Ward 4 Councillor and the Chair/Co-Founder of the Equal Grounds Community Gardens (EGCG), approached Pleasant Valley about the garden in Princess Anne Park.  Existing volunteers were winding down and the EGCG needed a new champion.  Taking it on made good sense to Pleasant Valley.

“In our Christian faith, we believe that life began in a garden.  In fact, God never repealed his command to His followers to stop caring for the garden,” said Terry.

Many churches, like Pleasant Valley, are looking for more ways to be involved in their community and to meet and know their neighbours.  Pleasant Valley has implemented a number of community initiatives in recent years, including a summer 2018 children’s soccer-baseball program right in Princess Anne Park.  They quickly recognized – as other churches such as Hope Christian Reformed Church and Freedom Christian Community have already done – that the opportunity to work the local garden is a chance to go deeper in these existing relationships, in particular with the children.

Garden Team members from Pleasant Valley prepare the beds at Princess Anne Park
Garden Team members from Pleasant Valley prepare the beds at Princess Anne Park.

“This Community Garden … (gives us) the opportunity to grow not only produce but relationships and friendship.  Engaging kids in the work of gardening benefits the kids, the community and the garden,” Terry explained.  “In gardening, I’ve learned that there is triple mix.  In Community Gardening there is a triple win: Relationships, Purpose, and Produce… all three go into making Brantford a better place!”

Cheryl Antoski is always on the lookout for volunteers, both in the gardens themselves and also for “one-off” events.

“I think every (community garden) Champion would welcome new volunteers. There is always lots to learn and new people to meet.  We are looking for people interested in helping for the odd project here and there, but also to help on a regular basis.  No experience is needed.  We will help.  Plus, the garden itself is the best teacher of all,”” said Cheryl Antoski. 

In the EGCG model, volunteers plant and maintain the gardens, but the produce is owned by and shared with the community itself.  At times, excess produce is donated to the food bank.  

The biggest Community Garden is at Earl Haig with 66 beds in total, half of which will be planted this year while green crops are grown in the other half for this year.  However, gardens are located in every corner of the city and anyone is welcome to help with the maintenance.  Members of the community are welcome to stop and pull a few weeds when they pass a garden by.  Better yet, people can find out where they are and make a plan to intentionally engage in a garden nearby. 

Ways to Get Involved

Garden opening dates vary and with the cooler weather, some dates may be pushed back.  Here are the current tentative dates and a few other opportunities: 

  • May 18th: Cedarland, Brier Park/Sifton, EarlyON, Rivergreen
  • May 19th:  EMS/Tranquility, Greenwood
  • May 24th:  Princess Anne, Police Station, Woodview
  • May 25th:  Charlie Ward, Robert Moore
  • May 26th: Lynden Hills 2:00 p.m.; Johnson
  • May 31st:  Assumption, Cityview (estimate)
  • June 1st:  Myrtleville, Woodman
  • June 2nd:  Earl Haig – This is also Community Garden Day in Brantford – Come and join the party.
  • June 9th: Lansdowne-Costain Elementary School
  • Other garden dates TBD
The EGCG at Lynden Hills Park Brantford is the second largest community garden in the city.
The EGCG at Lynden Hills Park Brantford is the second largest community garden in the city.

For more information

Equal Grounds Community Gardens website

EGCG Facebook Group.
(Facebook groups exist for many individuals  gardens as well.)

Reach out to Cheryl; Reach out to Terry

 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (ESV)