It used to be a great big field, but now part of the city-owned land close to the corner of Grant and Stafford hosts 36 garden plots. Although many of the gardeners are happy, a lack of infrastructure means some won’t be coming back next year.
“I think it’s wonderful,” says community gardener Marianne Derkach. “It would be nice to see all of [the field] be established as a garden.”
The City of Winnipeg won’t provide water at the site, making it difficult for residents who don’t live nearby to maintain their gardens. Roger Villeneuve is so disappointed he won’t be returning next year.
“I know some people are happy with it because they live closer but for me I live far away so it’s not convenient,” says Villeneuve, who lives in River Heights.
“It would be nice if the city would provide a barrel,” Derkach adds. “They provide water for all the flower pots nearby and what would it take for them up fill up a barrel?”
The new community garden came about after some residents approached area councillor Jenny Gerbasi. Although the initial plan called for 18 plots, the site proved so popular they increased capacity to 36 – and they’re all full.
This is a trend seen across the city.
“Demand has been strong and may have increased in the last five years,” confirms Winnipeg’s city naturalist Rodney Penner.
There are 18 community garden locations managed by the city, with a total of 223 plots. There are many more gardens managed by other groups, such as neighbourhood renewal corporations, churches or community members.
“In some neighbourhoods, the demand for plots is more than what is available. St. Vital and River Heights in particular are areas where there is a lot of interest in renting garden plots,” Penner says.
Food Matters Manitoba’s program director Stefan Epp-Koop agrees. When the organization completed a Community Food Assessment in St. Vital recently, it found some community gardens had a wait-list of 100 per cent. For example, one garden with 30 spots had a wait-list of 30 people, Epp-Koop explains.
Comparable numbers are not available as the city no longer keeps a wait-list for gardens; the list was eliminated when changes were made to the garden plot booking process a few years ago. According to Penner there were only 13 individuals this year who were unable to book a plot at their preferred location.
“We do try to accommodate interested individuals as much as possible in the current booking year but don’t maintain wait-lists for the following year,” Penner says.
At this time there is no plan to re-implement the process, he adds.
The difference in wait-list numbers aside, Epp-Koop says Winnipeg’s community garden system could use an overhaul.
“It can be a bit of a maze for someone if they’re just starting out and don’t know who to go to,” he says.
Community gardens and accessing locally-produced food seems to be an ever-increasing trend.
“There’s more of an awareness of where food comes from and an urban food attitude,” says Fort Rouge East Fort Garry city councillor Jenny Gerbasi.
She’d like to see the city develop a better food policy.
“I do think it’s a growing area. I do think the city should be working with the community to develop a broader robust policy to address community gardens and markets.”
To find out more about community gardens, call 311.
To read more Stories of Food in Winnipeg, click here.