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Community garden serves Fort Macleod residents

Fort Macleod residents are marking the 15th anniversary of the community garden by harvesting the products of their hard work.

The 2023 growing season provided challenges for the 30 gardeners with the early and extended extreme heat.

“Gardeners were attentive and carefully tended the vegetables, fruit trees and shrubs,” community garden members wrote in an interview “The apple trees did very well, along with the squash, chard, beets, potatoes, beans and peas.”

The community garden adjacent to the natural playground on 7A Avenue in Fort Macleod has been a labour of love from a seed planted by the environment committee.

The Fort Macleod Environment Committee in 2007 set out to establish a location for a community garden.

The Town of Fort Macleod responded to inquiries by offering land that can’t be developed because it is a utility corridor.

The Fort Macleod Community Garden was established in 2008.

In 2008 after the location was secured the Fort Macleod Community Garden Committee was struck and began developing the space.

The committee was aided by a successful application for a Community Improvement Project grant in 2009.

Clay and soil was hauled to the site, and from there a lush and scenic garden space developed.

The mandate of the community garden is to promote and support a healthy, sustainable community where people from diverse backgrounds come together to reconnect with the land, grow food for themselves and others while cultivating a truly integrated community.  

“Having a community garden provides ongoing learning opportunities; the skills and knowledge to grow healthy tasty food locally and economically,” the committee explained. “All gardeners are prudent with their water use, ensuring that water is used aptly.  Watering hoses are never left unattended.  The garden adopted a no pesticide, no herbicide policy from the first growing season, produce from the community garden continues to be free of pesticides and herbicides today.”

Side benefits to the community garden included providing the chance for people to be physically active outdoors during the spring and summer, while learning, working and sharing produce with other people.

“It provides yet another community space, where families and individuals can come together such as the pool or curling rink,” the committee added. “It has become a place where we get to know new members of our community.  Research tells us community gardens increase a sense of belonging.”

The Fort Macleod Community Garden features raised garden beds.

Fort Macleod’s community garden has 41 individual garden patches of 10 ft. by 15 ft. in size.

There are also four raised beds with more in the works.

As well, there are additional shared garden spaces for potatoes and squash along with fruit trees and shrubs.

This year, 30 gardeners rented patches and helped to grow and maintain the shared garden spaces.

The garden features a variety of produce, from asparagus to zucchini. If it can be grown in this area, gardeners seem willing to try.

Gardeners have shared their produce with friends and family members, and the community garden committee has delivered food to Pioneer Lodge, Col. Macleod Manor and the Foothills Centre. This year’s potato harvest will go to the local food bank.

The garden continues to develop, with capital projects planned to build more raised beds to meet requests from people to have elevated growing spaces. The raised gardens will be wicking beds, which hold water in the bottom to prevent evaporation while self-watering the growing bed.

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