Where Good Things Grow: the Pemberton Creek Community Garden
The Pemberton Creek Community Garden is a volunteer led, organic community garden located on public land in Pemberton near the Pemberton Creek bridge accessing One Mile Lake Park. The garden began in 2006 as a Village of Pemberton initiative with a mere 14 plots, but thanks to keen volunteers like Lisa Griffith and Shane Pedrini, it soon became an independent entity and in 2008 joined forces with Stewardship Pemberton. It now features over 60 plots, as well as a free plot dedicated to the Pemberton Foot Bank. The Garden also has a sandbox, a tool shed, a picnic table and a greenhouse for starting seedlings, irrigated with misters on a timer system.
To get into the swing of spring, we checked in with Lisa Griffith and Laura Zgud, to find out how a garden grows, and what it a communal growing space says about a community…
Plots measure approximately 10 x 20 feet and sell for $50 for the first year, and $30 every consecutive year after that.
Those people interested in obtaining a plot can email: email@example.com to be placed on a waiting list, or attend one of the Spring sign up events.
- The upcoming Garden Fundraiser and Registration Night will take place at Mile One Eatery this April. Everyone welcome. A portion of food sales will be donated toward the PCCG, plus there will be prizes donated by Rona, and people can sign up or add their name to the waitlist. The date will be determined shortly…either April 9th or 16th – more details coming shortly~!!!
- Earth Day Spring Clean Up on April 22nd – all gardeners are encouraged to come out and help organize the shed, tidy the greenhouse, inventory the tools, put out hoses, pick up garbage, etc. etc.
To keep up to date, join the Pemberton Creek Community Garden facebook group.
Also, new this year, Laura and Mike Zgud will share monthly updates, photos and gardening tips from the Community Garden at The Wellness Almanac.
Lisa, you’ve been involved from the outset, haven’t you? What has the Community Garden meant to you and your family?
LG: I began as a volunteer member of the Village of Pemberton’s Garden Committee, and was closely involved when we broke off as an independent non-profit group with the Village’s blessing.
The garden has meant many things to me and my family. Being a community planner by profession, being involved in the Pemberton Creek Community Garden (PCCG) has been an amazing opportunity to facilitate the development of a tangible and positive ‘community’ of like-minded people – people of all ages and backgrounds, with varying levels of knowledge and commitment, all bound together by the pleasure and/or necessity to grow their own food, herbs and flowers.
Being a health-conscious individual, it has allowed me grow my own organic vegetables, which is something I have been striving to eat in abundance for over 25 years.
AND being an advocate of social sustainability – practices that respect the earth, support local families, embrace inclusivity and celebrate diversity – being involved with the Pemberton Creek Community Garden is a no-brainer!! My contributions satisfy both my type A, detail-obsessed need to organize, and my do-gooder, green, community-minded tendencies!
The garden has also given my very adept husband a public outlet for his carpentry skills, as well as an opportunity to discover his (before this) unbeknownst green thumb.
For my son, the garden has been a place to grow up, a place to grow his own pumpkins for Halloween jack-o-lanterns, a place to grab a cold drink of water from the hose and a snack of peas and mini carrots on a super-hot summer day, and a place to play with other kids. The sandbox, although completely communal, is referred to as “his”. (We built it with him in mind as a helpful distraction for planting parents…)
And for all of us, the PCCG is a source of great pride and connection with new-found friends and neighbours.
Apparently, it also holds some great street-cred – it is because of my involvement with the community garden that I am on a first name basis with some of the most respected Pemberton farming families, and have even been invited to sit as a bona fide member of the Pemberton Farmers’ Institute!
Any volunteer commitment is huge… why do you keep going with this one?
I think that can be inferred from the above!
But one thing I haven’t mentioned is that every spring I get so caught up organizing fundraising events & getting people signed up, that I don’t always have a lot of time to do much in my own garden. My husband takes care of deciding what to plant, starting seedlings, digging up the soil, adding compost, planting and watering.
I eventually weed. And harvest. And prepare meals. We have a very mundane division of labour.
What’s the connection with the garden and Stewardship Pemberton? Why’s that a good fit?
It was my idea to have the garden fall under the Stewardship Pemberton umbrella, rather than jumping through the hoops of becoming our own society. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. Now with the Nature Centre just across the creek from us, it makes even more sense and we have many commonalities and overlapping goals. And with Stewardship Pemberton now a Canadian Registered Charitable Organization, it means we can issue tax-deductible receipts for membership fees, access more grants, and achieve even more together.
What are the best changes/developments you’ve seen over the 7 years that the Garden has been going?
The addition of the greenhouse, the foodbank garden plot and the popularity of it all. Plus our facebook group which keeps us all in the loop: Pemberton Creek Community Garden.
Are there 60 plots at the garden? Who has a plot? Is it all neighbouring residents from the condo complexes there? Is it more families? Or singles? Is it a good place to meet new people, if you’re new to town?
There are now over 60 plots – I think 63 was the total in 2012. We are always trying to create more plots to keep up with demand. They majority of plots are ‘jointly-run’ or shared between families, friends or roommates. As well, I would say most of our members come from nearby townhouse complexes, but there are others from different neighbourhoods involved. Anyone and everyone is welcome to join – as long as they actually live in Pemby! I have heard of someone who faked a Pemberton address but were actually from Whistler! Isn’t that ironic!! I can’t get too upset, as we obviously have a beautiful thing going here that is surely coveted by gardening lovers residing in Whistler!
How does it change the nature of a neighbourhood to have a community garden to work in?
It is a natural meeting place, and an amenity to take pride in. The proximity of the garden to Pioneer Junction and the Peaks can’t be beat! But it is totally a community wide asset.
And we have to thank people like the Beks and Doug LeBlanc and Rona for their yearly donations of manure, trucking and prizes respectfully.
What is the demand like? Is it still as high and constant as ever? Do most people keep their plots, or is there a pretty decent turnover?
The demand exceeds our expectations every year. Our waitlists have steadily been growing larger every spring. But luckily enough, we always seem to be able to accommodate everyone so far, either by natural turn-over and by finding more space to create new plots. We are so fortunate to have such a large piece of land – most community gardens are condensed little patches compared to our sprawling mini- acreage!
However, we really want to stress that part of being a member is committing to donate time toward communal duties, and we may have to crack down on those who do not contribute, especially given the keenness and sheer number of those on the waitlist.
What do you think hooks people on growing their own food?
I’d like to think it’s the satisfaction of enjoying a truly locally produced “1 Mile Radius Diet”, or biting into something you have grown yourself and savouring how much better and sweeter everything tastes. However, everyone gets hooked for their own unique reasons…
When did the Food Bank get its plot?
Who initiated that?
Mike Czerculan from Shaw Cable who is a long term member of the garden spearheaded it with the Food Bank. We give them a large plot at no charge at the far end of the garden (a spot that does not have close watertap access) and in exchange they haul their own water and maintain it.
Laura, you’ve been involved since 2009, right? Why do you spend so much time at the garden? What does it mean to you?
LZ: I love being in the garden, it’s a meditative place for me, working with my hands in the soil is extremely grounding & therapeutic. It makes you feel good, it connects you to the earth and to the food you eat. It makes you proud of your meal because you know what went into creating it. I spend so much time in the garden because I’m drawn to be there, drawn to nurture the soil & plants, I also really like the garden people, friendly & natural folk! I’m always looking forward to checking on the progress as the garden grows and get such a fullfilling sense of accomplishment to harvest fresh veggies.
Of your 60 members, what are the main reasons that people keep a plot?
LZ: To cultivate & harvest their own Organic produce. To teach their children about taking care of a garden. To reduce their grocery bill while increasing the quality of food they are eating. To spend time outside.
What size are the plots? What can be grown in one? Does the size enable people to actually be a bit self-sufficient?
LZ: The Plots are all measured out to be 10feet x 10feet or 100 square feet depending on the shape.
To give you an idea of what can be grown in a plot I’ll give you an overview of what I grew last year on our plot:
55 Garlic, 100 Onions half Red half Yellow, 20 Kale Plants half Curly half Laciento, 3 Rainbow Chard Plants, 60 Beets that were of mixed varieties, 60 Rainbow Carrots, 20 Sugar Snap Pea plants, 4 Potato Plants, 20 Parsnips, 9 Tomato Plants.
This gives you plenty of food to create your meals throughout the summer & fall. We also set ourselves up with enough Onions to last us until the end of February and enough Garlic to re-plant 80 cloves and to have enough to last until this year’s crop is ready to harvest. This is a huge savings as Organic local garlic is usually $3-$5/bulb.
What are the foolproof plantings for Pemberton, that you could suggest to a newcomer to gardening, for maximum success and satisfaction?
LZ: Foolproof: Lettuces, Kale, Potatoes & Garlic…everyone has their own opinions on what grows well & what doesn’t depending on their own success. I think were pretty lucky here, with some love you’ll be quite impressed with your green thumbs no matter how new you are to gardening.
Do you ever have to worry about garden plots being raided? ie naughty boys snacking on people’s sugar peas?
LZ: I don’t like to think about this happening, because so much effort and care goes into the final products. We have a pretty respectful community here luckily enough. We encourage any extras that anyone has grown to be shared amongst other gardeners. We have signs people can place in their plot if they are away on holidays that offer people to care for and harvest what is ripe so it doesn’t get left to spoil & waste…
How many hours does a person need to allocate to maintain and tend their plot?
LZ: Maintain vs Maximize are two different thoughts on caring for your plot.
As part of the contract of having a plot everyone is asked & expected to have their soil worked & prepared by end of May and gardens Planted by June 15th. Everyone also needs to keep their plots adequately maintained which means weeding regularly. On top of your personal plot care of 1 hour/week minimum we also have all gardeners commit to devoting 2 hours/month of overall community garden care. That includes joint garden clean up days we always have one day in the Spring and one day in the Fall. The upkeep and regular cleaning of the Garden Shed, tools, hoses, common pathways and the up keep of the green house. Your plants need water almost everyday in our hot dry summers so unless it Rains & Pours you would expect your garden tending to be a daily occurrence, it might be the highlight of your day!
Ever contemplated adding greenhouses to the zone, so people could get seeds started or grow year-around?
LZ: Yes, we do have a Green house that is ideal for starting your seedlings in the Spring it’s even set up with Misters so that the watering is taken care of on a timer system to ensure you get off to a great start to your gardening season!
Is there a lot of knowledge, seed and harvest sharing going on, between members?
LZ; I know I asked questions when I first joined. I looked at the guy who had the best crop of Garlic growing as well as an impressive garden in every division and I befriended Matt, who I had before this referred to as the “Garlic Guy” then I followed his lead, his every move! Planting on the same day as him, measuring how deep he was planting and matching that! The second year I was planting on the same day as Sharon and she graciously shared her Organic Bone Meal fertilizer with me that was a tip that someone had shared with her and now I pass on to others ( gets the roots off to a strong start!) . Gardeners definitely take it as a compliment if you seek out their advice!
In the Spring when everyone is planting we are trading seeds so that we all get the benefits of a diverse garden. I find a lot of generous trades in harvest time, “Would you like a zuchinni that’s as big as your arm?” Accepted and happily responded: “Please take as much as I can pile into your basket of green beans!”
What have been the learnings over the years? ie if you were asked to put together a presentation to another community (or another location in this community) to provide advice and best practices on setting up a community garden, what would it include? What would be the top 3-5 tips?
1. Encourage & Establish Community Garden involvement with caring for common areas, fundraising & sense of “community” in garden.
2. Respect for your Plot and Respect for the entire Garden
3. Organization: stay on top of staying organized
What are the most important tools/supplies for the Community Garden? Where were those funded from?
LZ; We have two Spring Fundraisers which are also the two days we encourage gardeners to come out, support and pay your plot renewal fee.
Last year we did an evening at Black Bird Bakery & an evening at Mt Currie Coffee Co, both evenings included a portion of the money generated from sales being donated from the generous establishments as well as our 50-50 draw money and raffle ticket money with great gardening prizes being donated for our Raffle draw from Rona!
It’s really important to get the gardeners out to support these events as it our main source of funds raised to supply the garden with the tools & equipment needed to supply everyone’s gardening needs.
We also use the money from everyone’s plot fee’s to purchase garden supplies. With so many gardeners using the tools most hand tools need to be completely replaced every season and a few hoses as well as many hose guns ( all could use a little more love when used ) Wheel barrows use a large portion of the budget as they are “big ticket items” and then we have Shovels, Forks, Hoes & Rakes!
We are lucky to have a very supportive local Rona store that always is happy to help out with a Community Garden Discount which has been a huge help. Last season we were able to have the greenhouse updated with the misters and all thanks to TBI Irrigation for giving us a discount to make that possible for everyone who utilizes the green house to benefit from.
We also have a beautiful picnic table that was refurbished for everyone’s pleasure. My husband & I also donated our time to create new plot sunflower signs for every garden and the materials used were funded from the garden. Lisa & Shane have donated countless hours to maintaining and creating this garden as well as everyone who helped out with the green house and donations from the WB Foundation for making the green house possible.
Pemberton has a chronic dog poo issue. Is the garden immune from that?
LZ; The dog poo stays out of the garden. We have a “no dogs in garden sign” that is completely respected from non-gardeners and the fence around the garden keeps it that way. Inside the garden we have gardeners who respectfully bring their dogs on leashes and their hasn’t been any issues with dogs on leashes hanging out at the end of the gardeners plots or in the shade of the garden shed. They like carrots too!
Have you had any unwanted wildlife encounters?
LZ: We have had Bears in the garden and ask that no Berries or fruit trees be planted in the garden to keep the attractants down. We have also had Deer, Rabbits and of course the usual suspects of Slugs, caterpillars & beetles eating away at our goods! That is all part of the deal, at least you know you have Organic produce when the bugs want it too.
What kind of “courses” /speaker nights have been the most successful/valuable?
LZ: Every year we organize three local garden Speakers to come to one of our Spring Fundraising/Renewal Fee nights to share their knowledge and answer questions. We would love to have more people attend these events and benefit from the value of information shared. Jordan Sturdy has shared his wealth of gardening tips with us for the past few years with all his North Arm Farm experience I always learn something new to improve upon. Last year I took away a better understanding of when, where, why & how much Lime to use on my garden. We also had Peter Gorski of Inspirearth Organics speak on extending & experimenting with the growing season utilizing the green house and hearty crops. We have had in past years different local Potato Farmers share their stories as well Compost experts. I can’t wait to see who we can have as speakers this year.
What is Pemberton like as a place to grow things, generally? I mean, obviously, the soil is pretty decent. But is it a pro-gardening culture, too? Is there a lot of support? Is the farming community supportive, as a general rule? Do you enjoy a lot of actual financial and advisory support as well as theoretical support?
LZ: Very supportive gardening culture here, great soil, awesome farmers who help out as Speakers, donating manure is a huge bonus for everyone as well!
Is it competitive? Do you find you’re looking at other people’s plots, thinking, ooh, their spinach is going gangbusters? How do they get their corn to look so good? I wish I were artistic like that? Ever thought about giving out awards? If you did, who would the 2012 winners be?
LZ: It’s competitive if you’re competitive. There are some beautiful plots, and it’s a very nice habit to walk up & down the pathways and see everyone’s masterpieces. It gives you creative ideas of what you can do with your own plot. You get to see how other plants are growing and what others thought of that you didn’t. You get inspired to work on your garden, you get passionate about creating a garden that you enjoy and are proud of. Or you realize that you need to get in your garden get your hands dirty and get some work done or you might lose your privileges of having a plot so that it can go to someone on our wait list who is going to utilize the plot.
I love the idea of honoring the gardeners with awards, let’s make it official, we will crown some top gardeners this year! 2013 Pemberton’s Next Top Gardener, the challenge is on!
For 2012, if you were proud of your garden and felt the benefits in your body of what growing & eating your very own organic local vegetables feels like, then you are all winners.
What do you think are the biggest benefits in having a community garden plot?
LZ: The benefits are more then you would imagine. Having a place to go to that is able to relieve your stress by connecting you to the earth, that’s able to feed not just your body but your soul. A place where the vibes are sweet, the feeling is good and your thoughts are cleared. These feelings are only but extended when you’re able to feed yourself and others with the fruits of your harvest and how amazing does it feel when you have enough to share with neighbors and friends.
The Garden is a place where your breath is full with the aromas of Flowers and Herbs that fill the air. You weed, water & tend to the care of your plants and that is always rewarded back to you when you pick your ripened veggies from the vine and taste the difference it makes to have grown it yourself. The friends you make and people you meet, surrounding yourself with like minded & healthy individuals who appreciate where your food is coming from in the same way you do.