Students Give Community Garden a Boost

More plots mean more produce

Dan Kenel, left, and Jon Behnke

Dan Kenel, left, and Jon Behnke

How does your garden grow? One community garden in Guelph will grow larger this spring, thanks to help from U of G agriculture student Dan Kenel.

The third-year student is helping organizers double the size of an existing off-campus community garden. The project will accommodate more members – and more produce – on the grounds of Priory Park Baptist Church, near Stone Road West and the Hanlon Parkway, says Kenel.

The existing garden contains about 30 plots tended by congregation members. This year, the church’s community garden group plans to double its garden space.

Plans developed by Kenel and second-year landscape architecture student Jon Behnke include a windbreak, patio and mini apple orchard. The garden will be wheelchair accessible, including raised beds.

He expects most of the expansion will happen this year and hopes to run workshops for members on such topics as saving seed.

Several plots will be used to grow produce for a food bank run in Guelph by the Salvation Army.

Among the garden team members was Mary Jane Clark, formerly a U of G research associate studying green roofs with Prof. Youbin Zheng, School of Environmental Sciences.

Clark says the garden allows community members to meet and learn about growing food.

“Through gardening, relationships were built, community members gained an appreciation of food production, and healthy vegetables, fruits and herbs were produced by the gardeners, their families and members of the Priory Park Baptist Church congregation.”

She now does environmental horticulture research with Zheng at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Vineland, Ont. Clark hopes to volunteer with community gardens in the Niagara region.

Kenel has enlisted other organizations to help in developing the Priory Park garden, including the Green Legacy Program in Wellington County and Transition Guelph. With the latter, he plans to start an “adopt a fruit tree” program at the garden.

He will use the project’s design and organization in an undergrad research project for Prof. Karen Landman, an urban agriculture expert in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development.

Last year, an edible landscape designed by Kenel and U of G students Michelle Arseneault and Alice Lin won runner-up standing in an annual global contest called “Thought for Food.”

After learning about their interest in urban agriculture and permaculture, Clark contacted the trio for help with the Priory Park garden.

All three students also attended the One Young World summit conference held last year in Pittsburgh. Delegates from almost 200 countries discussed global issues and heard speakers, including former U.S. president Bill Clinton, musician and activist Bob Geldof and chef Jamie Oliver.

Says Kenel: “A small change within a local community can have a global impact. Everybody can effect some change for the better.”

Referring to the Guelph community garden, he says, “I don’t see this as changing the world or Guelph, but the ability for people to grow food, community-building, learning.”

He runs a landscaping company in Dundas, Ont.

“This is building a community around local food,” says Behnke. “It’s important for the relevance of community – people working together toward a common goal. Food is a basic need, so it’s a great way to create a collaborative effort.”

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