Building a community space tackling food insecurity while enhancing community engagement.
“I’m so happy I get to see all the amazing work being done in this garden and community, especially during this special tomato festival.”
– The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, MP Vancouver Granville
Planting the seeds for the garden started more than 3 years ago. Following the demolishment of the Riley Park Community Centre in 2012, there was a need for an alternative community gathering place. The Parks Board master plan for the Riley Park redevelopment included a community garden, which presented the opportunity to both strengthen our connections and build new connections to our neighbourhood.
The garden, the fieldhouse and the Neighbourhood Food Network Coordinator, are projects of Little Mountain Neighbourhood House. Over the past few years, we hosted conversations with community members, groups and organizations and established that the garden would aim to address the issues of food security and community involvement.
The Riley Park Community Garden is envisioned to create community space and social cohesion through participation, education and events. We promote food security by supporting neighbourhood organizations and charities with the food grown by our volunteers.
The garden aims to bring our community members closer through education and community events. Beyond its immediate function as an inclusive gathering point, we want the community garden to reflect our core visions to improve food security, ecological sustainability and community development.
The community told us they want a garden based on commons design principles guided by the eight design principles for sustainable management of Common Pool Resources, developed by Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom. This means that produce grown is given to the food programs serving those in need in our community; to support our food literacy activity; and then for community food celebrations.
Beyond growing food, it is a place for neighbours to gather and connect.
In 2017, our activities included
- Work Parties held weekly to build the garden, plant it open for all; corporate work party days; and student groups.
- Community Meals included picnics, community kitchens, themed potlucks including a Syrian-meal, Heritage Potluck, a Latino fiesta, a Corn butter tasting, tomato- fest, apple fest, and three sisters lunch.
- Community Celebrations with different cultural or seasonal themes included the shed design charette, Hillcrest Festival, Plein Air, Four Corners Medicine Wheel, Corn Festival, Artful Reflections, Fall Equinox Wild Salmon Caravan, Shakespeare in the Garden, Connecting to Place, Mad Hatter Tea Party.
- Garden Meetings to discuss ongoing projects with the garden and related topics
- Education workshops taught about Indigenous Medicinal Plants, Pollinators, Compost, Fall/Winter Planting, Soil Science, Garlic Growing.
“It was inspiring to see students participating with gusto and asking really good questions. We got so much work done!”
– Lori Weidenhammer, talking about the Tupper Learning Library Day
The focus is on shared gardening with no private plots. Preference on group gardening is to those who are food insecure or who provide food and meals for those who are food insecure. Our membership includes a Syrian sponsored family; the Neighbourhood House Newcomers, Latinos and Summer Campers; Intergenerational with Ed Shum (our 90+ year old neighbour who started the Seniors Community Garden) with a Filipino newcomer family; UBC Rewilders; and SPEC (Society Promoting Environmental Conservation).
Our partnership with the Vancouver Farmers Market was strengthened as the new Riley Park Summer Market was adjacent to the garden. We participate monthly in the Donation Station for the benefit of food programs serving newcomers, immigrants and refugee claimants; and farmers, including Shirlene from Earth Apple Farm and Chris from One Love Farm who shared their knowledge with our community.
Looking forward, we need help from the community to plan our future activities and to learn how to better share what we grow with those in need in our neighbourhood. We have an online survey and will host community conversations with seniors groups to better how we enable our residents to access healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate food.
We thank New Horizons For Seniors funding, the Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park Society, the Vancouver Parks Board and Neighbourhood Small Grants for their support.
For more information or to subscribe to our newsletter, visit www.rileyparkgarden.org