Good things growing at Eby Village

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House of Friendship is very enthusiastic about community gardens—we’ve got a big one at each community centre, a small garden here at the Emergency Food Hamper Program, and one is starting up this year at Eby Village!

Eby Village is a supportive housing building run by the House of Friendship. There are 64 tenants and the staff really try to foster a good sense of community. When I visit Eby Village I can tell everyone knows each other and they all get along really well.

To continue fostering a tight knit environment and friendly atmosphere, Eby Village is taking on an urban greening project this spring and summer. They have hired a part time staff person to coordinate, and there are already fifteen tenants who are meeting weekly to plan the garden. The plan is to make raised beds at the front of Eby for vegetables, and these will be high enough to be accessible for people who have trouble bending over. In the shady back area, they are planning a woodland garden, with pathways and lots of native plants. While the front area will be fairly active as residents grow vegetable plants, the woodland garden is meant to be a calm getaway that can reduce stress for residents.

An example of an accessible garden--high enough so people in wheelchairs and with other mobility issues can easily plant and weed.

An example of an accessible garden–high enough so people in wheelchairs and with other mobility issues can easily plant and weed.

I had the opportunity to talk with Allison, the supervisor at Eby, about why they want to start the garden. She says, “the urban greening project will provide tenants with the tools and opportunity to grow their own nutritious food, rejuvenate the urban space surrounding their building and develop together as a community.”

After visiting The Local and The Stop community food centres in Stratford and Toronto respectively, people at Eby Village became more interested in growing their own food. They had the idea for the garden to feed into their weekly community meals, and provide residents with fresh produce. Since Eby Village is supportive housing, all residents there are living on low income. As we’ve discussed here before, people living on low income sometimes face barriers to eating a healthy diet because fruit, vegetables, and whole grain items tend to be more expensive per calorie than processed foods. Allison is hoping that the garden and community meals will help provide healthy food for residents, especially since many of them deal with chronic health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

Gardening is healthy for reasons other than just the food it provides. Gardening is hard work and exercise, and being outside during the day is healthy as well. Because the gardens will be accessible for all Eby residents, seniors and people with disabilities will have access and be able to participate.

There is also a lot of evidence that gardening can reduce stress and other negative symptoms of mental illness. This report from the Grey Bruce Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association explores using gardening as part of a therapeutic process for their consumers. This article cites many academic studies that find gardening can help people cope with a traumatic incident (such as a death in the family), reduce stress, and help cope with symptoms of depression. While there’s no such thing as a silver bullet—mental health is different for everyone—there is proof that for some people, gardening could alleviate some negative symptoms. Like Allison said, “we want to connect people with mental health challenges to the benefits of nature.”

Starting the garden also gives Eby tenants and staff an opportunity to work together on a project, and create closer ties within the Eby community. Instead of having individual plots for people at Eby, tenants will garden all the beds together and share the bounty of their harvest.

The garden received funding this year through the Region of Waterloo’s Community Environment Fund.

I can’t wait to see how their garden turns out! If you want to help Eby get their garden started, they have a wish list of things they need to be successful. If you have any of these lying around your garden shed and don’t need them anymore, they’d love to give them a brand new home! If you have one of the items on the wish below and you’d like to donate it, you can call Eby at 519-570-2400 or e-mail ebyvillage@houseoffriendship.org.

Eby’s community garden wish list:

  • Garden Gloves –gently used or new
  • Planting Pots- all sizes
  • Seedling trays
  • Spray Nozzle
  • Tomato cages –very important!
  • Chicken wire
  • Hand weeding tools
  • Garden transplanter
  • Trowels
  • Top soil
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3 Responses to “Good things growing at Eby Village”

  1. Tiffany Says:

    ’tis the season for gardening! Although I live in an apartment I started container gardening just last year. Some simple plants and a few herbs. This year I’ve expanded to include lettuce as well & I already have bigger plans for next year! I never thought it could be so relaxing and a huge stress reliever but it is. There is nothing I enjoy more than relaxing out on my balcony, digging in the dirt and caring for my plants!

    • Erin Epp Says:

      That sounds great Tiffany! I’m away most of the summer so won’t be gardening this year, but I miss it already. Be sure to bring in some pictures when everything is growing!

  2. Lynda Says:

    Raised flower/vegetable beds is a great idea! The soil gets less compacted and heats up earlier which sometimes allows for a second harvest. I am in the process of doing this myself with a vision of a bountiful harvest that I can share. I hope that all goes well with yours. I’ll be looking for the photos!

    Lynda

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