Georgian College students are just a few weeks away from having fresh, locally grown food available right on the Barrie Campus with an innovative community garden.
Over 700 new plants, including potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, beets, herbs and cabbage, were recently planted in raised garden beds beside the Sadlon Centre for Health, Wellness and Sciences. While Georgian has had a community garden for the past several years, the planting area has been expanded to 3,600 square feet.
“We are all stewards of the air, soil and water,” says Daniel Clements. “Not only will the garden provide food for students, but it will help make all of us more conscious of where our food comes from and how it’s grown.” Daniel, an Academic Program Technologist in the Hospitality, Tourism and Recreation (HTR) department is overseeing the project with the help of other HTR staff. Students will also be brought in to help with the garden over the summer as part of a meaningful co-op experience in a field-to-fork environment. All health and safety requirements due to COVID-19 will be respected while work on the garden takes place over the summer.
Over the years, food grown in the garden has been used in Georgian’s kitchens and distributed to students in need of perishable, nutritious foods through an on-campus food bank called the Georgian Food Locker. Donations will also be made to the local food bank.
Staff and students will be working to maintain the garden over the next several weeks with weeding, watering and pruning, as well as making improvements to the soil by incorporating compost and laying down mulch and making plans for upgrades and future crops.
“When our Culinary students are able to come back on campus for labs, we hope to share this great experience with them as well,” says Daniel. He adds that the project has many positive benefits and this summer seemed like a fitting time to expand the garden.
“Partially due to COVID-19, many communities across our country have come to terms with the concept of food security and what that means,” Daniel says. “Urban gardens are an important part of that. The simple act of planting a garden helps to provide a sense of purpose, a connection to nature and hope for the future.”
Daniel adds that it’s nice to be able to show students how this can work, here in our own space.
“Georgian has a long and rich history of community involvement,” says Bryan Hunt, HTR Associate Dean. “At no time is it more critical that we help our students and our community.”
Harvesting will take place during the summer and fall, depending on the crop, with an estimated yield of 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of vegetables.