Through the Planting for People program, an ‘Accessible Heritage Community Garden’ has been set up at Fort Normandeau. Organizers say the program provides an opportunity for clients to gain employment readiness skills and connect with their community. Mark Weber/Lacombe Express

‘Accessible Heritage Community Garden’ set up at Fort Normandeau

Program provides opportunities to better connect with community

Employment Placement and Support Services has partnered with Waskasoo Environmental Education Society to create a program called Planting for People, and through that they have created an Accessible Heritage Community Garden at Fort Normandeau.

“We’ve teamed up with Waskasoo and Fort Normandeau for the Planting for People project, which is a really great project that we’ve been working on. It’s on a ‘seed to plate’ philosophy where the clients and the public are able to plant and tend to the gardens” ” said Kristen Vandenmaagdenberg, an employment specialist with Employment Placement and Support Services.

“We’re really excited about it,” she said. ”A lot of our clients are employment clients so they are learning employment-related skills, they’re learning about teamwork, organization and making sure they are coming in at a regular time on a regular basis. It’s been very beneficial for our clients, and I know that a lot of them are very excited to see how it’s going now, and they are excited for the harvest as well.

“We have some corn, tomatoes, radishes, beets, spinach, onions, strawberries and a lot of herbs.

“We even have some grapes,” she added. “I didn’t even know we could grow them in our climate, so it’s been a learning curve for clients and us alike!”

She said the program also provides an opportunity for clients to better connect with their community.

“We’ve had a lot of good feedback from it, and a lot of interest. So it’s great that we were able to team up.”

J.P. Fortin, board chair of the Waskasoo Environmental Educational Society, thanked all the funders and the volunteers that helped bring the project to fruition.

The project was co-funded by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and the City of Red Deer.

“One of the things that we are excited about is that these new gardens will give us new space for programming that is accessible, inclusive and that we can use for multiple types of programming,” he said.

Ian Warwick, executive director of Sunnybrook Farm Museum, said there is a ‘sister’ garden located at the farm which has proven to be a hit as well.

“With our garden, local residents sign up for it,” he said.

“They really look beautiful, and we are so grateful to the City of Red Deer and the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation – it’s been an amazing experience,” he said. “It’s kind of fascinating – the shared experience that this creates. And the amazing food that they are growing!”

The garden space also provides community members with spaces that are accessible, and that act as venues for local food production, educational programs, community building and volunteerism, said Douglas Potter of the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

“As we continue to grow and urbanize, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find green spaces in our cities,” he said.

“It’s often challenging for families, individuals and communities to unplug, take a break to get outdoors and enjoy nature. That’s one of the many reasons why over the last 25 years, TD has been committed to revitalizing and enriching green spaces across the country.”

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