Elmira is home to two community gardens, but you might not know it. Now, with the help of some local high school students, the green spaces will be clearly marked.
The organic, pesticide-free community garden has been in place since the ‘90s, and the demand for such spaces is increasing, said Kelly Christie of Woolwich Community Services. Currently, there are 41 community gardens throughout Waterloo Region and there’s a growing interest in starting new gardens.
At EDSS, teacher Alex Derma’s Grade 12 class has spent the past month designing and building 11 unique signs to display in front of various community gardens throughout the region, meeting a need of the Community Garden Council of Waterloo Region.
At first the students didn’t seem too excited about working on a project that they couldn’t take home with them, explained Derma, but he thinks that towards the signs’ completion, the idea of creating something for the community was a fun challenge.
“This is something that will be out in the public for a lifetime,” he noted. “Something the students have done is going to be on display for everyone to see. I think they enjoyed the process once they got a bit more engaged in it.”
Throughout the semester the students experimented with the design of their signs, testing them for qualities such as water and wind resistance, and also toyed with different shapes to get the aesthetics just right. The project requirements were not unlike what they would face if they went into a career in woodworking, explained Derma, and they were able to try out their familiar tools at new angles and in new ways.
A report by Public Health Waterloo Region noted that community gardening is a quickly growing phenomenon for a number of reasons, including an increasing desire among the general public to reconnect to local food, the desire for more communal green space within a community and access to it for those who may not have any, such as apartment and condo dwellers.
As the gardens are typically managed at the grassroots level, oftentimes the gardeners and organizers cannot afford to pay for an official sign or other costly accessories. They receive land, materials, and financial support through faith communities, businesses, charitable foundations and municipal governments, but typically that funding is only for the bare necessities to run such a project. Without a sign or any indication as to what the plot of land is used for however, the land is often mistreated and trampled or even vandalized.
“I think the project was a win-win,” said Christie of the sign the class designed for the Woolwich garden. “The students were able to develop their skills and contribute to the community at the same time which has been really appreciated. Without their help it would have been a very costly endeavor.”