A group of Transcona youngsters were inspired to harvest for Winnipeg Harvest.
The RCSCC #350 Transcona Sea Cadets took over five plots of the Transcona Community Gardens on Ravenhurst Street to help grow vegetables for the local food bank. The food will be meted out through the Transcona Food Bank at Transcona Memorial United Church (209 Yale Ave. W.).
The cadets must perform community service each year, often doing projects like writing letters to soldiers overseas, visiting seniors in care homes, or donating canned goods to Weston-based Winnipeg Harvest.
This year, a group of approximately 45 cadets wanted to take it a step further in cultivating the garden, which began with an initial planting over spring break after some intense research. The cadets and officers took care of plants at home before transplanting them to the garden in June.
"We learned how to grow (vegetables) from seed and how to take care of them. We learned how careful you have to be with them," said 14-year-old Riley Howells.
"Really, we grew along with the tomatoes," added Evan Evaniuk, also 14.
The cadets planted over 150 tomato plants, as well as smaller quantities of squash, corn, onions, and peppers. Organizer Lt. Mike Gnutel hopes to harvest enough tomatoes to feed 400 families.
Officers checked in on the garden every other day while cadets would tend to drop in once a week, meaning there was often someone at the garden to help its visibility. Gnutel, himself an avid gardener, hoped the next generation learned about nurturing plants through the experience.
"Young people think everything is instantaneous," Gnutel said, adding he also learned plenty from the experience. "This isn’t instantaneous. This was a work of love.
"You have to put seeds in those little individual containers, and they said ‘Sir, nothing is ever going to grow. Nothing.’ From five packages of seeds, we got 140, 150 plants."
Commanding officer Lt. Shari Howells said garden founders Glenn and Debby Johnson were a major help to the cadets in getting their vegetables to bloom.
"Glenn and Debby have been instrumental in it, because without their help, we wouldn’t know how far apart to plant the tomato plants, what was a weed and what wasn’t," Howells said.
The Johnsons provided the five 11-by-11-foot plots and water to the cadets for free, since they would have otherwise grown the vegetables for harvest themselves. The couple was more than happy to let the group use the land, which is owned by Transcona Alliance Church.
"Every year we donate spots to Winnipeg Harvest, and we grow the vegetables in those spots, look over them, and take them," Debby said. She and Glenn were involved as cadet leaders when they lived in Saskatchewan.
In addition to the donated plots, a handful of local gardening businesses donated seeds to the project.
The cadets will begin the 2013-14 year on Sept. 10. The group, open to youth aged 12 to 19, meets every Tuesday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Joseph Teres School at 131 Sanford Fleming Road. Gnutel said drop-ins are always welcome.