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This article was published 10/6/2020 (330 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THERE’S a growing push for community gardens in Winnipeg, which advocates say could help ensure access to fresh food in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
City council’s property and development committee is set to consider two motions Tuesday that aim to create new space for community gardens. One asks civic staff to explore how vacant city-owned lots on Oustic Avenue could be used for gardens during 2020 or 2021; the other calls for a report to identify two potential community garden sites on city-owned lands in Waverley West.
"It’s a sign of the times… with COVID, everyone is more interested in food production than ever," said Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital), chairman of the property committee and Winnipeg Food Council. "The intention is good to try to do some experimenting, try and see if we can use some vacant properties in any ward for community gardening."
Mayes said he expects to support both motions, but isn’t sure if the city would have enough time to set up plots in those areas before the 2020 growing season ends. He said a space at the St. Vital arena, however, could become the site of another garden.
"(It) has huge planter boxes that (have been) just full of gravel for as long as I can remember, so there’s real interest there. We may have something on that later this week that we’ll be able to announce."
The councillor said he believes local interest in gardening is growing, as shown by a local surge in garden supply purchases. A food council COVID-19 update notes many vegetable seed sellers reported their sales more than doubled this year.
Jeanette Sivilay, Winnipeg Food Council’s co-ordinator, said there was already demand for community gardens before the pandemic put food security in the spotlight.
Sivilay noted COVID-19 interfered with the food supply chain, which shut down some meat processing plants and hindered the travel of temporary foreign workers who play a critical role in growing fresh food.
"We’re seeing a lot of disruption in our food supply during the pandemic, a lot of places where the food system was weak, or not super robust, already are showing some cracks and disruptions. So food security is increasingly important and we’ve seen increased demand for food from different charitable organizations in the city as well," she said.
"Whatever we can do to be more self-sufficient when it comes to food is really going to help with food security."
Sivilay said the food council has counted at least 60 community gardens in Winnipeg managed by various groups, while the city rents out plots at another 11 garden allotment sites.
Despite the fact the latter sites lack access to water, forcing growers to haul it in, Sivilay said all of those plots are now in use. She said there’s still unmet demand for garden space, especially in the downtown area.
Sivilay, who personally rents a city plot, said the gardens can boost food security for those who lack yard space or sunshine, while also helping connect community members.
"You’re having better access to fresh, healthy food if you’re growing food at a community garden site… there’s a lot of potential to enhance green space and they’re a really great community building initiative," she said.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.