Community garden group firmly rooted in place


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This article was published 22/06/2022 (347 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

While the pandemic has not stopped Sustainable South Osborne Community Cooperative from growing food and building community, it has challenged the group’s ability to meet its mandate more broadly.

Founded in 2009, SSOCC operates several garden sites — plus an orchard — in Riverview and Lord Roberts, along with associated garden clubs. A key part of its mission is to provide educational workshops and other programming related to sustainable local food systems, but COVID-19 has taken a bite out of that.

SSOCC president Mathew Scammell said the workshops — which taught skills ranging from tree grafting to food fermentation — all but came to a halt once the pandemic hit.

Members of the People Garden Club work at the People Garden site, located on Balfour Avenue, behind Riverview Community Centre.

“It’s really in-person, it’s hands-on, you kind of need somebody to go there with you to do it as they’re teaching you,” he said.

The degree of proximity required was, naturally enough, precluded by social distancing requirements during the pandemic.

As a result, the organization has lost half its programming, SSOCC vice-president Rod Kueneman said. While the group would like to get some of it going again this year, SSOCC is still operating in uncertainty.

“Part of the worry is that we’ll have another wave of COVID,” Kueneman said, adding that SSOCC is hesitant to put resources into organizing events that may ultimately not be possible.

Nonetheless, SSOCC is moving forward, according to Scammell.

“I wouldn’t say thriving, but we’re also not just surviving,” he said.

While planting has been somewhat delayed this year due to an unusually cold and rainy spring, the garden clubs are well underway. With the guidance of experienced garden stewards, volunteers contribute their time and energy growing food and in return receive a share of the produce. In keeping with SSOCC’s commitment to enhancing local food security, it has always donated at least a third of the harvest to those in need through food banks and other organizations.

In addition, this season SSOCC will continue to engage in site maintenance, restoration, and completion. In the case of one garden, there’s a need to critically assess its design and refurbish as experiments that were begun a decade ago have begun to generate insights, they said.

COVID-19 has certainly been a limiting factor for SSOCC. But, like the sites themselves, it is not going anywhere.

“Having an orchard and the gardens gives us some kind of permanence in the community,” Kueneman said. “You know that if you go to that space, that place, in the summertime, there’s going to be stuff happening.”

Tracy Groenewegen

Tracy Groenewegen
South Osborne community correspondent

Tracy Groenewegen is a community correspondent for South Osborne. She can be reached at

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