This article is taken from the FSN 2012 Community Report. Read the full report here. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to suggest your community-based food security initiative be highlighted in a future report.
Averee’s Garden in Harbour Breton is dedicated to the memory of Averee Pierce, a grade 2 student at St. Joseph’s School in Harbour Breton who passed away in March of 2012. The Garden is a partnership between Averee’s Purpose, a foundation started by Averee’s parents, Terri and Rod, the Town of Harbour Breton, the Harbour Breton Community Youth Network, St. Joseph’s School, and the Central Regional Wellness Coalition.
Sandra Dominie, a Public Health Nurse with Central Health, first began organizing the garden early in 2012. She says she had always had an interest in gardening and was looking for a summer project for kids in the community. Last year she attended an FSN Teleconference on School Gardens where she heard about the Happy Valley-Goose Bay Children’s Community Garden. She started bringing in partners for a gardening project and applied to the Central Regional Wellness Coalition for a grant of $2000 to start the garden. Dominie’s daughter was friends with Averee, which led to the garden becoming a project for Averee’s classmates, the grade 2 class at St. Joseph’s School, as a way to remember her.
The garden is located on the property of the Community Youth Network, where the grade 2 students and parents came together to build six raised beds. Seedlings were started in the spring inside the school by the grade 2 class. A grow station, one of the project’s biggest costs, was purchased to hold the plants. Every day two students from the class would go with Dominie to check temperatures, water, and tend to the plants.
In the summer, children enrolled in the Community Youth Network’s summer camp (grades 2 to 6) took care of the garden. They built signs labeling everything growing in the garden. Dominie did workshops with the summer camp on life cycles, ‘how things grow’, and Canada’s Food Guide. She says the children loved it. “Especially the grade 2’s who had started the garden earlier,” she says. “Knowing it was named after their classmate, Averee, made it hold a special meaning for them."
The garden grew peas, beans, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, basil, chives, onion, pumpkin, flowers, and more. Children in the summer camp tasted snap peas for the first time. Dominie says that was a highlight for them. Herbs grown in the garden were sold to a local store, raising over $200 for Averee’s Purpose. Most produce was saved for a fall harvest party.
In the fall the same children, now in grade 3, continued to take care of the garden. A harvest party was held in October to coincide with World Food Day (October 16th) to use up the garden’s vegetables. Overall there were over 150 participants in the garden over the year. Dominie says the children were proud of what they had accomplished and learned a lot.
At the beginning of the project the children would say “are you serious, that’s not going to grow!”, but by the end Dominie heard “we grew that? No way!” Most of the children had never seen plants grow all the way from seed to vegetable before. Even the parents were skeptical of how well the seeds would grow. There are not a lot of gardeners in Harbour Breton, but Dominie thinks some of the adults were converted with the success of Averee’s Garden. Dominie and her kids now have a back yard garden, and other families are planning their own gardens.
Some of the challenges the garden faced were rocky soil and a lack of knowledge about gardening. A few ‘community champions’, avid gardeners, helped the garden succeed by offering advice on choosing seeds and planting.
Terri Pierce, Averee’s mother, says that the school garden has brought the community closer together. Averee’s Purpose, started in 2009, raises awareness and money for research into Batten Disease. The Town has declared October to be Batten Disease awareness month. Averee’s Purpose also holds bottle drives and a Walk of Light. Averee’s Purpose has raised over $22,000 for the Batten Disease Support & Research Association.
The plan for next year is to do more education, compost at the garden, and expand to involve more grades at St. Joseph’s. The organizers would also like to get better soil and a greenhouse. On the effect of the garden, Dominie concludes “The good growing is a bonus. To see how good the kids feel about themselves is the real accomplishment.”
For more information about Averee’s Garden contact Sandra Dominie at Sandra.Dominie@centralhealth.nl.ca