Culture  Growing plants, growing up

Christy Frost discusses how one garden fights ageism

There may be a growing interest in urban gardening and consuming locally grown foods, but few people under 45 have experienced the process of urban gardening with their hands in the dirt. This spring, Action Communiterre is planning a new inter-generational garden in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) to fight against age-separation and help a younger generation learn to grow their own food.

Action Communiterre is a collective garden initiative that operates primarily in NDG, and serves the surrounding community. They operate ten organic gardens which donate a portion of their produce to the community.

In the past, the group has run inter-generational cooking classes, but this the first of their garden projects to focus specifically on fighting ageism and on bridging the gap between the younger and the older members of the community.

“Through our inter-generational cooking program that runs throughout the winter months, we are already in touch with the part of the population that suffers from age-segregation and food-insecurity. We experienced a strong need for these kind of programs,” said Hanna Gradulewski, social coordinator of Action Communiterre, in an email interview with The Daily.

“The goal is to encourage elderly people to share their gardening knowledge and allow young people to learn from them. At the same time, the younger people will offer their physical strength for the gardening work that the elderly people might not be able to do anymore,” Gradulewski added.

Unlike a community garden, where every member has their own plot of land and grows food independently, in a collective garden all the members share the same space and share in the harvest. This structure is more inviting to beginning gardeners who may not feel savvy enough to plan and plant their own personal garden.

Located just outside the beautiful St. Thomas church, there is nothing uninviting about the garden.  Furthermore, someone will be present at each gardening session to give out advice, and help the gardeners work together. “It is the gardening that brings everyone together,” said Gradulewski.

A group of grassroots activists started Action Communiterre in 1997, to try and address the issues of poverty, food security, and the environment in their neighbourhood borough of NDG, through growing organic food and sharing the food with each other and the wider community.

The St. Thomas garden plans to follow in this tradition by donating a portion of the food they produce to the NDG Food bank. “We hope to contribute to food sovereignty by transmitting knowledge about how to grow your own food and empower people in terms of food,” Gradulewski elaborated.

Urban gardens are an important part of re-claiming space in the city and empowering people to work together. With the St. Thomas garden, Action Communiterre hopes to fuse food autonomy with the building of inter-generational community. “The most valuable experience is surely meeting other people that might be from a completely different background.”