On Saturday, May 23, 2020, Robinson Community Garden will be opening their fields for the first planting of the season. Anyone is welcome to go out and support because, according to Julie Anderson, the community coordinator at the garden, the Robinson Community Garden will need all of the help it can get.
This is for one reason: the economic situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic is causing food scarcity for families all over Kingston.
Anderson first became interested in food security when she started majoring in geography in university, and the interest solidified after she taught abroad in India.
“It was always in your face,” said Anderson. “It comes in different forms and just because you see someone with food does not mean they’re actually food secure.”
This interest became the seed that grew her vision for what she wants the garden to become this year.
“A lot of families have found themselves in stressful situations where they don’t know where the next meal is coming from,” she said. “If this has never happened to them before, it can be even more stressful.”
Because of this, Anderson is very passionate about the growing season ahead.
“I want to cultivate even more food than we ever have before,” she said.
The process, she explained, is simple.
“We grow, we harvest and we donate,” she said.
“To Martha’s Table, the Loving Spoonful, the United Way, and any other organization that might need it.”
Robinson Community Gardens was founded in part by Bernie Robinson, a local business person, Judge Brian Abrams and the Salvation Army, 9 years ago. Anderson said that Robinson just wants to “give vegetables away, specifically to children.”
Currently in the garden are vegetables that are easy to make stew and other hearty meals with. Rutabaga, various types of potatoes, onions, tomatoes, corn, squash and lettuce, to be exact. For this season, at least.
“One of the problems that we often face with this type of non-profit is that you might be able to give the people the tools they need, but without the proper education they won’t know quite what to do,” Anderson expressed.
She hopes that the meals made from the garden vegetables will show families that eating vegetables does not have to be as difficult as it can sometimes seem.
“We want people to be unafraid of eating vegetables and understand that there is a nutritional component,” she said. “You can make delicious hearty meals and it doesn’t have to be hundreds of dollars.”
Nutritious eating is not the only reason community gardens are so important, especially in these times.
“It’s an activity to do with your family, it increases an appreciation for food, and encourages children to want to eat their vegetables.”
Additionally, there are benefits to the environment, better soil and air quality, a smaller distance for the food to travel, and food waste can be reduced through composting.
And finally, with lockdown and the stay at home measures, community gardening is outside.
“It’s so peaceful when you come out here,” said Anderson as she turned her computer camera around to show the scenery over a Zoom call. “It almost feels like a sort of meditation, I’m doing a repetitive movement and there’s not a lot of thinking involved, and by the end of it, you’re tired in a good way.”
Starting on Saturday, volunteers can visit every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“We want this place to be a place that everyone knows and loves and somewhere people will think to go on a Saturday morning,” said Anderson. “I want it to be a place where high schoolers think to go for volunteer hours. I want it to be a community gathering place.”
Robinson Community Garden is located at 3747 Princess Street. To register to volunteer, visit this site.
Jemma Dooreleyers is a Kingstonian who is about to enter her fourth year at Ryerson School of Journalism. She has been a contributor for the Kingstonist in the past and is excited to be a full-time intern. She has written for a number of student publications such as the Ryersonian, Kaleidoscope, the Eyeopener, Her Campus and the White Wall Review. This year, she was the Arts Editor for Ryerson Folio, a general interest magazine. She is currently back in Kingston for the time being, social distancing with her mom, a dog, and two cats.