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Alta. community garden harvests thousands of kilograms of produce for the Calgary Food Bank


For nearly the last quarter century, retirees from Transalta have raised a huge garden of produce destined for the Calgary Food Bank.

It’s known as the Get Growing Garden, and Tuesday was harvest day at the garden. More than 130 volunteers turned out to dig, pull and pluck everything from potatoes to cantaloupe.

“We planted this back in May and we've been tending to it on a weekly basis through the summer with our volunteers and doing weeding,” said Fred Ritter, the coordinator of the Get Growing Garden project.

“I think there's a community need for fresh produce, a tremendous need right now. Plus, it's an opportunity for retirees to gather. It's a bit of a social outing. It’s a physical activity where retirees can stay connected.”

This year’s harvest is expected to set a record.

In 2022, the group brought in over 28,000 kilograms (66,000 pounds) of vegetables from the garden. This year they expect to fill over 100 one cubic metre bags with over 34,000 kilograms, or 75,000 pounds of food.

“It becomes more satisfying that we can play a part and help the needy folks, given the rising cost of food and so on, and folks out there struggling to put food on the table,” Ritter said.

All the seeds, except potatoes, were donated by West Coast Seeds. The irrigated plot of land just outside Strathmore was supplied to the project by Eagle Lake Sod Farm, which also supplied the machinery and trucks to get it all to the food bank.

“It’s a great opportunity to work with the community. It's a passion here at Eagle Lake, growing things. Over the years, we got to know these guys doing a garden in Calgary, (we were) helping them out with compost and soil and they wanted to expand. We partnered up with them and made this happen,” said Eric Heuver, owner of Eagle Lake Turf Farms.

“It's a great feeling. What amazes me is that through volunteers and help, actually how much food you can produce on such a little piece of land. Good healthy food too, and local.”

For the Calgary Food Bank, the windfall harvest could not come at a better time. The agency has seen unprecedented growth in demand over the last year.

“We are just in the middle of a perfect storm with the Ukrainian refugees that have come to our province, rising interest rates and mortgages and then of course the inflation that everyone's feeling at the gas pumps in the grocery store and everywhere else in their life,” said Melissa From, president and CEO of the Calgary Food Bank.

From said the usage of the Calgary Food Bank is up 30 per cent year over year.

“We're definitely seeing a change in the demographic; Working professionals, or working people who are coming to the Calgary Food Bank is up something like 34 per cent year over year. And so, we're seeing pretty big increases in those folks who just can't quite make ends meet,” she said.

From said the massive harvest from the Get Growing Garden will help the food bank maintain its ability to hand out well balanced nutritional hampers.

The food bank aims to deliver hampers containing 30 per cent fresh produce and 30 per cent protein, along with milk, eggs, and dry goods. Top Stories

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