September 30, 2020

BY RYAN GOODYEAR

When looking at the Conestoga College community gardens located at the Conestoga Cambridge campus, it’s easy to tell that the group’s first year was a smashing success.
The garden is thriving with bunches of vegetables ranging from the not-so-common eggplant and hot peppers to fall staples such as corn and squash.
The garden was planted on the May 24 weekend with vegetables that usually grow well in this area.
About six staff members and four dedicated students helped maintain the 11, 30-foot beds over the summer; with regular amounts of fresh produce being picked and donated to the Waterloo Region Food Bank said Conestoga’s environmental co-ordinator, Jana Vodicka.
“We give to the food bank because they are able to take anything and process it on site. We have given about 40 pounds worth of produce this year and will be able to give more by the end of the season” she said.
After seeing the fruits of their labour it’s hard to believe that the community gardens were nothing more than a brainstorming session and proposals in January 2011. “I have a thing for local foods, and I thought, well, we have the culinary classes and we have food processing, plus the company I work for, Compass, owns Chartwells which is Conestoga’s food services and they try to promote local food as much as possible,” said Vodicka.
Of course the labour of those involved does not go unrewarded; volunteers are allowed to take whatever vegetables they want, as long as it is tracked on a list.
Once this year’s crop is fully harvested and brought in for the final time the planning for next year will begin. The group has been collecting information on the garden throughout the year and giving it to students in a Conestoga business management program. Those students designed a tracking database so that by the end of the season the gardeners can determine whether or not their pilot garden was efficient and successful. Once this is complete the group will start organizing new meetings and start to develop a fresh strategy for next season.
Planning for next year’s garden will begin in mid-October and they hope to be planting next year’s crop in May.
Those looking to get involved with the garden for next year can look up the group on facebook under Conestoga acres or get in touch with Vodicka at jvodicka@conestogac.on.ca