Community Gardens Set to Reopen on Friday

Late last month, the Ontario government gave the province the thumbs up to re-open community gardens, which acknowledges their place in the local food economy, not to mention a means of community engagement. With the long weekend coming, and nice weather becoming somewhat more regular, people are ready to get growing, and the City of Guelph has guidelines now for how to do that safely.

The City of Guelph released its set of conditions for re-opening community gardens on Tuesday. Based on guidelines set forth by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, anyone working in a community garden will have to maintain a two-metre distance between gardeners, wash their hands before and after gardening, and regularly clean all high-touch areas and shared spaces. Gardeners are also being encouraged to use their own tools, and if that’s not possible, then shared tools need to be cleaned regularly, and be used by gardeners wearing gloves.

Access to community gardens will also be limited for the time being to just the community garden co-ordinators, and the people registered to use the garden; there’s presently no public access allowed to the gardens. Any gardeners that don’t follow the public health guidelines, or are found in non-compliance under the Ontario Emergency Measures Orders and Regulations, will be asked to leave, or could even face a fine.

Public Health’s guidelines go deeper by advising that anyone vulnerable to COVID-19, like seniors or people with underlying medical conditions, should avoid community gardens, and that children should only be brought to community gardens on an as-needed basis.

Speaking of the kids, Our Food Future, which is the office created earlier this year to implement the goals of Guelph and Wellington County’s winning Smart Cities Challenge entry, will give them a chance to do some gardening of their own. Our Food Future has developed free gardening kits for children, which will be available starting May 14 for over 700 area kids. To get one for your family, you have to sign up at the Our Food Future website.

Our Food Future is making the support and expansion of community gardens a key pillar of their new mission to support local, sustainable food sources. In a report to city council presented Monday, the office is also developing kits to help people who live in apartments grow vegetables, fruit tree samplings for urban orchards, and low maintenance gardening kits for people with mobility issues. All these kits will be free, or available at a very low cost.

Beyond the community gardens that already exist, the City is still looking to expand with four new ones. Construction on the new garden at Burns Drive Park will begin immediately, while the gardens slated for Stephanie Drive Park, St. George’s Park and Mollison Drive Park will begin this fall for planting in Spring 2021.

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