Queen's University

A fertile space for community growth


By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

A community garden has sprung up at Sydenham Street United Church (SSUC) in recent months. The garden was the idea of two Queen’s students, Gillian MacDonald (Artsci’16) and Victoria Denney (Artsci’16).

“There’s a serious disconnect between people and their food production, and it’s important that we understand our place in the land we occupy,” says Ms. MacDonald. “We wanted to focus on land stewardship and treat our space sustainably and with respect — we didn’t just want a lawn.”

Victoria Denney (left) and Gillian MacDonald proposed the garden.

They have transformed a large section of the church’s grass lawn into a garden, complete with permaculture furrows that include old logs buried under the soil. The process, called hugelkultur, is a centuries-old German farming practice that increases soil fertility and aids in irrigation.

Turning the church’s lawn space into a garden was a job that required a lot of manual labour, but members of the church and local community, professors and students have all stepped up to help.

“We have a volunteer base of nearly 30 students that has helped us tend the space. It can be liberating for people to grow their own food, and it’s a great way to get involved in the community,” says Ms. MacDonald.

And it’s largely the community that will benefit from the garden. A portion of the crops will go home with the volunteers, but local charitable food organizations like Martha’s Table and Loving Spoonful will receive a majority of the produce.

“We wanted the food to be well-used,” says Ms. MacDonald, “and we were able to use connections already established by the church.”

The church is equally enthusiastic about the good things growing outside.

“The last few years we’ve been actively inviting the community to come use our church,” says Elizabeth MacDonald, Minister at SSUC. “It’s become clear that we need less and less space, so when Gillian and Victoria came to us with the idea for the garden, we were thrilled.”

Besides weekly church congregations, SSUC is used to host concerts, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, children’s outreach programs and more. “We’re blessed with this facility and we want to share it. We want it to be a kind of community centre with the church congregation as a partner,” the minister says.

The garden is about more than just growing food though, says Gillian MacDonald. “It’s been a space of learning for children and for adults. The garden is fertile ground for education and communication.”

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Last updated at 4:05 pm EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
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