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Redwood Meadows cultivates community with citizen-led garden project

A community garden is in the works for the townsite of Redwood Meadows, with the hopes that planting can begin next spring.
The townsite of Redwood Meadows is in the process of developing a community garden, which will be partially funded by an Alberta Blue Cross grant aiming to support rural communities through the COVID-19 pandemic.

A community garden is in the works for the townsite of Redwood Meadows, with the hopes that planting can begin next spring.

Jess Smid, the organizer for the project, said the idea started as a discussion between her and a friend back in February.  After mentioning the garden to Coun. Jamie Mitchell, a member of the townsite's local council, a pitch was drafted and eventually approved.

The garden has yet to be constructed, but Smid said the hope is that some of its individual components will be built this summer. However, the townsite’s proximity to the mountains means several factors have to be considered when planning for the garden.

“We live in bear country – we have lots of black bears – so we’ve also been in touch with the government in terms of human-wildlife conflict management,” Smid said. “We don’t want to attract bears to the area with our garden.”

This cautious approach means Smid and the garden committee have had to research what they can plant to minimize wildlife attraction as much as possible. Therefore, the garden will feature strictly vegetables, with no fruit bushes or fruit trees.

Not only do they have to be mindful of what they plant, but – like any garden – it is also important to maintain it regularly, especially when bears could be out looking for an afternoon snack.

“We have to make sure we’re harvesting [things like tomatoes] promptly so that they don’t attract wildlife,” Smid explained.

When complete, the garden should be approximately 40 feet by 40 feet, according to Smid. The construction plan also includes an eight-foot fence to further detract non-human patrons from indulging in the produce, as well as protect community members while they are working in the garden.

Smid said a general location for the plot has been decided, but a gas pipeline that runs through the area has stalled the choice of an exact place at this moment in time. She elaborated the plan is for the garden to be along Highway 22, just west of the Redwood Meadows Emergency Services building.

When it came time to fund the garden, Smid said the committee began applying for grants and came across the Alberta Blue Cross COVID Community Roots Program. The program was introduced in 2020 to “support services in rural and remote area communities through the pandemic” according to a press release, and was extended to June 2021 due to high demand.

The Redwood Meadows Community Association was awarded the grant and Smid says the money will “partially fund” the project. She said Blue Cross requires the funds to be spent by the end of the calendar year, which will fit in well with the plan to construct portions of the garden this summer.

Thus far, the plan is for the garden to be divided into individual plots, allowing residents to rent a section of their own to plant and harvest. Smid said sign-ups for plots will be available prior to the planting season next spring.

Ultimately, Smid is hoping the garden will not only allow community members to take pride in growing their own delicious vegetables, but also bring residents together. She emphasized the committee would love to engage the townsite’s senior population, as the community has lots of events and programs for younger families but may not always cater to the interests and abilities of older generations.

“We just want to make it accessible for everyone,” Smid said.




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