The Estevan community garden isn’t just a collection of individual people growing vegetables, but following a ceremony on Monday, it was clear the gardening initiative on Lynd Crescent has become a place for intergenerational connections.
The event launched the partnership between the local community garden group and the University of Regina. It’s a partnership that’s part of the Fulbright Canada-RBC Eco-Leadership Program, and through that program, the community garden has received $4,000 in grant funding.
Dr. Shanthi Johnson is a researcher, who studies aging and health at the University of Regina’s kinesiology department.
“This was a perfect example of how the community has come together to create this garden, and we made it age-friendly,” said Johnson. The raised beds, at about 18 inches are great for youth and seniors, and are suitable for anyone in a wheelchair or who uses a walker.
Johnson’s expertise is on age-friendly and intergenerational activities. She is teaming up the U of R’s research and educational know-how with the community engagement experience of the Sun Country Health Region.
Also, at the ceremony were students from St. Mary’s School who helped out around the garden at the United Way Estevan’s Day of Caring. The students now have their own garden plot to manage.
For Johnson, getting seniors and others into social engagement activities that the garden may offer is a key role of the gardening set up.
“Social isolation is a big problem amongst seniors. By having a community garden like this, it enables seniors to come out and get with other generations and youth and different partners. It keeps them very active and engaged,” said Johnson. “And we’re hoping the active engagement will help older adults age in place, that they can live a healthy life as long as possible in their own home.”
Lori Tulloch, Sun Country’s regional director for population health, said health means a lot more than getting one’s blood pressure checked on a regular basis.
“It’s about socialization. It’s about relationships, and it’s about the good nutrition that can come out of it,” said Tulloch about how the community garden may influence one’s health.
“Food is an international language, and it’s being grown here along with a sense of community as well.”
The partnership will help the community garden grow while supplying additional tools.
“We have expanded the number of beds, and we’ve also been able to use age-friendly tools that are easier for older people to use,” said Johnson, noting the tools have thicker handles and are generally easier to use.
The title of the partnership program is It Takes A Village, and Johnson said the Estevan community garden has lived that message so far.
“It surely does. We’ve had school children fill the beds. It’s really a coming together,” she said.
“It’s unique to be part of something with so many layers,” added Tulloch. “Seeing the university and Fulbright, your local school and all ages, it’s just so important. We can’t do that enough. We need to bring those relationships back.”
Johnson, originally from India, recounted some of her early gardening experiences. She and her siblings were tasked with maintaining garden plots at home.
“My brothers weren’t too keen on gardening, but we got them to haul water for us because there was no running water in the back of the garden. And our grandmother lived with us, so we would learn from her in terms of what they (grew) when they were children, and it was really an intergenerational activity.”
Growing vegetables in small plots of soil was an activity that brought Johnson together with family when she was growing up. And in Estevan, the gardening tradition of connection is continuing on an otherwise unused City of Estevan lot.