Feature Story                                                                                                                  Friday April 27, 2012


Plotting A Healthy Course

Chilliwack community garden in Sardis opens to much fanfare Saturday

Craig Hill/Voice photos


Banning Simonton (L), Dayna Fidler, Mayor Sharon Gaetz (C), Rachael Poupore (dreads) and volunteers cut the ribbon to launch Sunshine Community Garden at the Mathieson Centre in Chilliwack Saturday.


ancouver has them, now Chilliwack has one. From citizen-led to citizen-fed. That’s the idea behind the city’s first community garden.


Last Saturday, beautiful weather complimented Earth Day festivities at Mathieson Centre in Sardis and by 10 A.M. the vacant grass-covered lot adjacent to the building on Wells Rd. was buzzing and crammed with a menagerie of exotic animals, interactive booths, vendors, musicians from the Chilliwack Metropolitan Orchestra, artists along with face painters, balloons and crafts for the kids.


Russ Williams and his River Spirit drummers from Skwah Nation gave an inspirational opening prayer followed by their welcome song.


Ashlyn Lowe, 9, sang a wonderful rendition of the National Anthem prior to the opening ceremony where with a snip from a pair of tree pruners, Mayor Sharon Gaetz, Fidler and friends cut the green ribbon and declared the community garden open.


Skwah drummer Russ Williams looks over native plant gifted to him.


But the festivities were the sideshow. What people were really there for was the opening of Sunshine Garden.


The field was donated by Chilliwack Society for Community Living and Food Matters coordinated the project which consists of rows of raised beds to help give better access for the disabled, and areas with open plots for growing as part of their “Community-Supported Agriculture”.


According to the Food Matters website, they are a “citizen-led network with a vision of healthy food for all people in Chilliwack.”


No one could be happier to see the project come to fruition than Rachael Poupore and her project partner Banning Simonton have been working for the last two years with Chilliwack Society for Community Living (CSCL), owners of  the property which is bordered by their subsidized housing units.


The group raised over $9000 in donations which involved a lot of networking and relationship-building and Poupore says the business community really stepped up to help.


One of the big ticket items in setting up the garden was the sprinkler system which covers half an acre with hydrants, hoses and drip-lines. She says just getting that part done helped kick start the entire project.


“The irrigation system cost $5000. A large portion of the gravel was donation, or the cartage or a combination of that,” explained Poupore. “Kelmore has been a huge supporter of us in this project and we’ve also had PowerRoad who has donated 5 yards of soil, the mulch was donated by Denbow. We’ve had a lot of support actually getting all this stuff out here, but the big was the irrigation.”


“Today has been an exciting time for me,” Poupore told the crowd over the P.A. “This great event is for all ages, for all of us to connect with many amazing community members in our Fraser Valley and I would like to personally thank Chilliwack Society for Community Living and we cannot do this without the volunteers.”


Julie Unger, CSCL director, reiterated the importance of the volunteers saying that there’s been a lot of planning, digging and planting throughout development of the project.



“As Dayna said, we can't do this work without volunteers and as an organization, we're happy to be part of the Food Matters committee and the work that they're doing and we were happy to able to be a part of the community garden project.”


“Today, especially, we need to really recognize a lot of the people that have put in a ton of work getting ready for this day and we want to thank our neighbours next door, the Sardis Fellowship Baptist Church who have looked after all the parking and let us use their lots,” said Unger.


Unger said that as an organization, they support children and youth with special needs and adults who have developmental disabilities gardening has therapeutic and educational elements.


“For us, this is such a great fit in terms of providing educational opportunities for the people we support, to learn about sustainable living and to grow their own food and also for the community.”


Simonton says the main idea is to get people out and actively involved and the support from the community has been great.


It started out with people shoveling dirt and then some people starting contacting us and bringing donations.


Plots are $25 a year plus 8 hours of donation time. You get to keep what you grow. Others will pay $400 up front or $20 per week for 20 weeks for whatever is growing.


Poupore says they have three people committed to half shares at $200 but that they haven’t started advertising but expects those numbers to increase as the community responds over the spring and summer.


"If they want to drop by each week and get a basket of fresh produce or whatever is growing, like over here is Asian beans," he said pointing next to the path.


"We're going to have way more than we need and anything extra will be donated to non-profit organizations."


He says they plan on events throughout the growing season, like a scarecrow contest for instance.


Chilliwack residents can look forward to more community gardens taking root around the community in the future especially on the north side where the majority of residents live in apartments and don’t have access to garden plots. They can fit in small vacant spaces and can be mobile if the land their on needs to be used.


The event was organized by Dayna Fidler of Deda Design www.dedadesign.com


To get on the wait list for a plot, or to volunteer, contact Poupore via e-mail here or visit them online at: www.foodmatterschilliwack.com/community-gardens


See more photos below.


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