It’s been six years since the Penticton Indian Band first tried developing a community garden, but the operation took off in 2009 and has been a growing concern ever since.
Last year, some 14,000 pounds of food were produced from the gardens, with the majority distributed to band members through a variety of methods and programs, including infant development and diabetes prevention.
Hundreds of pounds of produce were also donated to the Salvation Army Food Bank, said Shy-Anne Kruger, the community garden co-ordinator. But the main focus, she explained, is to provide healthy food for band members.
“It is a great way to make sure that people are eating healthy. Diabetes and obesity are big issues in the community,” added Ann Hansen, one of the gardeners. “We are hoping it keeps the community healthy and it is a great way to make sure if they need fresh vegetables, it is there.”
Kruger notes they have lots of good, fertile land to work with and expand into. In the future, she’d like to add fruit trees and berry bushes to the mix, and turn the community garden into a food security hub for the PIB.
But for now, the focus is on creating a community garden outreach centre facing Green Mountain Road.
“We are hoping that people come in and it will be a good place to talk about the food they are putting into their bodies,” said Hansen. “It is basically going to have all the produce and vegetables that we grow in the garden, all prepped up and ready for people.”
To raise funds for this latest project, they are organizing a loonie auction on July 11 in the PIB band hall off Green Mountain Road.
“We have about $400 of donated products from businesses downtown. The support has been really great there,” said Hansen, adding they also have art items to auction, like a $300 artwork donated by Kindrie Grove.
“We are trying to get some other awesome things to auction off. We are also auctioning off little flower baskets that we make from the garden. There are going to be some nice quality items up for auction and it is a loonie auction, so if you get lucky, you only spend a dollar.”
Hansen explains that bidders can buy tickets for $1, which they then drop in the box for the item they hope to win.
“At the end, we will pick up the items one at a time, somebody will do the swirl and the Vanna White thing to pull out a ticket, and that person gets the prize,” said Hansen.
The bidding gets underway at 5 p.m., as does dinner, with Indian tacos, bannock, and other goodies for sale. That continues until 6 p.m. and then Hansen said they will start going through the auction prizes and determining the winners. She expects that will probably take until 8 p.m.
The goal of the gardens and the planned community outreach centre, Kruger explained, is to increase food sustainability for the PIB, so that children, elders and the community as a whole could come and get fresh produce.
Education is part of the work being done at the community garden. Kruger said they have just snagged a facilitator to deliver classes on canning food, and they are also working with the Salvation Army food bank on a planter box program, showing people that they can grow their own food in a limited space. The boxes are going to have themes, so one might contain most of the things needed for preparing spaghetti: tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic and the like. She points out something as simple as a few 50 cent tomato seedlings can easily produce $50 of food by harvest time.