Penticton group plans a down-to-earth celebration

Penticton Urban Agriculture Association hosting a block party on April 29

Jennifer Vincent of the  Penticton Urban Agriculture Association does some early-season gardening at the group's downtown location. The association is hosting a community block party

Jennifer Vincent of the Penticton Urban Agriculture Association does some early-season gardening at the group's downtown location. The association is hosting a community block party

After two years of preparation, the Penticton Urban Agriculture Association is hitting their stride this year.

And they’re kicking off the 2012 season with a big block party to celebrate. That’s happening from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 29, when the Centre for Urban Agriculture on Nanaimo Avenue will be transformed with booths and activities for anyone interested in urban food growing: chefs, farmers, beginner or experienced gardeners, families or anyone just wanting to enjoy a day outside with other members of our community.

Events for the day include soup by Dana Ewart of Joy Road Catering, bouncy castle and face painting by Par-T-Perfect, both by donation. Artists Sarah Fahey and Amaya Black will begin painting a mural on the centre’s Ellis Street fence and there will be information booths for PUAA and other related organizations.

“Sarah Fahey, she’s really keen on what we’re doing. Out of the blue, she said to us, ‘We should have a block party,’” said Eva Durance, chair of the association. “It’s a membership drive and a fundraiser for us, too.”

Then, there will also be group adding to the xeriscape landscaping.

“It’s just kind of a fun event to get people to come down,” said Durance. “We will give them tours of the gardens and show them what we are doing and talk about where we are going with it.”

The association’s main aim is to work towards greater food security in the South Okanagan. With three main goals, including education and core programs to enable people of all ages and economic circumstances to grow some of their food, assisting young farmers to acquire land and working with local food outlets to make locally grown foods more available.

The association was formed in March 2010, and was able to lease a property at Ellis and Nanaimo Avenue from the City of Penticton to create their Centre for Urban Agriculture. Two summers later and Durance said they have a range of activities for people wanting to learn more about gardening in the city.

One key program is Sharing Land 4 Food, which connects people needing land for gardening or farming with those having land they would like to see used more productively.

“I want to expand that to farmers too and get young farmers involved,” said Durance, adding that they have plans to expand their composting programs and that educational courses have also started this month.

Through September, the association is offering a series of monthly courses, with topics ranging from gardening in containers to preparing your garden for winter. Then there are also some one-day courses, like by Al Nichols, who will be offering a class on rammed earth construction on May 5. He’ll also be building an honour wall for the group at the same time.

“To thank all the people and companies that have donated, which has been wonderful. We’ve just had so much assistance,” said Durance. “We’ve just got a huge list of companies that have helped us. It’s very encouraging.”

But, as with all non-profit groups, there is always more they need. Under their charitable status, they have applied for funding for three critical items: a retrofitted storage container for a readily moveable office-class-display building; materials to complete the landscaping around the parking area; and a gardening-instruction manual for people taking the gardening courses and workshops.

And Durance has a list of smaller items they need for the teaching gardens like a drip-irrigation system, garden hoses and spray nozzles, gardening gloves, watering cans, pails, stakes, row-cover cloth, tools and a wheelbarrow. They would also be happy to accept any donation of vegetable bedding plants or plants suitable for a xeriscape garden. On the technical side, Durance said they need a portable scale, folding tables and chairs as well as a laptop and printer.

For more information on Penticton Urban Agriculture including the schedule of courses and events, visit their website at puaa.wordpress.com or find them on Facebook at PentictonUrbanAgriculture.