It’s been one heck of a (garlicky) garden season at The Table!

CFCC's Program Manager, Bronwyn Whyte, takes a trip to The Table CFC in Perth, ON and reports back on their community gardening programs.

With the harvest season nearing its close, it’s nice to look back on all that’s happened over the past few months. Unlike many other organizations, Community Food Centres are hard-pressed to take it easy in the summer. In fact, summer is usually the busiest season at CFCs, a time when gardens need planting and tending, kids’ programs and camps are in full swing, and there are countless food events to plan and attend. It’s madness! 

I recently received an update from April Mallett, Community Garden Coordinator at The Table CFC in Perth, on what’s been happening in their gardens this summer. April works with a team of garden members to run several garden programs, all of which are aimed at promoting healthy, food literate, engaged, and cohesive communities through collective gardening. This year, April, lead gardener Jeremy Dutton and the rest of the team had twice the space on their hands, having doubled their gardens — which include two separate garden sites, a hoop house, and a 1,200-sq. ft. garlic plot — from 4,000 to 8,000 square feet. As you can imagine, they had a busy season!

One of the main aims of the gardens is to increase access to healthy produce for low-income and marginalized community members. By the first week of August, gardeners had harvested 440 lbs of delicious, fresh produce, which was split almost evenly between the gardeners and The Table’s programs. (Last year’s total haul was 735 kgs of fresh produce, so it looks like The Table is on track to top that amount this year.) 

By September, The Table had held more than 70 garden sessions, including special workshops and garden planting meetings. These sessions offer space for building community and friendship while learning about growing food organically. Beyond the regular garden sessions, several other workshops and special events occurred. Over 80 area students visited gardens at various points of the season, experiencing the garden as an outdoor classroom where garden activities were linked to their curriculum in social studies and nutrition. The Table also piloted a summer program in which 24 children between the ages of 8 and 13 learned about gardening, cooking, sustainable living and even raced zucchini cars! And this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the number of people that interacted with The Table’s garden and garden programs this summer. (There's nothing like a thriving garden to draw a crowd!)

Oh, and let’s not forget about the garlic! Over the course of the past year, the gardeners at The Table have become garlic experts. Last fall, they planted 2,500 heads of garlic, which resulted in 300 lbs of harvested garlic this year. The Table distributed the bulbs to their gardeners and programs, and sold them at the Perth Garlic Festival, their Barns, Farms and Wicked Chefs fundraiser, as a well as to a local café/bakery.  If you live in the community, you’ve probably tasted The Table’s garlic. This is definitely a good thing because as Louis Diat, French chef and culinary writer, once said: “there are five elements: earth, air, fire, water and garlic.” And the tastiest is definitely the latter.

Congrats to the team at The Table on an incredibly productive garden season. It’s inspiring to see the power of collective gardening and how it can bring fresh organic produce, new skills and a greater sense of belonging into many lives! 

Visit our Facebook page for a full garden photo gallery!

— Bronwyn Whyte, Program Manager