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City food bank freshens things up with urban garden challenge

The Saskatoon Food Bank is issuing a challenge to businesses, community groups and citizens to take over a plot of the downtown vegetable patch and tend it for the upcoming gardening season.

Over the past two summers, the 900 block of Third Avenue North, in City Park, has gone from a chalky run-down vacant lot to a vast well-kept vegetable patch, with the help of a core group of food bank volunteers and area residents. To date, the garden has produced 12,700 kilograms of fresh vegetables for food bank hampers.

This year, organizers are hoping teams from within the community are willing to join them and in getting their hands dirty and help contribute to the harvest.

“Hopefully, it’ll inspire groups to get involved in urban agriculture, generate some excitement and create some friendly competition,” said Jasmin Fookes, the food bank’s urban agriculture coordinator, to the StarPhoenix.

She said the challenge will run right from planting to harvesting, so it will keep teams busy and interested throughout the growing season.

The rare strip of downtown garden, which has been mostly potatoes and corn in recent years, will be expanding to other varieties of vegetables with a focus on companion crops, Fookes told the Starphoenix.

The food bank gets thousands of requests each month for emergency food and relies on donations and the garden patch to keep its shelves stocked, especially during the summer months.

“It allows us to provide fresh produce throughout the growing season,” she said.

Fookes said that with over 20 community gardens and the popularity of the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, the city is becoming more interested in fresh, locally-grown food.

“There’s a lot of vacant land in the city and the patch is the first initiative of its kind in Saskatoon,” she told the StarPhoenix. “Hopefully it inspires others to take on their own urban agriculture projects.”

The City Park Community Garden — located in Wilson Park — received a high volume of applications this year, and has assigned a full slate of plots. Gardening season should kick off in the coming weeks.

Photo: John Pozadzides/Flickr

SP story by Jeremy Warren

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