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THUNDER BAY, ON   ---   May 3, 2011  -----  You've heard the phrase "get down and dirty".  Well, it's Suzie's Sunflowersvery difficult for disabled people and seniors to "get down" in the garden no matter how badly they would love to get "dirty".  The Thunder Bay, Ogden/Simpson & East End Veggie Garden Project (VGP) has been working towards the day when those who can't  'get down'  will be able to garden in raised beds.  With your help, that day could be sooner rather than later .... and that help is as close as your computer.

The VGP made  application to the Pepsi "Refresh Everything " grant program  for $10,000.00  "to increase safe accessibility in our 'backyard' community garden".  The idea was accepted and is now registered for online voting. The process needs all  VGP'ers, family, friends, gardeners, neighbours ... anybody in Canada  who likes the idea,  to sign up on the Pepsi website and vote once a day, everyday from now til June 30th.  They need believers to recruit their friends and so on and so on until there is a big enough voting base to win one of the (3) $10,000.00 grants available.   The vote is started so there is no time to waste.  ...  read on to learn why you should choose to vote for the  the VGP 'backyard' community garden project.

The VGP, founded in 2006;  is a grassroots neighbourhood revitalization project,  centred in one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Thunder Bay.    The project activities build on neighbourhood strengths to rejuvinate a once thriving community with deep ethnic roots and incredible gardening talent. The attitude of the long term, invested residents sets the foundation for how neighbours are welcomed  into the mix.  Susan McFarlane is a living, breathing example of that attitude and a passionate believer that breaking the barriers of isolation, fear and hunger are essential to the neighbourhood becoming revitalized and sustainable  The focus is on building community around gardening and greening the neighbourhood together

Being a avid gardener now dealing with health issues, property owner  McFarlane was excited about the prospect of seniors from the complex across the street making use of her neglected back yard.  Her property was the only space in the entire neighbourhood available for communal plots in 2006 and continues to be the only spot in her immediate area.   This rather unique community garden offers individual plots along with communally grown potatoes.  Suzie has mature raspberry bushes and shares the fruit each season.  The VGP takes care of the roto tilling, mowing and general support to the users.  However, being grassroots and self funded, serving a neighbourhood of more than 2000 households, VGP does  not have the financial means to accomplish the desired improvements.

The collective dream is to create an enjoyable garden oasis.  Along with the much needed raised beds, Suzie's Leith St. garden needs an accessible shed,  a sheltered rest area with a small greenhouse,  ergonomic tools, a new secure fence,  a rain water system and more perennial berries to share.  The VGP intends to add strawberries and blueberries to the garden.  The addition of blueberries to the neighbourhood project has been desired for some time and this introduction will be the start.  Suzie's is a  working example of private space being shared by a diverstiy of the  neighbourhood population and is intended to encourage others to follow her example.  

Blueberries are a bit of a challenge being that they are more soil sensitive but the VGP'ers believe the effort to be worthwhile for the health  benefit.  Once growing is successful at Suzie's, the VGP intend to teach workshops on growing blueberries and providing plants and needed accessories (as reasonably priced as possible) to residents of the neighbourhood and friends from beyond the boundaries. 

The VGP is more about the way they do things rather than what they do.  Its core participants firmly believe that the way they come together around growing food. makes the difference that grows community.  Their philosophy is simple: together we grow nutritious food for the body, friendships for enjoyment and contentment for the soul.   Friendly neighbours create healthy communities - healthy communities nurture healthy living. 

The "backyard community garden" seed is started at Suzie's ..... and the seed money to create the desired garden oasis is avalilable if the VGP aquires enough votes to win one of the (3) $10,000.00 alotments of Pepsi's Refresh Everything Project, round 6 - now under way.  To vote, have a personal email address, then go to the  www.refresheverything.ca site - register and search out the VGP  project by clicking on "neighbourhood" , then under the "$10,000.00" level go to project titled  "to increase safe accessibility in our 'backyard' community garden" submitted by Margaret Stadey of Thunder Bay. The current rating is a long way from the top 3 but supporters have until June 30th change that.  Votes for other projects seeking $10,000.00 may impede the success of the VGP project and so the group is hopefull it's supporters will use their other 9 daily votes in the other three funding levels. 

The Ogden/Simpson & East End Veggie Garden Project is most recognized for its Communal Garden Park on Simpson St. which features the  "Portals Into the Past" mural on the wall of neighbouring Gilbert's Furniture.  That project like the 'backyard' community garden at Suzie's are part of a much larger neighbourhood effort towards revitalization.  To learn more about the VGP check out their web site at http://www.veggiegardenproject.webs.com/. , email veggiegardenproject@shaw.ca or phone the project community coordinator Marg Stadey at (807) 285-3387. 

 


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