Community Garden Coalition Grows a Garden Movement with Seed Swap Event

by: Ruqaiyah Shehabuddin

The New Brunswick Community Garden Coalition held a community seed swap event, where gardeners could exchange plant seeds they had saved from last year on Saturday, March 28. The event was located in the basement of the Sacred Heart Church on 56 Throop Ave.

The Community Garden Coalition (CGC) is part of the New Brunswick Food Council. The seed swap event was held in an effort to grow a garden movement in New Brunswick. The Coalition allows those interested in gardening to lease one garden bed that they have to tend to and maintain for one season, from March to November, for a membership fee of $15. The garden bed is selected from one of the nine community gardens plots available around New Brunswick.

At the event, the Community Garden Coalition held a workshop on container sprouting, so that gardeners could have their seeds sprouted and ready to put in the ground for the growing season. There were also plenty of seeds available for new members or members who did not save seeds last year, said Laura Eppinger, the Program Associate for New Brunswick 4-H Youth Development and one of the organizers at the event.

The CGC sets up the seed swap event as a starting point for the season. “Our main goal for this event is to get a variety of seeds out there and have the gardeners all mixing and getting to know each other,” said Amanda Gallear who co-chairs the Community Garden Coalition along with Anthony Capece. We want members from each of the nine communities [as in each of the nine separate plots] to become a community in and of themselves, and for each of those communities to become larger, she added.

Anthony Capece and Amanda Gallear, co-chairs of CGC

Anthony Capece and Amanda Gallear, co-chairs of CGC

The event attracted people from different demographics. The introductions and announcements in the beginning were translated into Spanish by Gallear for a number of Hispanic residents. Children also came along with their parents, and were seated off to the side where they helped with the container sprouting.

Charol, 10 years old is mixing compost with coffee ground to make a seed starter mix

Charol, 10 years old is mixing compost with coffee ground to make a seed starter mix

“You see the demographics here in New Brunswick, and there are a lot of folks who are in lower income brackets and we see this as a way for people to supplement their diets. It’s way cheaper and more cost effective, you know where that food is coming from, and it’s usually better quality, you go from picking that tomato off that plant to eating it,” said Capece, who works with Elijah’s Promise and the Food Council.

“I see community gardens as these really amazing community spaces where people you wouldn’t normally have met in your day to day life, and you meet them and you talk to people of different cultures and you learn something new not only of your neighbors but also about food and things you can cook in the kitchen, which is great,” he said.

Clara Hynes, who has been an involved member in the CGC for two years and was at the event, tells us her reasons for participating and being a member. “I enjoy being out in the gardens and appreciating nature and then meeting great people. To see so many people interested in gardening, young old, different cultures, and we all have one focus, we’re just gardening,” she said. She’s been a New Brunswick resident for 35 years.

But she also enjoys gardening itself. She is looking forward to growing peppers, tomatoes and kale this season. “I love getting my hands in the soil and seeing things grow, and things do grow around me. People say that other people have a green thumb, but my daughter says I have a green body,” she said.

Clara Hynes repurposed plastic containers conserved as garden planters

Clara Hynes repurposed plastic containers conserved as garden planters

The CGC co-chairs spoke out on the benefits on gaining gardening knowledge. “A lot of people tell me that gardening is sort of like occupational therapy, and that they can do it with their kids, and they can teach their kids how to repurpose stuff that maybe their parents and grandparents used to grow, so it’s a really nice way of passing down those traditions,” said Gallear.

The Community Garden Coalition has monthly meetings, and hold workshops throughout the gardening season, with the next one coming up in May or June. The workshops range on topic from growing techniques to how to keep your soil free from pests.