story by Christina Waldner
When people work together, great things can happen, and this is the case for the Crossfield Baptist Church Garden of Hope.
Started in 2016 by Luc Rodrigue and Jason Michel, the community garden has steadily grown over the years, providing produce to the Airdrie Food Bank (AFB) and local residents.
“At the time, when the economy started to go down quite a bit, we talked about it and approached the church,” Rodrigue said. “Michel provided the tractor and the tiller and we went ahead with it.”
The support of the landscaping committee of the Crossfield Baptist Church helped get the project off the ground, according to Rodrigue.
What began as 5,000 square feet (sq. ft.) in 2016 will grow to encompass more than 31,000 sq. ft. in 2019, with the opening of an upper garden in early fall. Volunteers are the backbone of the project, with 15 to 20 signing on each year.
“Their commitment is up to them. There is no schedule,” Rodrigue said. “The only time I ask for them to be there is when it’s time to seed and at harvest time. As long as they weed the garden, I’m happy.”
Vegetables, including potatoes and string beans, are grown in the garden, as well as raspberries and rhubarb. In 2018, 5,000 pounds of potatoes were harvested, according to Rodrigue.
“We’ve given the Rocky View Lodge fresh vegetables for their residents,” Rodrigue said. “If we have a family that approaches us, then we ask them to volunteer a little bit, if they can, and then they can take some veggies.”
The majority of the potatoes are donated to the AFB for its food hamper program.
“Locally-grown produce is just a real benefit to all that we have. The donation that (the Garden of Hope) makes is so large that it keeps us going for the rest of the year,” said Lori McRitchie, AFB executive director. “Otherwise, we would have to be purchasing potatoes – they’re a staple for our hampers.”
The AFB provides services to those in need in the Crossfield community. In 2017, the organization provided 2,540 hampers to individuals and families in Airdrie and the surrounding area.
Garden of Hope volunteers were given the opportunity to have their own patch in the garden in 2018, with 12 taking up the offer.
“A record-size beet was harvested from Wendy McKee’s private plot, weighting nine pounds and measuring 24 inches around,” Rodrigue said. “They all had quite a successful harvest.”
Thanks to a grant from the Town of Crossfield Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), raised beds to allow seniors who might find it difficult to seed and harvest a traditional bed were built in 2019. One senior who said she enjoyed helping out with the raised beds is Carolin Loog.
“I helped pick the garden. I didn’t help plant it because I can’t do those kinds of things anymore,” she said. “I go out and I pick the produce and distribute it to some of the seniors I know. We grew carrots, onions, zucchini and beans.
“I went there every week and got big grocery bags full – probably two bags every week of the carrots. I picked to thin them out.”
Rodrigue noted Howes Bros Lumber and Building Supplies in Crossfield provided supplies to help make the raised beds a reality.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Garden of Hope or volunteering can do so through its Facebook page (The Garden of Hope) or by contacting the Crossfield Baptist Church office at 403-946-5651.