Susan and Elbonne, a patient at Bickle, enjoy the corn roast for Urban Ag Day

Hi everyone, guest blogger Amanda here! I’m a Registered Dietitian and Interprofessional Educator at TRI’s Bickle Centre, and I’ve had the pleasure of coordinating our “GROW: Garden Rehab. On Wheels” project this year.  While munching on some locally grown corn at Friday’s Urban Agriculture Day event, I took some time to reflect on the season that we’ve had… and all I can think of is that golden saying, “if you ate today, thank a farmer.” We are professional therapists, clinicians and hospital support staff, but when it comes to gardening and urban farming, we are amateurs.  Our corn is stunted, our peppers never grew, and I will be looking up green tomato recipes tonight because I don’t think ours will ever get rosy red.  Farming really is a science.

So, despite not getting a ‘bumper crop’…. would we do it again?

In a heart beat.

This garden is so much more than just vegetables to us.

It is a connection to food. It is fun to see octogenarian patients comment, “I never knew that’s how that grew!” and staff comment, “I never thought to mix fresh herbs into my salad, this is delicious!”

It is also a connection to each other.

We surveyed the patients in our weekly gardening group halfway through the series of sessions. When asked what they liked the most about the group, it was not “my weekly salad!” as we might have guessed. Most responses included the theme of “I like being with the others in the group, and gardening is a great thing to talk about.”  This theme was consistent with staff as well.  As one staff member put it, our garden is like a community hub.  Teamwork and collaboration happen when you stop to pick some beans with your colleague on your way into work, and laughter happens when you realize the squirrels have re-planted your neat rows into a hap-hazard zig-zag pattern.

IMG_0305[1]Of course, we’ve learned so much from our personal and shared experiences, and seen growth in our skills and abilities. We saw magic happen with respect to growth and colour when we added compost—with worm poop- to our planters halfway through the season.  We have nicknamed our most experienced staff garden group member the “fairy godmother of the garden,” and she has taught us that the more beans we keep picking, the more that will grow.  And, we have brought our new found skills home with us.  Many staff garden group members have commented that this project has inspired them to start a garden at home—Registered Dietitian Lisa Behnke notes that her balcony-grown kale is doing amazing!

So, while we may still need a professional farmer to make up the bulk of our diets at the Bickle Centre, you can bet that we’ll still be back at it, GROWing next summer!