Bruce Madu can spend hours here.
“Sometimes I’ll bring a book, put the watering on, and sit and read my book and listen to the water. It’s really nice being here at 5:30 or 6 a.m. in the summer because the birds are up and they’re singing.
“It’s peaceful. I relax. I just work away.”
One recent morning at the 100 Mile House Community Garden, Madu stood over his double plot and pointed out different vegetables he has in the ground – a row of potatoes here, he says, adding parsnips, cabbage, carrots, turnips and some beets, and romaine lettuce down there.
“It’s the first time I’ve tried beans in here. I just picked a few, but they’re not doing what I expected.”
With the potatoes, however, he’s never seen anything like it in his 40 years of growing them.
“We had friends in for dinner a week ago. I came down and dug out two potatoes like that,” Madu says, holding his fingers about eight inches apart. “They fed eight of us.”
Madu and his wife, Sandy, moved to 100 Mile House four years ago. He’s been co-ordinator of the community garden for the last three years, along with Linda Savjord.
“Between the two of us, we make it work.”
Savjord’s house overlooks the community garden, which is located on property that historically belonged to the Emissaries of the Divine Light on Heron Ridge Road behind the Red Coach Inn. And just like the Emissaries did in the past, gardeners there today do their best to grow organic, local produce.
The community garden is supported by the South Cariboo Agri-Culture Enterprise Centre and the Community Enhancement and Economic Development Society (CEEDS). They’re groups that work to promote food security in the 100 Mile House area, Madu explains.
“We try to encourage food sustainability and teach people if they want to come and learn how to garden, we’re prepared to help them. We use organic growing as much as possible and look after the land.”
Currently, the garden has 24 plots being tended by a number of people in the community. Dawna Lace has had a plot in the garden since it opened to the community close to seven years ago. She’s also a community support worker with the Cedar Crest Society for Community Living and has a handful of adults who regularly work at the garden and some have a small plot of their own.
Lace says it’s important for people to see where their food comes from.
“They do the whole thing from digging in the compost, to weeding to planting to harvesting.
“A lot of them have never seen a carrot come out of the ground or a potato come out of the ground. We take the produce we have and they learn how to cook it and they see how wonderful it tastes.”
And it’s good exercise on top of that, she adds.
“A lot of our people don’t like getting their hands dirty. The whole aspect of getting their hands in the soil, digging and pulling weeds, bending over – it’s an eye-opener for a lot of them.”
That includes Christian Samson, 22, a self-described “beginner at this.”
“I thought it was going to be easy, but it isn’t,” Samson says of tending his vegetable plot, which includes beets, lettuce and carrots.
“One thing I learned is you never know. It’s unpredictable.”
Samson plans on planting more food next year.
Although it really depends on how early fall weather hits 100 Mile House, Madu says the community garden should be cleaned up and shut down by the end of September.
“I would like to see more people get involved,” Madu says, looking ahead to the start of the next growing season.
“We’ve got room to put in another 15 plots if we ever have the demand. It’s $20 a season. Plus a $10 cleanup fee that’s refundable if they clean up their lots.”
Madu tries to store as much food as he can.
“It keeps our grocery bill down. It’s a lot of work over the summer. You’re tied down, but it’s certainly worth it.”