For the last six years, Lady Flower Gardens (LFG) has become a weekly respite for individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty in the inner city.
At no cost, community participants can take The Mustard Seed shuttle to plant, weed, and harvest organic potatoes, carrots, spinach, beets watermelon, corn, dill, and peas.
There is no need to have a green thumb either, as staff at LFG are on site to guide individuals on what can be planted and what is ready for harvesting.
Although the free food is enticing for community participants, many find the experience more than a mere chance to nab produce.
“Last year I had health problems but I still got to come and sit with the group,” said Kim who considers herself a newbie to the group, “now a year later, I love it and come more for my well-being than the farming.”
Eugene says the last two years for him has been more about developing real friendships as well as a chance to get his hands dirty.
“I love the weeding, the fellowship, planting, and harvesting. I love it all,” says Eugene.
Jared, a front line worker at The Mustard Seed, says the chance to supervise the LFG program over the last year has been rewarding for him.
“The farm provides a space for people to be relaxed and themselves. I’ve been able to see the beauty of the individuals come out in a new light and I think that is amazing,” says Jared.
Along with individual harvesting, community participants also help collect food for The Mustard Seed meal program, community kitchen, and Edmonton Food Bank. On average, the garden harvests approximately 50,000 lbs of veggies for the Food Bank and 20,000 lbs for agencies every year.
At the end of September, LFG hosts a final harvest event at which all the various agencies they work with come together for food, fellowship, and individual awards before doing one last harvest for the year.
“My favourite thing to harvest is corn. It is the best corn I’ve ever eaten!” says Kim.