As the saying goes, “Give a man a carrot, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him how to grow a carrot, and he’ll eat for life. Teach a man how to be well, and he’ll help everyone eat.” Okay, maybe that’s not quite it, but that’s what the Anglican Cathedral’s Wellness program and community garden seek to accomplish—the education and feeding of the greater community through outreach programs and a public garden. Today I sat down with two organizers of the group, Brenda Halley (a social worker) and Patricia Waddleton (a dietician), as well as two other members, Steven Butler and Chris Kelsey. We discussed the purpose and activities of the Wellness group and community garden, and I got to see how people can get involved.
“We came together about seven or eight years ago…I sort of came up with an idea that, on Fridays, we would get a group of people together and we would start hiking,” says Halley of the group’s origins almost a decade ago. “As we started chatting, and Patricia came on board, we sort of came with, ‘you know, let’s start talking about wellness…how we [can] get more well every day.’” The program’s focus began to shift, thanks to a survey of members that expressed interest in gardening and healthy cooking. It was from there that Waddleton, a dietician with Eastern Health, came in. “We started out with six garden beds; it went on to another 8…and this year we have this beautiful greenhouse, so it has evolved over the past three years,” says Waddleton, gesturing at the beautiful open greenhouse on the cathedral green space, surrounded by seven-foot sunflowers. This shift in the group’s focus couldn’t have come at a better time, says Waddleton. “We noticed over the past couple years, especially between Snowmaggedon and now COVID, how it’s important to have our own food source,” she says. Demonstrating how it’s possible to grow your own produce here in Newfoundland is a first essential step in sharing this information.
Participant input has also added a new element to the group: cooking! Chris Kelsey has encouraged and shown the group how to make salads with the home grown produce. “We had mixed greens mostly, some cucumber and yellow tomato, and some zucchini,” explains Kelsey. All fresh produce, grown mere feet from the cathedral. One thing that’s particularly interesting about this garden? It’s neither locked, nor exclusive to the program! “Food security is important, but everybody should have access to fresh, tasty vegetables, and oftentimes people do not, and that’s just unacceptable, I think,” says Halley. Thus, anyone can follow the greenhouse sign’s instructions: Take what you need and leave the rest.
Wellness program responsibilities can often be fairly regular, with weekly or even daily tasks. “The group gets together usually on Friday afternoons; daily [responsibilities are] taking care of the plants, a bit of weeding, and watering everyday,” says Kelsey. He and Butler are at the community garden every day taking care of these tasks. Besides this, the group provides activities like yoga, mindfulness, walking the labyrinth, snowshoeing, and more!
Finally, I’m sure you’re curious about the community garden’s fare. Well, it varies! Lettuce, eggplant, broccoli, carrot, potato, corn, squash, green onion, kale, garlic, spinach, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries, snow peas, tomatoes, nasturtiums (edible flowers), and more! I was lucky enough to get to try a nasturtium, green pepper, and tomato, and they were all absolutely delicious! Rest assured that if you visit the community garden, you’ll leave well fed!
As you can see, this is an incredible program and initiative that the cathedral has supported. I’m sure it will continue to grow as it has in recent years, and will continue to do an incredible job of educating and offering opportunities to the people of Newfoundland. These outreach services are an incredible way of helping the community, and are so much fun!