Jensen Edwards is a reporter with the Grand Forks Gazette. (File photo)

Gardening community blooming in Boundary

Column by Jensen Edwards

A few years ago my friends Geoff and Jenny trekked their way from Victoria to Edmonton. I met them with clean haircuts and new shoes in the provincial capital to send them off, and a few days later, weary and damp after hiking to Duncan.

By the time I met them in Fort Langley in May 2017, they were in their groove. It was sunny most days, they’d had a quality respite in Vancouver (and a shower), and were eager to get into the mountains. So they trekked on, and by mid-June they walked through the Kettle Valley, along the trail behind where I now live, and showed up sweaty, stinky and dusty at my parents’ house in Nelson before Canada Day (a quick dip in Kootenay Lake was required before they were allowed to sit on the couch).

Understanding that months of sore muscles, dusty hair and an increasingly scratchy beard is not the way many envision their time off school and work, you get a good idea of who Geoff and Jenny are. So, it’s been heartbreaking to chat with Geoff on Zoom from his downtown Kingston apartment and learn how the city put plywood over his go-to basketball hoops and how Ontario banned access to community gardens in their blanket ban on parks.

Needless to say, he was pretty thrilled last weekend when the province declared community gardens to be “an essential source of fresh food for some individuals and families, including those who face food insecurity.”

Now, it may just be that I’ve been talking gardens with Geoff, but I’ve certainly noticed a lot of plant talk crop up on our own Boundary social media channels over the last week or so, and it’s got me excited to live in a place where we can support one another through the food we produce.

Whether it’s by sharing tricks, tips and suggestions on how to best grow a particular plant or by actually lopping off a proliferating appendage of a plant for a neighbour (or dropping off a freshly baked loaf of bread at the Gazette office – wink, wink!), the talents and practical passions of our community appear to be blooming right now. I’ve seen so many posts from new gardeners who are looking to plant this spring with their families and become proud of what they can grow.

A few weeks ago, I met someone precisely collecting cottonwood buds for a salve that takes months to make; more recently, I spoke to a restauranteur whose main food takes hours upon hours to make, and every week I benefit from the toil of the farmers of this valley who dedicate their lives to feeding us. It’s clear that people here take pride in their recipes and in their gardening tricks.

So much about food is social, from family dinner time to casual coffee chats with friends at a café, and it could therefore be disconcerting now that we can’t necessarily enjoy those moments right now. But in their stead, a community online has been amplified and has greeted new members who are taking their time now, which has been forced upon us, to connect with their gardens and with their foods.

It’s safe to say I’m grateful to live in a place where my produce isn’t dependent on the regulations protecting us from a pandemic, where our food bank gets veggies from the grocery store and where, in a normal year, we’d get to see the most impressive array of fruits and veggies and preserves and handmade what-nots at the Grand Forks & District Fall Fair. While it’s sad that we won’t have that event to celebrate together this year, I’m looking forward to the photos shared and to supporting our producers at the store and at the market (which starts May 1).

There will be a time again when we feel itching to go on a Geoff and Jenny-type journey (by foot or by wheel, that’s up to you), but we know that right now, home is best. Knowing that, I’m quite content living in a place where so much of what we need everyday can be grown and shared within the Boundary’s valleys.

Jensen Edwards joined the Gazette in May 2019 after completing his master’s of journalism degree at Carleton University in Ottawa. Jensen grew up in the Lower Mainland and spent summers road tripping through the Kootenays.

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