Growing the incrEDIBLE trail

What a difference a few years can made with dedicated volunteers who freely give their time to make Trail, incrEDIBLE.

Marylynn Rakuson (left) and Jen Hill are two dedicated volunteers at the Gulch Community Food Bank Garden.

Marylynn Rakuson (left) and Jen Hill are two dedicated volunteers at the Gulch Community Food Bank Garden.

When incrEDIBLE trail first began with a Green Route through town, the handful of volunteers had a lot of heart but little money to launch their novel ideas.

What a difference a few years can make with a dedicated community freely running the show. Now the incrEDIBLE growing initiatives have spread from storefront planters to a Trail Farmers’ Market, Seedy Saturday, gardening courses, the Gulch Community Garden, a Sharing Abundance Program and this week, a Halloween Graveyard Walk through downtown.

Trail Times gardener Michelle Bedford

On top of that, the group has been invited to present at an agriculture planning event by Urban Food Strategies in Oliver next month (Food Secure Oliver) and to the community food initiative group in Penticton.

Not bad for a group of volunteers working with a shoestring budget.

“Just by simple caring and sharing we have received international recognition and are now presenting to communities outside the Kootenays,” says Gina Ironmonger from incrEDIBLE trail.

“To me what is most amazing is that we have no paid staff. We are all volunteers; from the employee who plants an edible planter outside their place of work, to the waterer at the food bank garden, to the person answering the phone, posting on Facebook putting up signs, building a trellis or giving a workshop,” she added.

“To the farmer or residents providing seeds or plants, helping vendors put up or take down their booth, painting, adding their expertise, hand or back to a project. It is because of this incrEDIBLE awesomeness that incrEDIBLE trail continues to grow and expand beyond our borders.”

incrEDIBLE garden in downtown Trail alley

Food initiatives like the community garden and farmers market left the incrEDIBLE Green Route less structured this summer, though 75 participants dug in and planted vegetables, herbs and berries in their storefronts this year on their own accord, which is the most planters to date.

Farmer’s Market on Cedar Avenue

“As expected, we are so lucky to be living in a community with heart that always shines and comes together,” Ironmonger shared. “Businesses and service organizations planted edibles and invited passers-by to help themselves to the harvest; such a welcoming and cheerful way to greet visitors and residents to the incrEDIBLEness of Trail.”

Planning and carrying off the first fully fledged farmers market this summer consumed most of the group’s time.

The volunteers’ objective was to create a family friendly atmosphere on Saturday morning in the streets of downtown Trail and that was a first, the city has never hosted a true farmers market.

“We are members of the BC Association of Farmers Markets for many reasons,” said Ironmonger. “Primarily it encourages protection of the environment, nutrition, humane treatment of animals knowing where your food comes from, and support of family farms,” she added. “It was our first year and in consideration of our first year goals it was an astounding experience and success, and exceeded our expectations.”

She noted two fundraisers held during the twice a month events: one raised $400 for the United Church Food Bank in addition to fruit and vegetable donations; the other raised $825 for Fort Mac wildfire evacuees.

Fort Mac fundraiser

“With the city’s blessings, we plan to continue with Trail’s incrEDIBLE Farmers’ Market in 2017, with more vendors providing a wider selection of product, more entertainment and activities that will engage the community and support local business and agriculture.”

Finally, many hands also helped to expand the Gulch Community Food Garden into 32 planters.

“The food banks were appreciative but we did not meet the need,” Ironmonger said. “What we did do is help support the need by bringing fresh and nutritious food to those in need.”

Next year, volunteers are hoping to expand the crop choices and add a learning gazebo.

However, there was a negative with the community garden this year.

“We did have one or two overzealous pickers that helped themselves without understanding if the produce was ready or not,” she explained. It was minimal but frustrating for the volunteers.”

From that first meeting of eight volunteers in 2014 to today, incrEDIBLE trail shows what is possible in a caring community.

“When I go to the food bank and see the need and the heartfelt thanks, or the kind words of the visitor picking a fresh tomato, I am honestly humbled by what our community has created. We should be so proud.”

2016 Community Impact Award went to incrEDIBLE trail

Anyone who would like to get involved or has ideas and knowledge to share, is encouraged to call Gina at 250.368.6855 or email incredibletrail@gmail.com.

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