The Joys and Perils of the community gardening

by Joni Miller- MOBY Garden Memeber 2011

As a long time gardener, I am thrilled about the continuous unveiling of new community gardens. I am thrilled to see people planting their lawns, planting the boulevard. I absolutely adore backyard chickens, and if I didn’t live in a housing co-op, I might propose owning some.

It was not always like this, folks. Apparently, lawns are all about proving that you are SO well off, you don’t need to grow vegetables.

Well, enough of that! Lawns are totally over rated.

The first community garden I belonged to was at Prince Edward and East 7th, back in about 1995. It was on private property, undeveloped for many years, due to a house fire. Gavin Ross from City Farmers  (  approached the owners and proposed a community garden.

I  was on the waiting list for an established City Farmer garden, but there was very little turnover. In fact, there were very few community garden spaces at the time. I was excited to get a call from Gavin about this new, undeveloped space. I was coming off of a divorce, with the father of my children, and before that, years of intense activism – in the women’s movement, for peace, to preserve the environment. I had been AGAINST things for so long, that it was truly fascinating to stumble across the community garden movement – people who were FOR something.

It seemed so simple, and so beautiful – turn a vacant lot into productive farm land.

I was one of the first people to commit to Prince Edward and 7th, so I got my pick of the plots!!! I went down with my little girls, and we selected the sunniest spot! Little did we know that it happened to be exactly over the basement of the burned down house. I spent hours and hours digging up concrete and hauling it out.

Oh well – I figure that work saved me from getting inappropriately involved with someone too soon after my divorce. In those days, I worked in Kitsilano, and transported my kids and everything else via bicycle cart.

Once, I decided to load up on manure and peat moss and other supplies at the now defunct David Lam garden centre at Broadway and Arbutus. I put all the supplies in the bicycle cart. As soon as I stepped onto the wheels of the bicycle, a little voice in my head said “put half of it back!”

See other peaole had the same idea as Joni

I ignored the voice, at my peril.

“What could go wrong?” I wondered, as I steadfastly cycled back to the east side.

Planters Fasciatis – that’s what could go wrong. It was something I had never heard of. It’s what happens when you put too much stress on the tiny ligaments of your feet – by – for example – cycling with too heavy of a load.

I delivered the supplies to my garden, went home, and woke up the next day, unable to walk.

I got around on crutches for awhile, and my ex-partner had to drive me places. Humbling.

After a lot of physiotherapy, I was back on my feet, and all those packages of soil enhancers really worked out. I planted a blueberry tree, raspberries, strawberries, and tons of greens. The greens grew so strenuously that I had to give them away constantly. The tomatoes thrived, and my little girls and I spent the spring and summer hanging out at the garden.

We left that garden behind when we moved to a housing co-op just off of Commercial Drive in 1997. I had a fair sized plot in the back of the co-op, so we didn’t need the community space anymore.

However, the members of my co-op just keep getting more and more excited about gardening. In the interests of democracy, my fair sized plot has become smaller and smaller. Which is what brought us to MOBY.

MOBY is pretty cool. I didn’t have to dig any concrete. My oldest daughter and I just showed up, paid the fee, brought in a bunch of manure in my van, and started to plant things. I wish I had been around when the cob hut was put together – cob is cool, but time consuming, I understand. We were attracted to MOBY because – well – it’s cute – darnded cute. And it was created by people with ideas, with vision – the kind of people who can look at a vacant lot and imagine what it COULD be.

Joni Miller

Eating Well on Practically Nothing


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Cylia Wong said,

    Hello Joni: I really enjoyed your story and chuckled about “taking on too much”. Thanks for sharing. Cylia

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