Home Hardware community garden supports local charities with nearly 3,700 pounds of fresh produce

By Taylor Pace

For the sixth consecutive year, Home Hardware staff and community members got down in the dirt this summer to help families in need with their community garden. 

This year, they were able to provide local charities with close to 3,700 pounds of fresh produce. 

Located across from Home Hardware’s Dealer Support Centre in St. Jacobs, the garden spans over one acre in size. 

One third of the garden is dedicated to harvesting donations for local food banks. This year the donations went to Meals on Wheels and the food hamper program at Woolwich Community Services Food Bank.

“We are seeing increased need in our community due to the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kelly Christie, Executive Director of Woolwich Community Services, in a news release. “The incredible fresh produce donations we receive from Home Hardware’s Community Garden provide food security to many local families by allowing them access to fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables they could not afford otherwise.”

Since 2016, they have donated over 17,000 pounds of produce to local charities. 

“My heart is full knowing we’ve been able to help families in need access good quality produce,” said community garden organizer Julia Swijters.

Switjers said they chose to start a community garden because it just made sense for them. 

“It’s one of those things where you look around [to see] what you have available. We had expansion property that was being unused across from our distribution centre. And we sell the types of products and give expert advice on things that you need in a garden, so it just came naturally,” she said. 

But the garden also stemmed from the sentimental nostalgia of her co-workers and community members. 

“We’re a very rural area. A lot of these people would talk about how their mothers and grandmothers used to have big gardens,” she said. “So it’s kind of coming back to your roots, back to a place where a lot of these people feel comfortable and have childhood memories.”

Tending to the garden has also provided volunteers with a sense of connection during the pandemic. 

After going through two seasons of COVID and living in an apartment, Switjers said tending to the garden twice a week was a form of release, and a place where everyone was able to support each other.

“It was very much a supportive place for our mental health, just as much for our pantries,” she said. 

The final harvest of the season is on Oct. 10. 

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