(This is the first in a series of profiles of Common Roots Urban Farm volunteers and users. We hope you enjoy learning about their stories and their interaction with the farm!)
Interview with Don Christie on July 5th
Sandra: What is your name?
Don: My name is Don Christie.
Sandra: Are you a new or experienced gardener?
Don: Well, I’ve got some experience gardening, I’m more of a scientist than I am a gardener. I have a degree in plant science.
Sandra: Do you have a family connection to gardening or farming?
Don: My years in university I did a lot of research work as a student and I grew very much to love the industry.
Sandra: If you were a plant, what plant would you be, and why?
Don: If I were a plant, I’d be a big ol’ oak tree. Because they’re strong.
Sandra: Are you a social gardener or a solitary gardener?
Don: I’m much more of a social gardener. As much as I volunteer here, I always go out of my way to make sure everybody’s got what they came for. Sometimes they came for peace and quiet, sometimes they came for talking, sometimes they just want to get away from the world. I try to make sure everybody gets what they need.
Sandra: What about gardening stresses you out, or what about it relaxes you?
Don: I love pulling weeds. Yes I do! (He says with a laugh!)
Sandra: What is the most underrated activity in gardening?
Don: Composting. It’s hard work for one thing, and it’s dirty work but it’s the backbone of the whole place. It’s a pretty intricate part of farming.
Sandra: What childhood fear do you have as an adult?
Don: Well I grew up in army camps in the 50’s and 60’s and I really don’t want to revisit those times.
Sandra: What is an urban farm?
Don: It’s a small farm in an urban setting where people come to contribute to their own well being. It’s part of a social fabric.
Sandra: So what have you learned through Common Roots?
Don: Oh my goodness, I couldn’t begin to tell you all the things I’ve learned here. The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know nothin’ yet! And we’ve got so many really capable farmers that come here through our Deep Roots program, like from Nepal, that teach us stuff that we’ve never even thought about. It’s really an honour to get to share with them in how to do things their way too.
Sandra: Has Common Roots introduced you to new people or different cultures?
Don: I’m one of those people who appreciates multiculturalism and I really like to interact with people who are just coming to Canada, trying to find their way. If I can do my little bit to make it easier for them, I will.
Sandra: Has Common Roots affected your attitude towards food?
Don: Yes, they’ve got me actually eating greens! I was a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but after coming to the farm and trying new stuff I started to realize that I really like it! It’s changed my health and my eating habits for the better too.
Sandra: How does Common Roots contribute to healing and health?
Don: Well, it contributes to my mental health. I have mental health challenges, and things I’ve gained through my volunteering here at Common Roots, just being on the physical grounds is …. beyond words. It’s a long way beyond the efforts of the medical profession.
Sandra: What is your best Common Roots Urban Farm story?
Don: Sometimes you see people happy, sometimes they’re sad, sometimes they’re grieving for somebody who might be in the hospital. I saw this one little girl, she was pretty down. I thought to myself, there must be something I could do! A couple of days before, Jayme showed me how to eat day-lilies, and they were tasty! So, I tried to get this little girl to eat a flower! *laughter* And, eventually she did, you know! And this big smile came upon her face, and I did what I had set out to do: I had changed her frame of mind. She was able to take on the day.
Sandra: How has Common Roots made a difference in your life?
Don: It’s given me a purpose. I can actually function as a citizen and contribute to something that is worthwhile, and that’s Common Roots Urban Farm. We’re feeding people: What could be more honourable? Minuscule as my contribution may be, it’s still part of the mix.
Don Christie is a longtime volunteer and worker at Common Roots Urban Farm. We thought he would be a great person to interview to tell us what he has learned and enjoyed through spending his time at Common Roots and what information he felt valuable to share with the public for anyone looking to get involved. Don was interviewed by Sandra Fraser, a student at Mount Saint Vincent University who also volunteers at the farm.