Salvatory, Janet the interpreter, and I met at the farm on a gorgeous summer day, interrupting his busy day volunteering with the Deep Roots program. As you can see, he has a beautiful smile! Salvatory was a Deep Roots participant last year and we’re thrilled to have him back again this year.
SG: Are you a new or experienced gardener?
I’m an experienced one. I know how to plant different plants. I know how to make compost. Even planting and separating weeds. I know how to harvest, how to pack, and how to weigh. I know hygiene, before touching the food and after, and how to clean everything. I am confident when Sara sends me to harvest, pack and deliver our salad to the hospital cafeteria. It’s a lot! That’s the summary.
SG: In what countries have you gardened?
In Burundi and Tanzania, I was gardening and doing construction, and even a business selling things.
SG: Do you have a family connection to gardening or farming?
Yes, my family is farmers. Even my wife gardens, now in different community gardens around here.
SG: What motivates you to garden?
First of all it makes me fit! It gives me energy. When I am doing hands work and physical activities, I feel good in my body.
Because I was a garden farmer and constructor, those activities require energy, so that’s what I need to stay fit. For example, to break the rocks to use for the construction, it’s a lot of energy!
First of all, before you start building, you have at least to break like a hundred small and medium rocks. Then you can start your foundation. Because then if you don’t make them the right size, then you can’t use them.
Everything we do in my country, in Burundi, needs energy. You can’t do anything without eating to have energy. So I love physical activities.
SG: If you were a plant, what plant would you be?
[laughs] I would be coffee. Because coffee is universal – it grows everywhere.
SG: Are you a social or solitary gardener?
Both, I don’t care. [laughs]
SG: What about gardening stresses you out? What about gardening relaxes you?
Nothing is stressful. Because any work or activity, I love it. Where I come from, we do more work than this, and its in my blood.
SG: What childhood fear do you still have as an adult?
Lacking food was a fear of mine until now. You can’t survive without food.
SG: What is an urban farm?
I love it. It makes me happy. Look at why I love it – I finished the [Deep Roots volunteering] period of sixth months [last year], and then I wanted to come back.
SG: What do you love about it?
The food we grow. And it prevents me from staying home. And it helps me to move around so I can stay fit and be healthy. And my English has improved.
SG: What have you learned through Common Roots Urban Farm?
In Africa, the compost we used was different from the compost that we use here. So I learned how to use Canadian compost. And now I can even make my own compost – organic.
SG: Has Common Roots introduced you to new people? To different cultures?
We are from 5 different cultures. I met people from Eritrea, people from Nepal, Syrians, Congolese, and I am Burundian, and I met Canadians! We are all in here. Many cultures.
SG: Has Common Roots affected your attitude to food?
Yes. For example, I love vegetables in my food for my family. [Before I came to Common Roots] it was very difficult to get enough. But now every day we have it.
SG: How does Common Roots contribute to healing and health?
Common Roots has … advertised me! If I had stayed home, no one would know me: Now many people know me, which is making me develop. Also, I am less stressed.
SG: What’s your best Common Roots Urban Farm story?
Being here, you see many things. For example, last week, there was an emergency around here. Someone fell, and then we saw the ambulance – everyone was here. But in a few minutes the person was able to get up and give the phone number to the emergency peoples to call their family. So if I was home I wouldn’t be able to see that! [laughs]
So, I found that Common Roots is secure. Because I like to come here early, and then one day I came and saw the police with the dog, moving around. So in my mind, I thought, “Oh, our garden, our farm is secure. If there’s a weapon or anything here to harm us, it can be caught quick!” [laughs]
SG: How has Common Roots made a difference to your life?
Before I came to Common Roots, I was going to school, and go home and sleep. But now, because even if I am not a full time working, but I have in my own plot, every time in my own plot I say, “Ah, I have to go visit my plot!” because I have permission to come any time. Then if there’s anything I see that needs help, I do it, and go. It’s like my home – when I used to go and look and control everything.
SG: Was there anything else you wanted to add?
That’s all, but I have a request. Because I love it. So I go to school, but if its possible if there’s any part time work I can do, which fits my schedule after school, don’t forget me.
SG: Yeah! We won’t!
[in English] Thank you.
SG: Thank you, Salvatory!
Spencer Gough is the Development Coordinator at Common Roots Urban Farm.